Going through an extremely stressful life experience can leave its mark on a person in the form of a condition known as post traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes a situation is so overwhelming that a person is unable to move on with their life even after the stressful event is over. They may experience flashbacks, feelings of intense anxiety, a sense of disconnectedness from others, depression, and difficulty eating or sleeping. Healing the wounds associated with a stressful experience can take time and lots of focused counseling. Fortunately, there may be a surprising new way to help post traumatic stress disorder patients confront their feelings of distress – the drug Ecstasy.
Characteristically, post traumatic stress disorder patients have undergone psychological therapy where they were encouraged to re-experience some of their bad memories in a safe environment so they could learn more adaptive ways to deal with them. Patients commonly are reluctant to directly confront their traumatic experiences due to fear and will often practice avoidance behavior. This makes it difficult to help post traumatic stress disorder patients fully recover. It appears that the drug Ecstasy increases a person’s willingness to confront these negative emotions and experiences so they can deal with them in a healthier manner. This drug also seems to strengthen the emotional bond between patient and doctor which makes therapy more effective.
How does the drug Ecstasy bring about the positive emotional state that helps post traumatic stress disorder patients confront their fears? According to an article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that addresses the issue of using the drug Ecstasy for post traumatic stress disorder, Ecstasy increases the level of a hormone secreted by the brain known as Oxytocin. Oxyctocin has been shown to increase feelings of social and emotional closeness when given to humans, so much so that it’s even being investigated as a possible treatment for social phobia. The increased feelings of emotional closeness induced by Ecstasy may allow the patient suffering from post traumatic stress disorder to better engage with the therapist and confront the fears that are delaying their healing. The drug Ecstasy also appears to inhibit certain portions of the brain associated with fear which could make the patient more open to confronting painful memories.
The drug Ecstasy is already being investigated in clinical trials and preliminarily appears to have the potential to help post traumatic stress disorder patients better address their emotional issues. It will be interesting to see what future studies show.