A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Can MDMA-Assisted Therapy Help Vets?


New study will test its effectiveness for treating military veterans with PTSD and alcohol use disorder.

A team of Brown University researchers is launching a study to test the combined use of the drug MDMA and talk therapy as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol use disorder in military veterans. The study is the first at Brown on MDMA-assisted therapy and the first anywhere to test the treatment’s effectiveness for dual disorders, the researchers say.

“The potential of MDMA-assisted therapy is very exciting,” says Christy Capone, PhD, one of the study’s lead researchers and an assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior. “In previous studies, many people no longer met the criteria for PTSD at the end of treatment and some still didn’t have PTSD years later. That’s just mind-blowing. It’s not something we ever see with traditional PTSD treatments.”

For the study, the researchers will provide participants with two separate administrations of methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a non-addictive, mind-altering stimulant known for arousing positive feelings such as compassion and connectedness. The MDMA—more commonly known as ecstasy or molly—will be administered to participants in comfortable spaces with access to eyeshades and music and in the presence of a pair of therapists. Each session will last for eight hours and will be followed by a series of three 90-minute talk therapy sessions, with the first starting the morning after the MDMA experience.

“What’s fascinating to me is that in these sessions, therapists typically don’t need to lead participants to the trauma,” Capone says. “It comes up on its own. Patients develop a capacity to trust that their own brain will let them know what needs to be healed.”

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