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Ecstasy may help in psychiatric treatment

The pharmaceutical version of the drug also known as MDMA has been found effective in treating patients undergoing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi | Published: March 9, 2009 2:03:17 pm

Ecstasy,an infamous drug common among high-end rave party revellers,could be effective in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress,according to a new study.

The pharmaceutical version of the drug also known as MDMA has been found effective in treating patients who have experienced traumatic experiences and are undergoing mental stress after that,a condition known as PTSD.

PTSD patients get disconnected from society and develop feeling of fear after a traumatic experience.

At present the treatment is Exposure therapy wherein psychiatrists ask them to repeatedly recall the experience or expose the patient to situations that are safe but still trigger their traumatic feelings.

But in 40 per cent of cases this treatment is not effective and they continue to suffer from stress.

Psychiatrists across the world are looking for a drug therapy which can boost the results of exposure therapy. The results published in Journal of Psychopharmacology suggest that Ecstasy could be that drug.

“We have noted that MDMA promotes emotional engagement; decreases emotional avoidance; and improves tolerance for recall and processing of painful memories,” Teri Krebs,one of the researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology,Norway said on Monday.

The drug strengthens the bond between the patient and doctor and helps the patient to deal with their memories more effectively by encouraging a feeling of safety.

“A goal during exposure therapy for PTSD is to recall distressing experiences while at the same time remaining grounded in the present. Emotional avoidance is the most common obstacle in exposure therapy for PTSD,and high within-session emotional engagement predicts better outcome,” Krebs,said.

Scientists say the infamous party drug enhances the effects of exposure therapy in three ways.

First,it increases the release of the hormone oxytocin,which helps in emotions such as trust,empathy,and social closeness thus ameliorating emotional disconnection,common symptom of PTSD,researchers say.

Second,it acts in two brain regions which control automatic fear feelings and increase emotional control and,therefore,permits bearable revisiting of traumatic memories.

Third,the drug increases the release of two other hormones,noradrenaline and cortisol,which lead to relieving the feeling of fear in patients.

The drug is already being tested across the world for the treatment of PTSD and results have been promising so far,the researchers say.

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