How to cure chronic PTSD with psychedelic medicine

10 minutes read on how two «former» illegal drugs can be a lifechanging medicine for those with severe PTSD

A severe chronic PTSD diagnosis can be difficult to recover from. For somatic disorders, there are measuring instruments and imaging diagnostics that can give a precise picture of the disease, below the symptoms of the surface.

When it comes to chronic PTSD, we need to trust a skilled therapist.

Are there psychedelic drugs that can help?

The answer is yes . Please continue reading. 

What are MDMA and Psilocybin?

MDMA is the intoxicating drug in ecstasy, but also an innovative drug in combination with psychotherapy. Six clinical trials have already been conducted on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The results are so promising that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated the treatment as a breakthrough, and there are good reasons to believe that the drug will have an effect on more conditions than PTSD. U.S. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted MDMA status as “breakthrough therapy”.

This means a faster approval process, after the drug has been shown to work significantly better than already available treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Psilocybin is another intoxicant that is being tested in combination with psychotherapy.

 In two controlled studies of approximately 80 patients, a single dose of psilocybin resulted in a significant and long-lasting reduction in the goal of anxiety and depression in life-threatening illness. A pilot study from the UK and a recent controlled study show promising results against depression. Oregon has recently legalized the use of psilocybin in therapy.

WHO has faith in MDMA

MDMA was introduced to psychotherapists in the late 1970s. In the United States, it was legal and unregulated until 1985, when the drug had appeared as a drug in trendy nightclubs. From there, it spread to rave communities throughout the United States and Europe. “Ecstasy” was sold on the black market, an MDMA-based drug that could be mixed with other, uncertain substances.

 

Criminalization of MDMA

In connection with the hearings on criminalizing MDMA in the USA, most experts recommended “DEA schedule III” prescription status for the drug.

That is, it could be used in psychotherapy. Nevertheless, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) classified MDMA in Schedule I as a drug without medical use. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the therapeutic potential of MDMA and called on the countries of the world to continue the scientific exploration of the potential.

During the same period, mental health care developed into a mainly palliative, or palliative, discipline. Great emphasis was placed on antidepressants, antipsychotics and similar medications that alleviated symptoms, without doing anything about the causes of the problems. In many cases, it turned out that the alternative medicine was both dangerous and addictive.

And not least, it did not help.

Medicine for PTSD

In 2014–17, phase two of studies with MDMA and psychotherapy against PTSD were conducted internationally. In the group that received an active dose of MDMA (75–125 milligrams), 68 percent no longer qualified for the PTSD criteria when they were followed up a year later. The participants in the study suffered from chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD, something they had done for an average of 18 years.

How does MDMA work in a therapeutic context?

In the 1980s, hundreds of therapists helped thousands of patients with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. In 1994, a study was published among many of the therapists who used MDMA before it was banned. The conclusion was that MDMA’s most unique property is that it can change early relational influence on later behaviors. This is exactly what a lot of psychotherapy is trying to achieve.

1) It reduces anxiety, but does not have a sedative effect like traditional psychotropic drugs. On the contrary, it seems focused and motivating.

2) When you are not anxious, you also do not have to be defensive. MDMA reduces your defense mechanisms without losing all control. You can still make choices and you can negotiate.

3) MDMA provides increased access to emotions. It provides a basic attitude of empathy, kindness, tenderness and love for yourself and others. At the same time, you have access to the entire spectrum of emotions. This allows you to process whatever you need to process.

Promotes self-healing

What kind of psychotherapeutic processes do we get with MDMA? Due to the hormones that are released in the body, people get a lot of self-pity. They do not feel emotionally threatened, and do not have to be defensive. It provides an opportunity to go deep into oneself.

An example of such a process is regression. The patient returns to an early stage of development, and experiences formative experiences and relationships as they were. At the same time, the patient is present with his adult, observing self. Then there can be a “transfer”, where the child talks to the adult.

The psychologist’s task is in a way to moderate self-healing capacities. An analogy from somatics is wounds that play do not repair the wound. Instead, they bring in conditions and remove obstacles for the body to heal itself.

The term “inner healing intelligence” from MDMA therapy can be compared to the “unconscious therapeutic alliance” from ISTDP (Intensive Dynamic Short-Term Therapy).

The problem is that people are often afraid to go deep enough to be able to process trauma. Pain, sorrow and anger are an obstacle. When people are traumatized, it is easy to become overwhelmed by going into the trauma. Instead, one takes too much distance, slows down, withdraws into oneself; away from other people and triggers. MDMA helps to expand the “tolerance window”.

What MDMA Therapy Did For Me

This is the story of Tucker Max

I did MDMA therapy. It was a deeply profound and life-changing experience.

I did two treatments, one in early September, another in early October.

I would rank it as one of the top 3 most important things I’ve done in my life, at least in terms of my personal development. 

Can MDMA and psilocybin be abused?

Generalizations about drugs and their effects are rarely precise. Nevertheless, people are skeptical about the use of intoxicants in medicine. Given our experience with other intoxicants, such as morphine, oxycodone or diazepam, this is not so strange.

Both MDMA and psilocybin challenge our notions of what drugs are.

The abuse potential of MDMA and psilocybin is significantly lower than the majority of the intoxicants we use today.

MDMA and psilocybin are intended for use on a few occasions in psychotherapy for a selected group of patients under controlled conditions. This is different from how we typically use other intoxicants.

The medical use of MDMA and psilocybin is also impractical in relation to recreational use. Simple dosages to get the full effect, means that you avoid daily use over time with associated side effects. Unfortunately, this also means that the pharmaceutical industry has shown little interest. They are looking for drugs that do not have a lasting effect after one dose. Opposition to MDMA- and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has mainly come from the stigma associated with intoxication.

Such comparisons between drug use and medical use have held back research on psychedelic drugs and MDMA for a long time. Nevertheless, it seems that professional environments now see nuances and opportunities, instead of erroneous associations.

Recently, the Norwegian Medicines Agency approved the use of MDMA in clinical trials. If the results are as good as the studies on psilocybin and MDMA suggest, they will offer a paradigm shift in the treatment of mental disorders.

If you were to specially design a medicine to catalyze therapy, you would get reasonably close to MDMA, the professional community says

Sources

In addition to the links already provided in the article above, I refer to the following interesting sites for more reading: 

Progress and promise for the MDMA drug development program, PubMed (English)

Also: (Unfortunately in Norwegian language) Dr. Andreas Wahl Blomkvist, Kari Bu , Ivar Goksør 

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