Can Ecstasy Treat Post-Traumatic Stress?

ByBob Woodruff

April 1, 2004 -- Americans take hundreds of millions of doses Ecstasy every year.

Before Ecstasy was made illegal psychotherapists were giving the drug to patients because they said it was an amazingly effective therapeutic tool.

When the federal government outlawed the drug in 1985, it said Ecstasy had no accepted medical use — which is why what is happening in this South Carolina laboratory is so interesting.

Feds Approve Human Study

For the first time in nearly two decades the U.S. government has authorized a human study, allowing patients to take Ecstasy under a doctor's direction for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It will be people who have crime related post traumatic stress disorder … from some kind of a terrorist event, it could be childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical assault, law enforcement people in violent incidents," said Dr. Michael Mithoefer, the South Carolina psychiatrist conducting the study.

The fact is by the late 1970s a small group of psychiatrists had already discovered that the drug's effect on the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood could help certain patients open up and confront their problems.

Rape Victim Felt Drug Helped Her Overcome Trauma

Kathy Tamm was one of those patients who feel they benefited from the drug. In 1983, she was raped and tortured. It was only through Ecstasy-assisted therapy that she was able to emotionally recover.

But shortly after she underwent the therapy, the government put it on its list of Schedule I drugs, a classification that includes such drugs as heroin, cocaine and methamphetines.

"I cannot believe that this isn't available to people in the way that I was benefited," Tamm said.

Federal authorities still insist that Ecstasy is dangerous … and there are public health campaigns against it.

But the notion that Ecstasy has no medical use is now officially in dispute, acknowledgement that the total ban on Ecstasy 19 years ago may have been an overreaction.

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