PTSD is a common mental health diagnosis that often affects car accident survivors, war veterans, front line emergency service personnel and survivors of sexual violence. Common treatments include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Processing Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and Sensory Experiencing techniques. However, like all treatments there is no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone. High drop-out rates, lack of accessibility or high treatment costs, and lack of effect on PTSD symptoms creates the need for creative clinical approaches. Enter in -> MDMA assisted psychotherapy!!
Now, it should be made clear that MDMA is different from the illegal drug ecstasy – it is administered in its pure form in a safe and clinical setting with a trained professional.
So, why MDMA? First, its effects include the development of a warm and emotionally grounded feeling, a sense of self-acceptance, as well as a reduction of fear and defence mechanisms. Secondly, it operates more on emotions than on thoughts, therefore it does not produce a very different mental state in which to engage in regular therapy. In early research, experience with MDMA-enhanced therapy was described by one doctor as “reducing the fear response to a perceived emotional threat”. Therefore, one to three sessions that use the drug has seen measurable and long-lasting clinical progress. In fact, according to the MAPS website, 83% of subjects receiving this drug therapy in a pilot study no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis.
As a current Sexual Violence Counsellor who offers trauma informed therapy, I am intrigued. For some, talk therapy is enough, but, when you think of the physical and neurobiological impact of trauma – there are times that much more than talking is necessary. Often, my clients avoid expressing their painful emotions, experience a chronic hyperaroused state or persistent fear, and are therefore unable to escape their traumatic past. Sometimes, our sessions are only spent grounding the client – having them leave slightly less overwhelmed than before. Thinking about giving these clients something that brings them to a calm, grounded, empathetic and safe mood to BEGIN session with – I think it would make my job much simpler and more successful in progress!
The organization behind all of this is MAPS (The Multidiscplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). It is a non-profit organization that focuses on research and education regarding medical, legal and cultural contexts for people to benefit from clinical uses of psychedelics and marijuana. Its plan is to make MDMA an FDA approved prescription medicine by 2021 (which will only cost around $20 mill haha)
For more information please visit the MAPS website, www.maps.org