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MDMA Demonstrates Efficacy in Alleviating PTSD Symptoms, Clearing Path for Potential U.S. Authorization

by Ethan Kim
6 comments
MDMA and PTSD treatment

The psychoactive substance MDMA has shown promise in mitigating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a recent study released on Thursday.

The firm underwriting the study, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, disclosed its intention to submit an application for the U.S. approval of MDMA—commonly referred to as ecstasy—as a treatment for PTSD in conjunction with psychotherapy later this year.

Amy Emerson, the CEO of MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, noted that this constitutes the first significant advancement in PTSD therapies in over twenty years. She further elaborated that this could catalyze additional innovation in the field.

Earlier this year, Australia set a precedent by becoming the first nation to permit the prescription of MDMA and psilocybin, the active component in psychedelic mushrooms. The drugs have been receiving increased societal endorsement in the United States, partly fueled by the advocacy efforts of the nonprofit organization, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

In this recent study, 104 individuals diagnosed with PTSD were randomly selected to either receive MDMA or a placebo over the course of three sessions spaced one month apart. All participants also underwent talk therapy. Adverse effects observed among those administered MDMA included muscle stiffness, nausea, diminished appetite, and perspiration. Only a single participant in the MDMA group opted to withdraw from the study.

Upon completion of the treatment, a substantial 86% of those in the MDMA group exhibited improvement as per a conventional PTSD assessment, in contrast to 69% in the placebo group. The assessment gauged symptoms such as insomnia, flashbacks, and nightmares. By the culmination of the study, approximately 72% of the MDMA recipients no longer fulfilled the criteria for PTSD diagnosis, as opposed to around 48% in the placebo group.

Barbara Rothbaum, Director of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program in Atlanta, who was not a participant in the research, described the results as highly encouraging. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.

Although PTSD can also be managed through other pharmaceuticals and psychotherapy, Rothbaum emphasized that existing treatments are not universally effective, underscoring the necessity for more diverse treatment options.

For MDMA to be legally prescribed within the United States, it must first receive authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and undergo reclassification by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Currently, MDMA is listed as a Schedule 1 substance, equated with heroin and considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”


The Health and Science Department of The Big Big News is financially backed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The Associated Press maintains exclusive responsibility for all published content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MDMA and PTSD treatment

What is the main finding of the recent study on MDMA and PTSD?

The recent study found that MDMA has the potential to significantly alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the study, 86% of participants who were administered MDMA showed improvement in standard PTSD assessments, compared to 69% of those who received a placebo.

Who conducted the study and who sponsored it?

The study was sponsored by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation. The researchers involved were not explicitly named in the text, but the study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.

What is MAPS Public Benefit Corporation planning to do later this year?

MAPS Public Benefit Corporation plans to submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to market MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, to be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Were there any side effects observed in the MDMA group?

Yes, common side effects among participants who received MDMA included muscle stiffness, nausea, decreased appetite, and sweating. Only one individual from this group chose to withdraw from the study.

How does the MDMA group compare to the placebo group in terms of treatment outcomes?

At the end of the study, 86% of participants in the MDMA group showed improvement in standard PTSD assessments, compared to 69% in the placebo group. Furthermore, 72% of those treated with MDMA no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, as opposed to approximately 48% in the placebo group.

Are there other treatments available for PTSD?

Yes, PTSD can also be treated with other medications or psychotherapy. However, as noted by Barbara Rothbaum, Director of the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program in Atlanta, existing treatments are not universally effective, which makes the case for diverse treatment options like MDMA.

What are the regulatory hurdles for MDMA to be prescribed for PTSD in the U.S.?

For MDMA to be prescribed for PTSD in the United States, it would need to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration and undergo reclassification by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Currently, MDMA is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, which is considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Who are some of the external commentators on the study’s findings?

Barbara Rothbaum, who directs the Emory Healthcare Veterans Program in Atlanta, provided external commentary on the study. She was not involved in the research but described the results as highly encouraging.

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6 comments

TechGuy90 September 15, 2023 - 5:18 am

umm isn’t MDMA like illegal? Not sure how they gonna get around that but the results do look promising.

Reply
Sarah_in_Finance September 15, 2023 - 11:36 am

Totally shocked to read this, especially the stats comparing the MDMA and placebo groups. Makes you wonder what else is out there that we’re not using to its full potential.

Reply
Political_Analyst September 15, 2023 - 11:42 am

Given the current classification of MDMA, changing its legal status will be a tough sell. But if the data’s this compelling, lawmakers gotta take notice.

Reply
JohnDoe42 September 15, 2023 - 6:28 pm

Wow, this is groundbreaking. Can’t believe MDMA, a party drug for some, could actually be a real treatment for PTSD. science never ceases to amaze.

Reply
NaturalHealer September 15, 2023 - 7:51 pm

I have mixed feelings. its good that we are finding new ways to treat PTSD, but what about long term effects? anyone looking into that?

Reply
FutureDoc September 16, 2023 - 4:22 am

The study sounds robust. But the side effects tho—muscle stiffness, nausea—still cause for concern. Can’t wait to see more research on this.

Reply

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