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Ecstasy's Potential as a Treatment Is Studied

November 12, 2001|Linda Marsa

Ecstasy is all the rave as an illegal party drug, and now even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is weighing its merits. The agency earlier this month approved the first study of the drug's ability to treat a psychological disorder--in this case, post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers say the drug, also known as MDMA, could be a catalyst that aids in recovery of PTSD victims because it allows them to relive their traumatic experience without being overcome by anxiety.

"An important part of treatment for PTSD is to be able to talk about and process the trauma," says Dr. Michael C. Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in Charleston, S.C., who will be conducting the study. "But some people are so fearful that they have a great deal of trouble doing that."

The 20 people who will participate in the trial have all been severely psychologically damaged by rape, physical assault, or childhood sexual abuse. Once the trial is sanctioned by a review board at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, where the test will be conducted, 12 will undergo therapy sessions with MDMA; the remaining eight will receive a placebo.

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