MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be an effective treatment option for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) according to a recent study.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Psychiatry, the trial assessed whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy could be beneficial for individuals with chronic PTSD including military personnel, firefighters and police officers.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. Sufferers may experience flashbacks, panic attacks, insomnia and nightmares related to the event.

The 26 individuals who were recruited to take part in the Phase II trial were given various doses of MDMA along with eight-hour psychotherapy sessions. Researchers then monitored changes to the Clinically Administered PTSD scale─ a scale that measures symptom severity.

Researchers found that active doses of MDMA, 75 mg and 125 mg, were effective and well-tolerated in reducing PTSD symptoms in veterans and first responders. Participants from these groups had a significantly greater decreases in PTSD symptom severity when compared to those given 30mg.

A year after the end of the study 16 of the 26 participants were no longer classified as suffering from PTSD.

In 2017, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) granted MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD a Breakthrough Therapy Designation, which is granted to treatments for serious conditions that are considered more effective than currently available drugs. The destination means that the treatment can go through the approval process more quickly.

According to the Multiplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which sponsored the trial, MDMA-assisted PTSD treatment could become an approved prescription medicine by 2021.

Prior to being outlawed in the US in 1985, some psychiatrists used MDMA as a psychotherapeutic tool for the treatment of anxiety.

The drug is thought to increase feelings of trust and compassion towards others, which could make it a viable treatment option for PTSD when used alongside psychotherapy.

Some experts believe that taking medical grade MDMA in a controlled environment could make psychotherapy more effective and better tolerated. It could also help patients avoid the side-effects of other psychiatric drugs that must be taken daily, as it would only need to be administered two or three times during treatment. However, the evidence for MDMA’s therapeutic effects is limited.

In the early 1990s, the FDA approved the first human trial exploring whether MDMA could help relieve pain in terminally ill patients, as well as serve as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

the drug may have benefits for those with anxiety, autism and alcohol dependency.