MDMA’s Journey from Molly to Medicine
published on November 3, 2017 by lfonso Serrano in Scientific American
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy readies for phase III trials, a last step before possible prescription use in PTSD patients
James Casey recalls having a fondness for fireworks while growing up on the outskirts of small towns in rural Louisiana and North Carolina. That was before his 2011 deployment as a U.S. Army medic to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was steadily exposed to the trauma of modern warfare. After he returned to the U.S. a year later at age 19, the sound of fireworks and similar blasts of noise produced ghastly images of the lifeless Kandahar patients who proved beyond his medical aid, mangled bodies that at times covered his entire field of view.
Like nearly 30 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans, Casey was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which he sought to quell with everything from medication to group therapy to hypnosis. Nothing worked. After 18 months Casey was ready to accept his PTSD as a life sentence, he says. Then he read about upcoming trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD patients in Boulder, Colorado, where he was headed to study molecular biology.
“It gave me my life back,” he says, recalling the phase II trial organized in 2015 by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, in which Casey underwent three MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions over five weeks. “I did a year and a half of therapy before MDMA,” he says. “But with MDMA it was like a year and a half of the previous therapy in one day.”View the full article