Imagine for a minutes that every time you go to sleep, you are met with nightmares; a replaying of a horrible event you witnessed or were a part of. Imagine that during the day you are ceased with such vivid flashbacks and anxiety that it makes it hard for you to live a normal life and you withdraw from the people you are closest to. This is what PTSD is like and for the millions of people who are currently suffering from this disorder; a new innovative study may introduce the key to helping them find freedom.
PTSD is short for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is a psychiatric disorder that affects people who have either witnessed or been a part of a life threatening event or trauma. Life threatening events or traumas can include anything from war, natural disasters, car accidents, rape, childhood or domestic abuse, violence and more. PTSD can come on anytime from three months to years after the event took place. PTSD can affect anyone especially those who are exposed to extreme emotional events such as soldiers and first responders. Recent studies show that one in five Iraq and Afghanistan war vets are diagnosed with PTSD and account for 20% of all suicides (“Shocking PTSD, suicide rates for vets”). Symptoms of this disorder can usually be classified under three main categories; reliving, avoidance, and hyper vigilance. Reliving of the event includes intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, and in severe cases hallucinations. Avoidance is avoiding certain places or times of day, numbing or dissociating from emotions, avoiding getting close to others as well as pulling away from loved ones, and sometimes turning to substance abuse as a way of escape. Hyper vigilance is an increased arousal, difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability, outbursts of anger, an exaggerated startle response, and difficulty concentrating (“Substance Abuse Treatment”).
Right now, the most common treatment for people suffering from PTSD is psychotherapy or “talk therapy”. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications are typically prescribed to help alleviate some of the symptoms. With this current treatment of medication and talk therapy, statistics show that approximately two out of three show an improvement in symptoms, but most remain on some type of psychiatric drug for the rest of their lives (“Promising Results, Promising Futures”). Unfortunately for the one out of three, psychotherapy and psychiatric medications can sometimes be a lifelong treatment and in some the symptoms merely get worse as time goes by instead of getting better.
In 2009, the FDA approved for a controlled pilot study to be done treating PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. MDMA which is short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is the main ingredient in the street drug ecstasy (Mithoefer et al.). The difference between MDMA and ecstasy is that MDMA is in its pure form while ecstasy is typically a mixture of MDMA and other contaminants. The initial study...