KUALA LUMPUR, August 20 — Doctors in Bristol are now testing whether a few doses of MDMA could help patients overcome alcoholism more effectively than conventional treatments, after a study showed encouraging outcomes.
Eleven people have so far completed the safety and tolerability study, which involves nine months of follow-ups, The Guardian reported. They have, until now, reported almost no relapse and no physical or psychological issues.
“We’ve got one person who has completely relapsed, back to previous drinking levels, we have five people who are completely dry and we have four or five who have had one or two drinks but wouldn’t reach the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder,” Dr Ben Sessa, an addiction psychiatrist and senior research fellow at Imperial College London, was quoted saying.
The Guardian reported that in comparison, eight out of 10 alcoholics in England relapse in three years after taking current treatments.
All participants were given an eight-week course of psychotherapy, followed by a powerful dose of MDMA in week 3 and 6.
In the study that is the first to look at using MDMA to treat alcohol addiction, participants are given the psychoactive drug in a hospital and then spend eight hours with specialists (a psychiatrist and a psychologist), mostly lying down, wearing eye shades and headphones.
“We let them lead the sessions as to where they want to go. What comes up comes up, so it’s not very guided by the clinicians,” said Sessa.
He reportedly said most addiction often came from childhood trauma, with MDMA selectively impairing the fear response and allowed the recall of painful memories without being overwhelmed.
“MDMA psychotherapy gives you the opportunity to tackle rigidly held personal narratives that are based on early trauma. It’s the perfect drug for trauma-focused psychotherapy.”
Data collected after the MDMA-assisted sessions reportedly showed no evidence of drug withdrawal or comedown symptoms from the MDMA.
MDMA was used as a legal prescription drug to enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy in the United States from the 1970s to 1985 and in Switzerland up until 1993. In recent years, MDMA therapy has been studied extensively as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).