How About a Little Ecstasy for Your PTSD?


A new PTSD treatment has been found to have a long term, lasting positive impact three years later in two-thirds of the 19 people tested.

What’s the therapy, you ask? Why, it’s the love drug, of course: ecstasy.

In CNN’s glowing report on the positive impact of ecstasy (or, its technical and not so salacious sounding name “MDMA”), both the doctor who studied the drug and a few of the people who tested it raved about its positive impact on their condition. One described it as allowing her to be aware of the “hard wiring decisions that (her) brain had made.” They said it allowed them to process their trauma and move on.

When subjects were given the drug for the study they were held in a controlled therapy environment where the doctor and a nurse monitored their bodies (such as heart rate) and talked them through their experiences, similar (it sounds) to other talking therapies that do not include illicit drugs.

Still, a 19 person test is very, very small. And of course a drug known as the “happy pill” is going to make your brain feel alive and hyper aware. That’s what ecstasy does. (Or so I’m told. Let’s be clear: I have no personal experience with the drug).

But the doctor in charge of the study says patients show tremendous improvement in their reported symptoms even years after the therapy. Why? From the story:

“We think it gives people this window of time in which they can process things without being overwhelmed by emotion, but also not being numbed up.”

Even the skeptics, at least as painted in the CNN story, do not seem to take issue with the means so much as the lack of adherence to traditional treatment methods.

Some in the PTSD support community, such as this group, seem to embrace the idea of alternate therapies, even those involving currently “illegal” drugs. Several said they wish they could use Marijuana as a treatment. Of those who expressed worries, some were concerned about the synthetic nature of ecstasy,  while at least one wondered if the known side effects of ecstasy use, including an increased likelihood of substance abuse, wouldn’t be a problem for those in MDMA therapy.

The study addresses the substance abuse question (researches found no increased likelihood among those in the test run), but there seems to be a lot more at stake here than just that.

For example, ecstasy is known as a readily available street drug. Surely a study such as this one will result in PTSD suffers seeking self treatment in a non-controlled environment. And what report does not say is that taking ecstasy without the guidance of a therapist is a good idea. I’d go even so far as to guess that it’s a terrible idea.

And yet I wonder if giving this a go in a larger study isn’t something that should be done — and soon. FDA approved psychotropic drugs are prescribed all the time – what makes those more safe on a controlled, non-abuse basis than ecstasy … or marijuana, for that matter? If my husband was suffering from an extreme case of PTSD, I would be doing my best to get him to every possible treatment available. I would not be quibbling over whether or not synthetic drugs are a good idea.

What do you think? How would you feel about your spouse (or yourself) taking ecstasy to deal with PTSD?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

13 Comments on "How About a Little Ecstasy for Your PTSD?"

  1. Interesting! I'd be curious to know if it helps with the mood swings and evens out the lows/anger.

  2. If it works, then they should write an exception to the law, and go with it. This stuff is administered under clinical conditions, it's not like vets are buying it in plastic baggies at raves. (What combat vet could handle the noise and crowds at a rave anyway? LOL)

  3. indianmedicine | December 7, 2012 at 11:01 pm |

    Again, "Masking The Injury With Medication",and NOT a "Wellness Plan". A combined treatment approach would be reasonable, however the core of the injury must be addressed by the Treating Physician,and Patient & must be the priority. When Ecstasy first hit the "Streets", there were Deaths when combined with Alcohol consumption. There were serious Vocal Chord damage when excessive amount was taken, with the permanent loss of & use of the Vocal Chords occurred. There should be a combined Homeopathic Wellness Plan where the Patient is ACTIVE in their Recovery; & not just a quick Case Write Off. Alternative Treatments are ignored by many "Conventionally Trained MD's", where they exclude Alternative Treatments such as "hypnotherapy" that has been proven effective within 6 Treatment Sessions. Masking Medications are not the Answer for these Service Members.

    • You clearly did not read the study. They did not "Mask the injury with medication." They used the drug in a controlled environment and conducted therapy sessions while the patient was under the influence.
      While the subject sample size is too small to make any conclusions from, further research needs to be conducted to prove or disprove these promising results.

  4. Umm, it was posted a while ago, the doc in charge of this is a flake. Research him and Ecstasy affects on the brain, even short term use is dangerous. This same doctor feels LSD is safe.

  5. wow theyll consider extacy but let us have marijuana has a helper. id rather have weed than a drug that has been known to kill people more than weed.

  6. Gary D. Holmes | December 10, 2012 at 3:04 am |

    Obviously, some Doctor needs some more "Grant Money" to study this & do clinical trials etc. etc etc.Before or any other search engine picks up a story like this I would hope they reasearch, not only the article, but the individual(s), issuing the report. False hope, BS, and other misconstrued ideas have let many Vets to try something, die and then The Veterans Administration & the VA Hospitals, no longer have that Vet, whether they be male/female to treat properly, and make them a whole Indiidual again. Thank You. God Speed/ WB

  7. I'm willing to research and do what ever he needs to get through this and be happy again!

  8. whatever works, right?

  9. Robert Neal Brown | December 12, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  10. I would like to point out that while MDMA is an active ingredient in Ecstasy, the street drug has a myriad of additives, including cocaine. MDMA was originally developed for medicinal use and was found to be quite efficacious as a therapy aid.
    The issue is that since it's classification as a Schedule I drug, it has not been widely available for research.It was originally scheduled due to wide recreational use, but had previously been used (successfully) as a stand-alone psychotropic drug. I pose the question: why is this non-addictive (in moderation) drug worse than addictive, chemistry-altering anti-depressants? To be honest, I could write a doctoral thesis on the negative effects of most psychotropic drugs that are commonly accepted in our society today, whereas MDMA has a lower probability, and much fewer, long-term effects, than the drugs these soldiers are taking now. I'd also like to point out that they are daily taking medications that have been proven to be more toxic than MDMA, which they would only take during therapy. If you want more information on the harmful effects of psychotropic drugs, look up one Dr. Breggin. He seems to be the only one brave enough to face down the pharmaceutical companies. His resume alone should be enough to satisfy you as to his knowledge of the subject.
    Setting aside my opinions on psychotropic drugs and the arbitrary nature of drug scheduling… When it comes to the treatment of our bravest citizens, I believe that such petty concerns as public opinion should be put aside and use whatever resources we can to make them whole again.
    Thank you.

  11. i'm curious how addictive his method of treatment would be. my husband turned to drugs as his method of treatment & in turn he became addicted, it cost him his military career & almost his family. i'm desperate to find a solution to such a horrific illness but i won't allow a "treatment" that could potentially get my husband addicted again.

    • For PTSD, look for a therapist that performs Prolonged Exposure Therapy. There are no drugs involved, and the outcome is the best of any other current treatment available. It may be a difficult process, but it only takes about 10 weeks. There is a very low percent of people who have relapsed after PET.

Comments are closed.