Thursday, June 20, 2024

MDMA for PTSD: How Ecstasy Is Helping People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

“If this is in fact something that can help a lot of people and we’re at this stage of the research, which is at least 20 years behind where it would be if it had been guided only by science and not by politics and fears and other forces, that’s really, actually, a travesty,” says Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist and MDMA researcher.

Commonly known as ecstasy, MDMA is an empathogenic drug that was first synthesized in 1912 by Merck. The drug was mostly ignored until 1970, when people started using it recreationally. Alexander Shulgin, then at the University of California, Berkeley, became curious about the drug and synthesized his own MDMA in 1976. Over the next decade, psychotherapists in the U.S. and Europe used MDMA as a therapeutic aid. During that same period, MDMA became a popular recreational drug.

Despite its widespread reputation as an effective therapeutic tool, the DEA classified MDMA as a Schedule I drug in 1985. The following year, Rick Doblin founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) with the goal of developing psychedelics into legal prescription drugs. Today, MDMA is in Phase 2 FDA trials for use as a therapeutic aid for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reason TV spoke with MAPS founder Rick Doblin and psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer about the results so far.


  1. I would hesitate to recommend drugs to help people heal themselves. I’ve done MDMA a few times and I wouldn’t recommend it. Sure, you’ll have some really loving, uninhibited experiences, but it’s just chemical-synthetic-emotions. And the comedown is terrible the next day, or whenever it wears off if you’re not up for 3 days. I think it has a high potential for addiction because it instantly cures pain and makes you feel better than ever. The more you do drugs, the more dependent you become, and the less balanced your emotional strength will be. But if someone had extreme PTSD, it’s still hard for me to say, sure MDMA will relieve their symptoms and maybe give them a new perspective, but I think there is a high potential of addiction to MDMA or other drugs.


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