South Carolina: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which may lead to nightmares, memories of trauma, heightened reactions, anxiety, and depression, can be more effectively treated with a treatment approach that involves the medicinal use of psychedelics.
It has emerged through clinical trials that the administration of psychedelic substances can better treat this condition as against using psychotherapy alone. PTSD and can last for months, or even years.
People with PTSD, who face difficulties in recovering from traumatic experiences and events, have traditionally been treated with a combination of trauma-focused psychotherapy and a regimen of medications.
Many sufferers do not respond well to this form of treatment; but new research that was presented by the Medical University of South Carolina’s Dr Michael Mithoefer and colleagues at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, suggests that the combination of some psychedelic drugs and traditional psychotherapy holds promise in this regard.
Psychedelic substances are often found in nature and have been used in various cultures over thousands of years. Formal research into their medicinal uses that started in the 1950s produced impressive results which were published in major journals.
Further research in this field was largely halted in the 1970s for political rather than medical or scientific reasons.
More recent studies argue that, when administered in a controlled clinical setting, MDMA (more commonly known as ecstasy) and psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) have acceptable risk profiles –and patients who experienced temporary adverse reactions did not require additional medical intervention.
In the past few years, the FDA has granted both MDMA and psilocybin “breakthrough therapy” status for PTSD and depression respectively. It is now being acknowledged that the aforementioned may improve upon existing therapies, and their development and review should be expedited further.
The research by Dr Mithoefer and his team included six Phase 2 clinical trials conducted by independent investigators in four countries.
In the trials, one group of patients was administered MDMA during their psychotherapy sessions, while the other group was administered a placebo or low dose comparator in conjunction with the same psychotherapy.
The overall conclusion from these studies was that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was significantly more effective at treating patients with persistent PTSD than unassisted psychotherapy.
The researchers aim to both review the success that has been achieved in the use of psychedelic drugs to treat trauma-related disorders and depression, as well as address several of the outstanding questions the medical community may still have concerning the safety, efficacy, and neurobiological functions of these novel treatment options.