MDMA offers potential to help PTSD


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MDMA, Ecstasy or Molly is a synthetic stimulant that causes hallucinogenic effects.

Initially synthesized by the chemist Anton Kollisch in 1912, MDMA has become a popular party drug among youth.

MDMA affects three neurotransmitters within the brain: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Serotonin has an array of different effects such as sleep, pain and hunger. However, it’s most famous for its effect on mood. Someone with healthy levels of serotonin can experience a balanced mood with considerably less anxiety and depression.

Dopamine helps regulate the brain’s emotional response. It also controls our brain’s relationship with rewards. When you accomplish something, the feeling you have afterward involves a boost of dopamine within your brain.

Norepinephrine is both a neurotransmitter and hormone. An excess of norepinephrine can make you euphoric, and a high level can make you happy. However, norepinephrine is also responsible for our primal “fight-or-flight” response to certain situations. A rapid rise in norepinephrine can lead to a panic attack.

While these neurotransmitters are responsible for many different aspects of the brain, a lack of these chemicals can lead to symptoms such as depression, lack of motivation, lack of interest in things that used to bring you joy, and loss of sleep.

MDMA can have an intense effect on these neurotransmitters. MDMA can cause a greater release of both serotonin and norapinephrine than of dopamine. This can cause people who take this drug to be extremely loving, outgoing, friendly and empathetic toward others. However, because of such a great release of serotonin when on this drug, the depletion of naturally present serotonin within the brain can lead one experiencing depression, having no appetite, memory loss and exhaustion and after taking MDMA.

MDMA also has been found to have a negative long-term effects on the brain.

In 2011, Current Neuropharmacology reported that rats who are dosed with MDMA showed a decrease in serotonin expression.

Due to MDMA being a Schedule 1 drug by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s not commercially available. People wanting to experience this drug must resort to buying MDMA on the street.

When buying MDMA illegally, users risk the possibility of consuming other substances that can be laced in the drug. Some other drugs that can be found within unregulated MDMA are caffeine, ketamine, methamphetamine and ephedrine.

Also, MDMA can affect the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Because of this, MDMA taken with excessive body movement such as in a club, or in a hot environment can lead to severe dehydration causing chills, muscle cramping, severe thirst, profuse sweating, fainting and seizures.

While it is important to know the risks of MDMA, scientists recently have been taking a closer look at other potential uses of it. A study conducted by Eric Edsinger of the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Gul Dolen of Johns Hopkins University found that an octopus (who is naturally antisocial) that was given MDMA became increasingly social toward other octopuses and even exchanged what appeared to be hugs.

MDMA is being closely looked at to help people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a disorder that affects people who have suffered from a traumatic event. It’s recognized for impacting both the brain and the body. Some common side effects of PTSD are social isolation, self-destructive behavior, hypervigilance, hostility and irritability.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies began examining MDMA’s potential use for victims suffering from PTSD. As of July 28, 2017, MAPS entered Phase 3 clinical trials with the FDA regarding the potential prescription of MDMA to patients. During the study, 26 patients received 13 hours of psychotherapy without any drugs, and two separate eight-hour sessions including doses of MDMA of 30, 75 or 125 milligrams each.

One month after these sessions were complete, it was found that of the patients who were dosed with 30 milligrams, 29 percent no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD. Moreover, out of the patients given 75 or 125 milligrams, 68 percent no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD. One year later, 67 percent of all patients involved no longer qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD. Lastly, patients who still qualified for a diagnosis of PTSD experienced a reduction in symptoms.

Although MDMA is on the verge of becoming prescribed, PTSD still affects many different people across Tucson.

Pima Community College also offers counseling and an outlet for a safe space. Veterans looking to get help and support from others should contact Pima’s Veterans Center located at Downtown Campus in Building RV-150 and on West Campus in Room CG-28 of the Santa Catalina building. The Veterans Center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

If you would like to contact the counseling department, call 206-7261.

General information and other assistance is available 24/7 by calling 206-6408 or emailing

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