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PTSD patients sought in B.C. for MDMA-assisted therapy trial

Treatment is so far 2-3 times more effective than conventional therapy

Medical trials for a promising new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder are coming to Vancouver.

The trials are the third phase of tests for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD survivors, conducted by the Canadian arm of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

MDMA, more commonly known as the party drug ecstasy, was shown to be upwards of 67 per cent effective in earlier phases of the clinical trials.

Executive director Mark Haden said results like those are remarkable, given that PTSD has been “relatively untreatable,” with most remedies being only 10-25-per-cent effective.

“PTSD is an unconscious tape-loop. It is an emotional response that somebody … will have in an repetitive way,” said Haden. “Their life is difficult to manage because the flashbacks are strong, intrusive and disturbing.”

When conventional therapy tries to dig into their memories, Haden said patients flinch away from tackling the trauma.

MDMA breaks down the mental barriers and fears that stop many sufferers from getting to the root cause of their illness, Haden said. This allows patients to “access the tape-loop,” or the traumatic memories, at the root of their PTSD.

The drug also allows for a stronger link between the therapist and the patient – something that’s key in all successful therapies.

Haden said MDMA is simply another tool in a complex clinical process.

“It’s a supported psychotherapeutic treatment that starts with an assessment and an alliance with a therapist. Nobody is dancing.”

Researchers are currently looking for patients with severe PTSD for the phase-three trials. Haden said researchers hope to begin work this year, and if the trials are successful, have the treatment approved in Canada by 2021.

Anyone interested in participating can email the association.


@katslepian

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