After a government representative was sent to learn about the substance from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Israel has approved the use of MDMA to treat PTSD on 50 patients.
“The ministry is taking this seriously and with appropriate caution, an in-depth investigation has been carried out,” Ministry of Health official Bella Ben-Gershon told Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “There is a considerable population in Israel of people suffering from PTSD that is resistant to other treatment.” Treatment will take place in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center and psychiatric hospitals in Be’er Yaakov, Lev Hasharon, and Be’er Sheva.
MDMA’s effects on PTSD are considered by many to be a crucial point of research. It is estimated that 8 percent of US residents have PTSD at any one time, for a total of 24.4 million people. That rate rises considerably when one looks at the country’s population of veterans, for whom the rate varies between 11 and 20 percent.
States-side, there has also been key movement on the issue. MAPS has announced a $26.9 million strategy to convince the FDA to make MDMA an approved medication by 2021. The organization’s representatives met with the FDA to answer the government entity’s questions regarding a protocol that MAPS submitted for similar tests to take place in the United States. In 2017, the FDA approved two Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA’s effects on the symptoms of PTSD, dubbing it a “breakthrough therapy.”
In some states, politicians are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to the drug’s availability for therapeutic purposes. Earlier this month, an Iowa state representative spoke out against the prohibition of MDMA and other hallucinogenic drugs. “A significant body of research indicates that there are substantial medical benefits,” said State Rep. Jeff Shipley, a Republican.
Approval of MDMA in the future would not be the first time that the drug was allowed for use in psychotherapy. In the ‘70s, the substance was utilized in therapy. But by 1985, MDMA was deemed a Schedule I drug. In 2001, the government increased sentencing requirements in the face of the drug’s popularity within the rave scene — as it currently stands, penalties are 500 times higher than those of cannabis.
Two years ago, the U.S. Sentencing Committee began a process to review MDMA’s sentencing guidelines.
“This is an opportunity to learn a lesson from history and get it right this time,” said Jag Davies, director of communications and strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance, at the time. “People who use psychedelics or MDMA shouldn’t be vulnerable to any form of criminal punishment.”
Alternative therapies have been the subject of much interest when it comes to the treatment of PTSD. In February, MAPS announced that it had overcome significant institutional and governmental hurdles to successfully complete the world’s first clinical trial of the impact smoking cannabis has on PTSD symptoms.
PTSD is not the only condition being examined and treated with MDMA. Last year, research uncovered positive effects when the drug was taken by autistic adults. The investigation further suggests that MDMA improves symptoms of social anxiety and caused less avoidance of social interaction.