“There are also still some challenges I have to face from time to time related to the PTSD,” he added. “But now I am able to work through them without getting stuck.”
But does it actually work?
That’s an open question.
Large-scale trials, which will include up to 300 participants at 14 sites, may not be able to replicate the success of previous trials, which were limited to a few dozen patients. But so far, results are encouraging. Nearly all patients saw clinically significant reductions in symptoms, and a majority saw such drastic reductions that they no longer met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. In the 12 months after MDMA therapy, PTSD symptoms generally continued to decrease.
Side effects, including anxiety, headache, fatigue, muscle tension and insomnia, were generally minor and limited to the days following the MDMA sessions.
Other researchers, intrigued by the results, are starting their own studies of MDMA therapy, including the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Seems risky. Isn’t there something better?
Not really, said Dr. John Krystal, who heads the Neurosciences Division at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD. He described the current lack of effective therapy as “a crisis.”
“The problem is that we don’t have many treatments and what we have doesn’t work that well,” he said.
Only about one in three combat veterans with PTSD are effectively treated, he said.
Doctors often use a combination of off-label drugs to try to manage patients’ nightmares, flashbacks and depression, but the drugs do nothing to treat the underlying condition, and can have negative side effects.