Government Approval of MDMA for Treating PTSD Likely

a silhouette of a man disappearing and turning into smoke standing on a hill looking out on city lights just before sunrise

For the millions of Americans suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), there may finally be a solution. A late-stage clinical trial of the psychedelic drug MDMA has shown great promise in treating the condition, making FDA approval likely in the next few years.

MDMA, an illegal drug commonly known as “ecstasy” or “molly” started out as a synthetic compound created in 1912. After a period of use in the treatment of mental health conditions, it escaped in the 1980s from the clinic to the dance floor and was criminalized by the FDA. But a few proponents continue to push for research, including Dr. Rick Doblin who founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS.

Decades later their efforts finally led to a green light from the FDA for clinical study. Since then, there have been three rigorous clinical trials, which have all shown enormous promise of the drug in combination with psychotherapy to treat PTSD.

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Psychedelic Experiences Neurologically Mimic Near-Death Experiences

Near-death Experience neurally correlates to psychedelic trip

Research suggests the psychedelic trip is remarkably similar to a Near-Death Experience and has been noted for decades. Now, research into the neural activity experienced while under the influence of psychedelics, is providing valuable context for the commonalities.

Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who experienced an NDE in 2008 and has since been studying the phenomenon and sharing his findings in a number of bestselling books.

“This research with psychedelics has been so fascinating,” Alexander said. “Not only does it show that the brain goes dark under the influence of such substances, they actually showed this beautiful inverse correlation between the amount of turning off and dissolution of the Default-Mode Network, as demonstrated on fMRI, with a degree of liberation of consciousness away from the ego into these unfettered realms of transcendental and paranormal experience. It shows us in a very concrete fashion that the brain activity is not actually causing all of this to happen, but it’s more the brain getting out of the way.” 

Researcher Dr. Rick Strassman was the first to rigorously study the overlap between the psychedelic experience and the NDE. The commonalities are quite significant.

“It’s all about entering new realms, I mean, entire immersive experiences — worlds that are different from our material realm. That is a very common theme in those drug experiences as well as in near-death experiences. There’s also this extraordinary world of beings, entities, guides, of intelligences. It’s showing this incredible unification, a sense of being, and a binding force of love through these experiences. So, there’s a commonality of lesson and transformation,” Alexander said.

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