- Aug 31, 2016
- Frostbite Falls, MN
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that describes the issues faced by many people after they experience or witness a traumatic event. Anyone who has been exposed to traumatic events that causes a serious fear for their life or the lives of others is at risk to develop PTSD. People typically affected include: survivors of violent acts and disasters, emergency responders to traumatic events, people who experience the sudden death of a loved one, anyone who has been abused, neglected children, and combat veterans. However, many other events can be traumatic as well, particularly to people of color, including police harassment, distressing childbirth experiences, and incarceration.
MAPS is a non-profit research and educational organization that is currently sponsoring Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA as a tool to assist psychotherapy for severe PTSD. Importantly, MDMA used in these trials is not the same as the street substances known as "ecstasy" or "molly," since these drugs frequently also contain unknown and/or dangerous adulterants. In MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, MDMA is only administered a few times, unlike most medications for mental illnesses which are often taken daily for several years. More information on MDMA can be found in the MAPS Investigator Brochure, which is available online here.
Preliminary studies suggest that MDMA can catalyze powerful psychotherapeutic work in helping people overcome PTSD by reducing fear of traumatic memories and increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others without causing sensory distortions or inhibiting access to difficult emotions. As such, MDMA could increase the effectiveness of psychotherapy by strengthening the alliance between therapist and patient.
In our site at the University of Connecticut, we are participating in a MAPS-sponsored, FDA reviewed Phase 2 open-label study and then moving on to Phase 3 randomized clinical trials in Spring 2018. We are focusing on the recruitment of ethnoracial minority participants who meet criteria for PTSD. Our team’s work is focused on culturally-sensitive and respectful treatment approaches for people of diverse backgrounds.
We recognize that doing things the way they have always been done will not be sufficient to open the doors of these therapies to people of color. A culturally-informed approach must be used. Here are some of the efforts that have been made to date to ensure the ongoing MDMA research is culturally inclusive:
- Addition of a study site focused on the ethnic minority trauma experience
- Revision of informed consent documents for all sites to improve understanding and acceptability to people of color
- Diversification of the UConn treatment team at every level
- Ongoing cultural training for all UConn team members, with an emphasis on cultural humility
- Re-examination and revision of the setting and music used during MDMA sessions for cultural congruence
- Recognition and validation of experiences of racial oppression at a cultural and individual level
- Integration and specialized training for independent rater pool, with ongoing supervision for cultural differences