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Can Molly Be Used to Treat PTSD?

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It may be the drug of the moment thanks to copious refs by Miley Cyrus, among others. But Molly aka MDMA also is being explored as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

An underground group of psychologists, counselors and healers is administering the drug to patients who suffer from PTSD, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. The therapists still have to buy the drug through dealers since it’s still very much illegal as it has been since 1985, costing about $2,000 for an ounce, or 150 doses.

One of the therapists involved, who lives in Northern California and did not want to be identified, said of the trials: “I do what is morally right. If I have the tools to help, it is my responsibility to help.”

Some, like 69-year-old Bob Walker, a Vietnam veteran from Chico, are even taking it on their own to treat their PTSD. Walker has taken it now a couple of times now and did so before seeing his therapist. He said it has helped him deal with the memories of seeing a friend killed in a helicopter crash as well as a young Vietnamese boy die in a truck accident, saying, “I didn't lose any memory of what happened. I lost the anxiety.”

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A federally approved series of clinical trials is going on to see if MDMA’s ability to eliminate defensiveness and boost trust can help with psychotherapy. As pointed out by Santa Cruz-based MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), a nonprofit that is conducting the eight-year, $18.5 million plan, MDMA isn’t quite the same thing as Ecstasy, which can have harmful additives. The pure MDMA is only administered a few times, rather than daily over years.

They hope to make MDMA a federally approved drug by 2021.

Among studies using MDMA is one set to start at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center that will try to see if MDMA can be used to fight social anxiety in autistic adults. And Bay Area researchers are planning to study its ability to fight anxiety in those who are terminally ill. However, researchers haven’t collected enough data yet to draw real conclusions.

The National Institute of Mental Health says PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults. NIMH’s Farris Tuma, head of traumatic stress research, was skeptical about the studies since there isn’t a good theory on how MDMA’s effects on the brain can improve therapy.

"They're a long way between where they are now and this becoming a standard clinical practice," Tuma said.