PHOENIX (KSAZ) - A number of our country's combat veterans, along with other Americans, suffer from PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and each day, an estimated 22 veterans take their own lives because of it.
Now, mental health relief could come in the form of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly. The New York Times is reporting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a clinical trial of the drug, to help alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
The trial, which is the third and final stage, could turn Ecstasy into a regulated prescription drug, if it is successful.
"I know several people who have done MDMA-based therapy for severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after trying everything else, including standard psychotherapy, and all the standard psychiatric medications for anxiety, and they say MDMA is really the only thing that worked," said Dr. Lincoln Bickford, a psychiatrist with Future Forward Wellness in Phoenix.
Bickford said PTSD patients often suppress traumatic memories, and MDMA could help them work through their past.
"MDMA, biochemically, works a little bit like anti-depressants like Prozac," said Bickford. "And a little bit like amphetamines like Adderall, but the mix of it seems to induce a state where people are relatively free of fear and anxiety."
Bickford said of MDMA becomes a prescription drug, it likely won't be a daily pill.
"If I were to be practicing this, I would have the patient take the pill at the clinic and wait until the effects started in an hour or so," said Bickford. "Then spend an hour or two or three talking with them until it starts to wear off, and then probably have a friend or family member bring them home. "
That kind of treatment minimizes abuse, and presents a safer alternative to many who self-medicate.
"If the FDA approves it, clinicians will be able to use a pharmaceutically manufactured pure substance, instead of taking risks by procuring it on the Black Market," said Bickford.
Some, however, are concerned about the trial. One veteran with PTSD, who did not want to be identified, felt that vets with PTSD have been used as test cases in the past by the FDA, and said people need to be very cautious when treating the veteran population with new medications.