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A randomized, controlled pilot study of MDMA (± 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of resistant, chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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Abstract

Psychiatrists and psychotherapists in the US (1970s to 1985) and Switzerland (1988-1993) used MDMA legally as a prescription drug, to enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Early reports suggest that it is useful in treating trauma-related disorders. Recently, the first completed pilot study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD yielded encouraging results. Designed to test the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in patients with treatment-resistant PTSD; our randomized, double-blind, active-placebo controlled trial enrolled 12 patients for treatment with either low-dose (25 mg, plus 12.5 mg supplemental dose) or full-dose MDMA (125 mg, plus 62.5 mg supplemental dose). MDMA was administered during three experimental sessions, interspersed with weekly non-drug-based psychotherapy sessions. Outcome measures used were the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) and the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS). Patients were assessed at baseline, three weeks after the second and third MDMA session (end of treatment), and at the 2-month and 1-year follow-ups. We found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can be safely administered in a clinical setting. No drug-related serious adverse events occurred. We did not see statistically significant reductions in CAPS scores (p = 0.066), although there was clinically and statistically significant self-reported (PDS) improvement (p = 0.014). CAPS scores improved further at the 1-year follow-up. In addition, three MDMA sessions were more effective than two (p = 0.016).

Oehen, P., Traber, R., Widmer, V., & Schnyder, U. (2012) A randomized, controlled pilot study of MDMA (± 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of resistant, chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Journal of Psychopharmacology, 27(1), 40-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881112464827
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