Ecstasy may help boost therapy success in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, say US researchers. A small trial in 20 patients suggests use of the drug is safe and seems to improve the effects of psychotherapy.
The US team has now gained approval for a larger study in military veterans, but stresses more research is needed to confirm the finding.
A UK expert said it was difficult to draw any conclusions from such a small study and urged caution. It is thought the clubbing drug reduces fear enabling patients to get more out of their therapy sessions.
Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the team said patients were selected on strict criteria–they had to have had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for many years and have failed with conventional treatments.
They also excluded those with a history of psychosis or addiction.
In the trial, patients were offered two eight-hour psychotherapy sessions scheduled a few weeks apart, with 12 of them given a dose of ecstasy and eight a placebo.
Two months later, ten of the 12 patients given ecstasy responded to the treatment, the researchers said. In contrast, just two out of eight patients offered a placebo showed an improvement.
There were no adverse effects from the use of the drug in the study, which was funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
MAPS is a non-profit organisation which aims to develop psychedelic drugs and marijuana into medicines to treat conditions where conventional medicines provide limited relief.