Ecstasy helps post-traumatic stress

 

The dance drug ecstasy can help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to benefit from psychotherapy, researchers have found.

Patients who took the drug experienced dramatic improvements in their condition for years afterwards, according to the study, which follows up on earlier research into the drug. Experts say the drug reduces fear and defensiveness and increases trust between patient and therapist, enhancing the effects of the psychotherapy. But scientists remain divided about the true effects of ecstasy.

The latest findings are based on a small trial of 21 patients who had PTSD for 20 years but who had not responded to psychotherapy. They were offered two eight-hour psychotherapy sessions and initial results, reported two years ago, revealed that 83 per cent of those given ecstasy showed significant improvement in symptoms compared with 25 per cent of those given a placebo.

The trial was criticised because the volunteers had been followed up only for a few weeks. Now Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist, and his wife Ann, a nurse, from South Carolina, report in The Journal of Psychopharmacology that four years later the benefits have been maintained.

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