Guilt. Shame. Grief. Panic Attacks. Depression. Those are some of the words invoked to describe the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the opening to this video, produced by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies a.k.a. MAPS.
“Even to go to the grocery store, I go in the middle of the night, so there won’t be very many people around,” says one PTSD sufferer, who describes her condition as “a living nightmare.”
The disorder can be completely debilitating, leaving victims of trauma and abuse feeling crippled by anxiety and even suicidal. “I grew up in a war zone,” says a patient named Hania. “It pretty much interfered with every aspect of my life.”
Conventional treatments for PTSD often show limited effectiveness, while patients remain trapped by their affliction. “Many of them have a difficult time functioning in life,” says Marcela Ot’alora, the principal investigator for a MAPS-sponsored study on PTSD. “Some of them are very isolated.”
The organization is researching the effectiveness of using psychotherapy assisted by MDMA, a psychedelic more commonly known as the primary active ingredient in ecstasy. Study subjects meet with their therapists while under the effect of the medicine in search of a breakthrough from their trauma. “The MDMA made it so I could dig in and connect and find those broken pieces of me,” PTSD-sufferer Jesse says, “find the smaller, terrified little me, and be able to nurture and coddle it.”
Following MDMA treatment, the four women profiled in the video have been able to free themselves from the living hell of PTSD. “My hyper-vigilance is gone, nightmares are gone, anxiety is gone,” says study subject Colleen. “I’m just surprised beyond belief that it was so effective, and in such a small amount of time.”
The organization is in the final stretch of a fund-raising drive to pay for its Phase 2 trials, taking place in Boulder, CO, which aim to put MDMA on the path to legalization as a treatment for PTSD in a therapeutic setting. So far, the group has raised $727,000 of the $771,000 that they need to complete their efforts.
“The combination of the psychedelic and the therapist was such a healing thing for me because I could go places I couldn’t go before,” Elizabeth says. “I can’t tell you how valuable that was.”
After this and other Phase 2 studies are completed, MAPS aspires to launch Phase 3 studies to prove that MDMA is both safe and effective, with a goal of receiving FDA approval as a legal treatment for PTSD by 2021.
According to MAPS, the research is already showing great promise:
“Preliminary results from this study are showing that 56% of participants receiving MDMA-assisted psychotherapy experienced clinically significant (30% or more) decreases in PTSD symptoms two months after treatment, compared with only 17% of those receiving placebo. These results are even stronger one year after treatment, with 80% of participants experiencing significant improvements. This preliminary data reaffirms the promising results of our study published in 2011, which found that 83% of participants no longer had PTSD two months after treatment.”
But for now, MDMA remains strictly prohibited under federal law. “We have something that could help you now,” Ot’alora says, “and we can’t offer it.”
For too many PTSD sufferers, that leaves them with no effective, legal avenues to seek help. “For the first time in my life, I was able to actually look at everything that I’d been running away from for my whole life,” says Hania. “That pretty much changed everything for me.”
To make a contribution, visit the MAPS donation page. Donors Bailey Gimbel and John McCormick have offered to match donations up to $7,000, and since MAPS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations are tax-deductible.
View the full video here or in the player below.