The Doctors on CBS: MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD

The Doctors on CBS interviews Rachel Hope about how receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in a MAPS study helped her overcome treatment-resistant PTSD.

Hope describes how receiving MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy has eliminated her need for medications, highlights the lasting benefits that the treatment has brought to her life, and shares video footage of one of her MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions to illustrate her PTSD recovery process.

Psychiatrist Julie Holland, MD, describes MDMA's mechanisms of action, and Dr. Travis Stork discusses the possibility of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy becoming an accepted practice in the field of psychotherapy. "This is basically a catalyst that's used during therapy. It makes the therapy go deeper, it goes faster, it's much more comfortable," says Holland. "It's very different from any other anti-anxiety medicine."

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Originally appearing here. 

Rachel, 43, says she suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder for 19 years after a childhood filled with neglect, abuse, and sexual assault. She says she sought every treatment available to help curb her constant mental breakdowns, panic attacks and hospitalizations for stress-induced ulcers, but none of them worked. If it weren’t for her two children, she says, she would have ended her life.

Desperate for help, Rachel agreed to participate in a controversial, FDA-approved clinical trial that involved using the illicit drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly, to “re-boot” the patient’s brain and help them discuss with a clinical psychiatrist the traumatic events at the root of their disorder.

Rachel’s therapist, Dr. Julie Holland, explains that MDMA massively increases serotonin – a chemical in the brain that helps you feel relaxed and calm – as well as dopamine, which helps you stay alert, and oxytocin, which helps you bond with people and be more trusting – an aspect that is crucial for a patient-therapist relationship during psychotherapy. She states that traditional anti-anxiety medications can make one less focused and drowsy, which is not conducive to an effective therapy session.

Rachel says she is now cured of her PTSD after just three MDMA-assisted therapy sessions. She says the drug allowed her to discuss her childhood trauma, which she’d never been able to talk about before without re-traumatizing herself. The drug, she says, rewired her brain so she could confront her experiences, then file the memories away instead of reliving them.

When asked if she felt a need to continue to take MDMA, Rachel says no. “I’ve never done recreational drugs, and I never had a desire to,” she says. “So, I’m not at risk [of becoming addicted] anyway, but to my knowledge, people coming out of the study have no need to go back. We get the value [of the treatment] and it lasts.”

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork emphasizes that this treatment is conducted in a clinical setting, under the care of a licensed psychiatrist, with a specific dose of medical-grade MDMA. Recreational use of the drug is very dangerous and is not advised.