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Therapeutic effect of increased openness: Investigating mechanism of action in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

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Abstract

A growing body of research suggests that traumatic events lead to persisting personality change characterized by increased neuroticism. Relevantly, enduring improvements in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms have been found in response to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy. There is evidence that lasting changes in the personality feature of “openness” occur in response to hallucinogens, and that this may potentially act as a therapeutic mechanism of change. The present study investigated whether heightened Openness and decreased Neuroticism served as a mechanism of change within a randomized trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) Global Scores and NEO PI-R Personality Inventory (NEO) Openness and Neuroticism Scales served as outcome measures. Results indicated that changes in Openness but not Neuroticism played a moderating role in the relationship between reduced PTSD symptoms and MDMA treatment. Following MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, increased Openness and decreased Neuroticism when comparing baseline personality traits with long-term follow-up traits also were found. These preliminary findings suggest that the effect of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy extends beyond specific PTSD symptomatology and fundamentally alters personality structure, resulting in long-term persisting personality change. Results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms of psychotherapeutic change.
Wagner, M. T., Mithoefer, M. C., Mithoefer, A. T., MacAulay, R. K., Jerome, L., Yazar-Klosinski, B., & Doblin, R. (2017). Therapeutic effect of increased openness: Investigating mechanism of action in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881117711712.
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