October’s pharmaceutical breakthrough of the month: Ecstasy as a potential PTSD therapy.

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, designated by the National Alliance on Mental Illness each October as a week of ramped-up advocacy and stigma-fighting efforts.

To do our part, we’re sharing a recent development in the world of mental illness treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, commonly known as the party drug ecstasy. While this designation doesn’t mean the treatment has been approved by the FDA, it does mean that it has shown promise in preliminary research and that the FDA will now work to accelerate the clinical trial process.

In the spring of 2018, phase 3 clinical trials will begin to test the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in treating patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MDMA has been proven to produce heightened feelings of liveliness and elation, two states of mind that are tremendously therapeutic to those suffering from PTSD. In phase 2 trials, 68% of participants no longer suffered from PTSD after one year of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

A San Diego Union-Tribune article covering this development noted that interest thus far in the phase 3 clinical trials is far greater than what can be accommodated. And from a clinical trial recruitment standpoint, that’s not a bad problem to have.

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