Researchers have shown that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has therapeutic effects that last over a year in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The new paper explores the long-term outcomes for people a year after completing MDMA psychotherapies. Comprising follow-up data from six previous trials, all in all, the researchers gathered data on around 100 patients.
Participants in each trial underwent two to three therapy sessions with active doses of MDMA (75-125mg) alongside additional regular psychotherapy sessions. Their PTSD symptoms were measured using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM IV at baseline either one or two months following their last MDMA session, and then at least 12 months after that. Each participant also filled in a long-term follow-up survey.
At the first follow-up, the researchers noted that 56% of the cohort no longer met the clinical criteria for PTSD. However, after the second follow-up, they found that participants tended to continue to improve over the year. This meant that 12 months on from the MDMA-sessions, 67% of the cohort no longer met the criteria for PTSD.
The researchers also noted that after treatment, patients tended to have fewer suicidal thoughts and general PTSD symptoms. Their data also suggested that MDMA therapy does not lead to MDMA abuse nor any other substance abuse.
"These long-term follow-up findings show that once people with PTSD learn that they can productively process traumatic memories instead of suppressing them, they can continue to heal themselves even after they have stopped receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy," says Rick Doblin, one of the authors of the study.
Following the success of these Phase II trials, MDMA-assisted therapy is now in Phase III human trials for severe, treatment-resistant PTSD, with US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval expected in 2022.
Meanwhile, due to the effectiveness of the treatment, earlier this year, the FDA approved it for Expanded Access, allowing select patients to access the procedure before it has full-market approval.