Bring It On!

There’s a Cure for PTSD! Oh, Nevermind, It’s Illegal

June 27th, 2008 | by Tom Harper |

When terminal cancer patients would like to use marijuana to ease the nausea from chemo-therapy, the government tells them “Tough shit! Suck it up!”

And now the newest group of patients to get shat on by the government: Soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Ecstasy (MDMA) has been having promising results with PTSD sufferers who weren’t responding to any other treatment.

Oh, too bad. It’s against the law. Next.

Psychiatrists have long been interested in the benefits of Ecstasy. In 1976 a chemist, Alexander Shulgin, tried the drug. He described the effects as: “an easily controlled altered state of consciousness with emotional and sensual overtones.”

He thought the drug would be ideal for psychotherapy because it induces a state of openness and trust, but without the hallucinations. The drug started getting used in couples therapy and for treating anxiety disorders.

But alas, those decadent hippies and ravers started using the drug, and Ecstasy’s reputation turned into a variation on “Reefer Madness” and “Assassin of Youth.” Ecstasy was made illegal in 1985. And that pretty much put the kibosh on any more research into Ecstasy/MDMA.

A psychiatrist, Dr Michael Mithoefer, has been authorized to give Ecstasy to a few — very few — of his worst-off PTSD patients. Dr. Mithoefer thinks the Ecstasy-induced feelings of trust are what sets the drug apart from other treatments. He said:

“Many people with PTSD have a great deal of trouble trusting anybody, especially if they’ve been betrayed by someone who abused their trust, like a parent or a caregiver. MDMA has this effect of lowering fear and defences. It also allows more compassion for oneself and for others. People can revisit the trauma, feel the original feelings but not be retraumatized, not feel overwhelmed or have to numb out to cope with it.”

All right, that’s enough psychobabble. We have a War on Drugs to fight.

Aside from the legal problems and the social stigma of Ecstasy, the pharmaceutical industry might be another roadblock. If Ecstasy starts getting used more widely, the drug companies could lose millions of dollars in sales of anti-depressants that PTSD patients are currently using. Big Pharm says “Huh Uh.”

  1. One Response to “There’s a Cure for PTSD! Oh, Nevermind, It’s Illegal”

  2. By Liberal Jarhead on Jun 28, 2008 | Reply

    Hell, all they need to do is make a miniscule and meaningless tweak in the chemical formula of Ecstasy, patent the result under a new name, and start charging a thousand dollars a pill, and it will become the government-approved first-line treatment. Kind of like they took the antidepressant Wellbutrin, slapped a new name on it (Zyban), and remarketed it as a stop-smoking drug.

    The part about trust makes sense. The toughest kind of PTSD is what they call complex PTSD, and it results when the trauma stems from a betrayal by a trusted authority, as Tom noted. In the case of the military, it can result from situations where people are hurt or killed due to being issued inferior or defective equipment by a trusted authority in the form of the government, or where their leaders needlessly put them in risky situations. In other words, pretty much the entire Iraq war since the end of the first phase when the Iraqi army fell apart and the insurgency kicked in.

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