The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Active ingredient in Ecstasy helps against PTSD

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 14 September 2023

The ecstasy active ingredient MDMA is effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Active ingredient in Ecstasy helps against PTSD
Party drug ecstasy ©Keystone/SDA

A registration study by researchers from the USA published on Thursday in the journal “Nature Medicine” confirms the success of the therapy in a diverse group of patients.

This is a milestone in the history of the substance, said Matthias Liechti, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the University Hospital of Basel, when asked by the Keystone-SDA news agency.

According to the study, 71.2 percent of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who received MDMA-assisted therapy no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Of the people who received a placebo, it was only 47.6 percent. The MDMA-supported therapy was well tolerated, as the researchers from the USA wrote in the study. No deaths or serious adverse events were identified.

These results, which include individuals who are often underrepresented in clinical trials, confirm and extend the results of a previous phase 3 study. “This means there is potentially enough data from patients for approval,” said Liechti. However, it is also possible that further examinations would be required for approval.

Switzerland as a pioneer

In Switzerland, MDMA is already used in psychotherapy with special approval from the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG). Since 2015, doctors have been able to submit an application to the BAG for the use of MDMA for medical purposes. However, strict requirements must be met. Its use is only permitted if conventional treatment methods have been tried without success and the disease severely impairs the quality of life.

According to Liechti, Switzerland was alone internationally for a long time with this exemption. MDMA has also been allowed to be used to treat PTSD in Australia for a few months now. However, the application is also heavily regulated there. According to Liechti, not a single patient in Australia has been treated with MDMA so far.

No ecstasy in pharmacies

Nevertheless, approval according to Liechti would also change something in this country. As an unapproved drug, treatment with MDMA does not have to be covered by health insurance. Such therapy can be expensive for patients without approval, because after taking the substance, patients have to be looked after by an accompanying person for several hours.

But even with approval, Ecstasy will not be able to be bought in pharmacies in the future, said Liechti. “Similar to anaesthetics, you can’t just pick them up at the pharmacy with a prescription.”

©Keystone/SDA

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