close

BREAKING NEWS

Travel - Consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labour

Fashion - Consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt

News - Consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labour

Don’t Stop at The Early Raves For MDMA’s Impact on PTSD. Ecstasy is Promising Therapy but Not A Magic Bullet

mdma
The Conversation

Productions/Getty ImagesAr

PTSD is typically treated with therapy and sometimes medications, under the care of a psychiatrist.
SDI Productions/Getty Images

Recent clinical trials, including one soon to be published in Nature Medicine, have suggested that MDMA combined with psychotherapy may help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The news generated considerable optimism and excitement in the media, and some in the scientific community.

As a psychiatrist and an expert in neurobiology and treatment of PTSD, I think these developments may be important – but not the major breakthrough that some people are suggesting. This approach is not a new magic bullet.

A combat veteran discusses his experience with PTSD.

PTSD, a disorder of emotional memories

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a result of exposure to extreme traumatic experiences, such as natural disasters, motor vehicle accidents, assault, robbery, rape, combat and torture. Based on the type and severity of the trauma, people may develop PTSD, a condition of heightened anxiety that includes flashbacks, nightmares and avoidance of any reminder of trauma.

In the neuroscience world, we see PTSD as a disorder of emotional memories, where recall of a traumatic memory can trigger high anxiety as if the event is happening in the here and now. People with PTSD often develop fear responses to anything remotely reminding them of the trauma.
We also see PTSD as a disorder of context processing: A person has the same emotional response to a loud noise in the safe civilian environment as in the battlefield.

Current treatments for PTSD are effective

Treatments for PTSD mostly include antidepressant medications, and psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy is among the most effective treatments for PTSD, as it addresses traumatic memories and related emotional and cognitive reactions. That is, a person with PTSD may conflate the experience of trauma with being a bad person. Psychotherapies address these thought processes, or cognitions, caused by trauma.

A double exposure of a woman with her hands in front of her mouth.
PTSD is often treated by directly addressing the trauma that underlies triggers.
MICROGEN IMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Trauma therapists also use exposure therapy to gradually help people expose themselves to situations they avoid or the memories that terrify them until they learn that these situations are safe. The goal is to also help the brain of the person with PTSD disassociate the traumatic memories from the negative emotions that they trigger. This process is called extinction of fear memories. And it is here where researchers and others hope that MDMA and other drugs will help, by enhancing the extinction of these fear memories.

MDMA: It won’t work by itself to treat PTSD

Exposure therapy to traumatic memories is a difficult and exhausting process for some patients. Researchers are working to identify drugs that can enhance the effects of psychotherapy and make extinction of traumatic memories happen faster, or more effectively.

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is an agent that affects a wide range of neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals facilitating signaling between neurons including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. No one knows for certain just how MDMA affects the learning brain in therapy, but there are some theories. MDMA may enhance psychotherapy by reducing anxiety during recall of trauma memories, helping the patient feel better about himself and others, increasing bonding with the therapist and enhancing extinction learning.

Recent clinical trials suggest that use of MDMA paired with carefully delivered psychotherapy might improve patient outcomes. Furthermore, these effects seem to persist months after the treatment. Given these positive results, the studies entered a multisite phase 3 clinical trial of 90 patients with severe PTSD with 67 experiencing significantly diminished symptoms.

It is very important to note that MDMA is not suggested as a standalone treatment for any condition, and only “MDMA-assisted” psychotherapy is researched in these studies.

Breakthroughs sometimes break hearts

Although these reports sound promising, I am skeptical of breakthrough medical pronouncements. Throughout the history of psychiatry, people have become too excited about promising cures like psychoanalysis, ketamine, cannabinoids, virtual reality, propranolol, opioids and memory-enhancing agents for treatment of PTSD and other psychiatric disorders.

Although each of these treatments helped some patients, none was a magic bullet. Many, including opioids, propranolol and memory-enhancing agents, did not find their way out of the research laboratories into the real clinical world.

Rainbow pill capsule on blue background.
MDMA, though a promising candidate in PTSD treatment, is not a panacea.
James Worrell/Getty Images

For MDMA, we still do not have a solid mechanistic explanation for how this drug might have rapid effects in enhancing long-lasting effects of therapy.

There is a large difference between a highly controlled research study with a limited number of participants and the complexities of real clinical work. For instance, a lot of psychiatric or medical conditions that many patients have are excluded from the clinical trials. Also, psychotherapies are delivered in their ideal form. In the cases of drugs such as ketamine and MDMA, it is almost impossible to blind these studies – meaning, to keep both patient and doctor in the dark about who received the trial drug or a placebo. Most patients, and consequently probably therapists, will know whether the patient received the psychoactive agent or the placebo.

Consequences of trauma cover a spectrum of symptoms, from zero to extremely high level. For having consistent language in research, we draw an imaginary line on this spectrum – say, 70% – and designate whoever is above the line as having PTSD. That does not mean that someone at a 65% or 60% does not have symptoms or distress. None of the studied approaches thus far totally eradicated symptoms. They just showed a larger decrease in symptoms compared with a placebo.

Potential risks and dangers of MDMA

While drugs called selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, and psychotherapy are relatively safe, agents like cannabis, ketamine and MDMA have many risks. The first is addiction. Although patients in the clinical trials are given only a limited number of doses, it is likely that someone experiencing a great feeling of relief from a drug given in the clinic will seek it on the street.

We are still dealing with the terrible opioid and benzodiazepine pandemic, the medications about which people were so excited a few decades ago. Longitudinal studies of risks of future substance use with MDMA are currently lacking. This can be further complicated among those with a history of problems with prescription or illegal drug abuse, or those with personality disorders.

While the hype often suggests the drug itself is the cure, it is important to remember that what worked in these studies involved drugs and psychotherapy together.

[Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

Also, it is vital to remind people not to expect a cure from street drugs. At best, the effects will be as good as the therapy provided. So an unskilled person providing therapy, consultation or even friendship using such agents might create much more harm than help. Negative memories could arise that the unskilled person does not have the expertise to deal with. It is also important to know drugs obtained on the street might be very different from what is used in research. Impurities can cause a lot of harm.

We in the psychiatric treatment world have been here before many times. And, in some cases, we are still paying dearly for the initial excitement.

Arash Javanbakht, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

MDMA PTSD Previously on Towleroad

Read More

Pink Named Icon Award Recipient For 2021 Billboard Music Awards

The singer’s recognition marks a milestone for the history of the award.

Read More

‘Legends & Bridge’ Is a Hilarious Imagining of a Night With Divas

Hilarious Reimaging of Garland, Davis, Crawford in ‘Legends & Bridge’

The virtual production about an epic night of cards and infighting with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland streams this weekend.

Read More

'Stranger Things' Season 4 Teaser Offers Glimpse At Eleven's Dark Backstory

The latest glimpse at the forthcoming installment of Netflix’s horror sci-fi smash also hints at the return of a chilling Season 1 villain.

Read More

Ryan Reynolds Wants Deadpool to be ‘Openly Bi’ in Deadpool 3 and Beyond

Ryan Reynolds

ryan reynolds

Ryan Reynolds brought all of the foul-mouthed debauchery and heart of beloved Marvel Comics antihero Deadpool to the silver screen in recent years. But, with filming on the forthcoming Deadpool 3 on the horizon, Reynolds is reportedly pushing for the inclusion of a key aspect of Deadpool’s character that was omitted from the first two films: his sexual orientation.

According to insider Daniel Richtman, Reynolds “very much wants” Deadpool’s sexuality to be explored beyond the heterosexual presentation of the character in previous films in the next one. The report also claims that Reynolds directly asked Marvel Studios president and keeper of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Kevin Feige to “make Deadpool openly bi.”

Portraying the Merc with a Mouth as bisexual would be more truthful to the character’s comic book origin, but still isn’t fully accurate to Deadpool’s sexuality. Deadpool is canonically pansexual, with the first explicit confirmation coming in 2013 when Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan stated Deadpool’s attraction to “anything with a pulse.” Making Deadpool bisexual still doesn’t fully sync with how the character identifies, but it is definitely closer to how fans, especially LGBTQ ones, have seen themselves in the character.

I think [Deadpool’s LGBTQ identity] could be played up more.

Ryan reynolds

The report falls in line with previous comments from Reynolds stating his desire for Deadpool films to provide representation and “reflect the world in very real ways.”

“The great thing about Deadpool is that we’re allowed to do things that other superhero movies don’t necessarily do. It’s something that I’d love to see more of,” Reynolds said at a 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel. “I think [Deadpool’s LGBTQ identity] could be played up more.”

The change would also provide much-needed LGBTQ representation within the MCU. To date, the only acknowledgment of LGBTQ identities in the multi-billion dollar film franchise was a one-line character in Avengers: Endgame. Brian Tyree Henry is set to portray the first out gay MCU hero in the upcoming Immortals film.

On the other hand, the Deadpool films, which were produced by 20th Century Fox before its acquisition by Disney in 2019, haven’t shied away from portraying LGBTQ characters and kinks commonly associated with non-heteronormativity. Deadpool 2 introduced the first on-screen same-sex relationship between two femme heroes, Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio.

The next shot at properly representing Deadpool’s sexuality on screen will be when the character officially joins the MCU in Deadpool 3, though, according to Feige, filming won’t begin until 2022 at the earliest.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Read More

Billy Eichner Wants To Know What The FBI Was Doing In His Underwear. Seriously.

Celebrities tried to help the “Billy on the Street” comedian solve the bizarre mystery.

Read More

Kentucky police defends offensive ‘our colour is grey, our gender is trooper’ slogan

Kentucky State Police has received a wave of backlash after changing its Facebook cover photo to a picture with the slogan: “Our colour is grey, our gender is trooper”. The cover photo, which was posted on the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Facebook page on Tuesday (4 May), received thousands of negative comments…

Read More

Resident Evil Village review: campy, tense, atmospheric horror in celebration of an enduring series

“Stupid man thing,” she barks and bellows at me, stomping through her castle. This is Lady Dimitrescu, the internet’s favourite tall vampire lady and the most iconic villain of Resident Evil Village. Did I run straight to her and let her step on me? Absolutely. Lady D is emblematic of the game’s campy eroticism. The…

Read More

Gained Pandemic Weight? Listen to Chasten Buttigieg

Chasten Buttigieg

The gay teacher shared a lesson in body positivity from his own weight gain during lockdown.

Read More