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Colorado Researcher On MDMA For Trauma: 'It Has The Potential To Really Change People's Lives'

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The drug MDMA, also known as ecstacy or molly, could be a powerful way to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine on Monday.

Out of the 91 study participants who ranged from military veterans to victims of major sexual assault, some underwent MDMA-assisted therapy; others received therapy only. Researchers found that, at the end of the study period, 67% of people in the MDMA group no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis compared to 32% in the control group.

Bruce Poulter, who was a clinical supervisor for the new research, explains that individuals who receive MDMA-assisted therapy have varied experiences but that generally, MDMA makes traumatic memories more approachable.

“So these things that have been really problematic, like, ‘Oh, God, no, I just don't want to go there, I just can't do it,’ you can actually do that with MDMA,” Poulter said. “So it really opens up an individual's capacity to do very difficult work.”

MDMA-assisted therapy is different from some of the currently available treatments for PTSD, like prescription drugs.

“Because it's corrective. It doesn't just knock out symptoms,” Poulter said. “It actually corrects people’s state. It has the potential to really change people's lives in a very dramatic way.”

Researchers listed the relatively small sample size and the lack of racial and ethnic diversity among study participants as study limitations. Long-term follow-up data on the lasting effects of this treatment will be collected.

Once the final phase of this research is complete, MDMA could be up for approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

As KUNC's Senior Editor and Reporter, my job is to find out what’s important to northern Colorado residents and why. I seek to create a deeper sense of urgency and understanding around these issues through in-depth, character driven daily reporting and series work.
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