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Ecstasy could help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder
Date:3/8/2009

ing of painful memories.

According to Johansen and Krebs, "MDMA [ecstasy] has a combination of pharmacological effects thatcould provide a balance of activating emotions while feeling safe and in control."

They suggest three possible biological reasons why ecstasy could help individuals with PSTD. First, ecstasy is known to increase the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in trust, empathy, and social closeness.

Because people with PTSD often report feeling emotionally disconnected and unable to benefit from the supportive presence of family and friends or therapists a situation that is likely to contribute to the development and maintenance of the disorder use of ecstasy might also help ameliorate these symptoms, suggest the authors.

"By increasing oxytocin levels, MDMA may strengthen engagement in the therapeutic alliance and facilitate beneficial exposure to interpersonal closeness and mutual trust," they write.

The second biological explanation for ecstasy's useful effect is that it acts in two brain regions to inhibit the automatic fear response (mediated by the amygadala) and increase emotional control (mediated by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and therefore permits bearable revisiting of traumatic memories.

Thirdly, ecstasy increases the release of two other hormones, noradrenaline and cortisol, which are known to be essential to trigger emotional learning, including the process that leads to fear extinction, on which therapy for PTSD relies. But, caution the authors, while these compounds enhance extinction learning they may also temporarily increase anxiety in people with PTSD because the hormones are naturally released as part of the body's response to stress.

Ecstasy combined with psychotherapy is a treatment already being tested in clinical trials to help patients with PTSD. All of these trials have a similar design in which ecstasy or placebo is administered to patients
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Contact: Mithu Mukherjee
mithu.mukherjee@sagepub.co.uk
44-020-732-42223
SAGE Publications UK
Source:Eurekalert

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