Occasionally something big happens in the area of mental health and well-being, something that might alleviate suffering more than any previously know treatments. Today, there are strong signs to suggest that we might be on the verge of such a significant breakthrough.
In 2017 FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) granted MDMA-Assisted Therapy for trauma Breakthrough Status*, which meant that this treatment showed a potential to be superior to any other currently available methods for treating trauma. This was a very rare designation and great news, which was then followed by a series of scientific multisite international studies on the safety and effectiveness of MDMA-Assisted Therapy for trauma. This research was led by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS.org).
The preliminary results from these studies are very promising. For example, in one study, after a 12-session trauma therapy (which included 3 MDMA dosing sessions), half of the participants no longer qualified for PTSD diagnosis. Even more profoundly, one year later, two thirds of participants had no PTSD. These results are preliminary, but if they hold up, results of this magnitude are unprecedented in comparison with any other known therapies to date. This is especially promising because we are talking about a fairly brief form of therapy with as few as three dosing sessions. “In the pharmaceutical drug development community, this is what you dream about,” says Rick Doblin, MAPS Founder and Executive Director.
Why is MDMA-Assisted Therapy for trauma so effective in producing lasting improvements is yet to be determined. Some current hypothesis include a strong fear reduction mechanism during a dosing session that allows access to traumatic memories without the usual fear response that prompts trauma victims to avoid these memories at any cost. Emotional avoidance makes trauma victims vulnerable to repeated experience of re-traumatization, both by their stressful memories and by new stressful situations. MDMA is also known to release Oxytocin (the bonding hormone), which can restore the sense of connectedness with others and the world that is often lost for trauma victims who frequently feel alienated. Importantly, Oxytocin also helps permanently rewire the brain. There is evidence that MDMA experience creates new lasting neural connections (Nardou et al, Nature 2019). Now, with traumatic memories being less distressing and with a better sense of belonging in the world and with others, trauma victims can now experience themselves as whole integrated human beings.
We have founded Enhanced Therapy Institute in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic in Winnipeg, the heart of North America. Our mission is to support the global effort towards medical legalization of ethical, safe, and effective MDMA-Assisted Therapy and prepare for future service delivery. Aside from trauma treatment, the focus of our institute is on healing relationships, as new studies also show very promising signs that MDMA can also be a very effective therapy for relationships. More about this in our future posts.
One of our primary goals is to support rigorous scientific research on MDMA-Assisted Therapy for relationships. Research is crucial to expedite the FDA and Health Canada approvals to use MDMA in the relationship healing context. At present, the world leading researcher in this area is a Toronto psychologist Dr. Anne Wagner, who is currently setting up the largest to date study on MDMA-Assisted Therapy for couples. How quickly this study happens will depend on the funding Dr. Wagner gathers. We have donated to this study, and we encourage you to do the same. Click the donation link on our website and donate to support this potentially ground-breaking research study. All donations go directly to Dr. Wagner’s study, with a charitable receipt issued by MAPS Canada.
* “Breakthrough Therapy designation is a process designed to expedite the development and review of drugs that are intended to treat a serious condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over available therapy on a clinically significant endpoint(s).” FDA