Traumatized survivors of rape, child abuse and war could be treated with the clubbing drug ecstasy, if new medical trials are successful.
Doctors in the UK are planning the first clinical trial of ecstasy to see if it has any therapeutic value in enabling people to overcome long-held feelings of distress.
Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist who supports the trials told the Guardian: "I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation. The drugs have been made illegal in a vain attempt to stop kids using them, but people haven't thought about the negative consequences."
The drug has been used in a trial on patients in the US, involving 20 people who had been in therapy and medication for an average of 19 years. Twelve were given MDMA found ecstasy tablets. The rest had placebo pills but were later also given the chance to take MDMA. Each one had a therapy session, and were asked to consider the events that had caused such profound distress that they had been unable face it in past psychotherapy sessions.
According to the Guardian, the response rate was a a very strong 83% – 10 out of the 12 showed significant improvement two months after the second of two MDMA therapy sessions, compared with 25% of those on the placebo. There were no serious side-effects and no long-term problems.
The US team will be doing further trials on veterans returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.