Ecstasy drug a potential PTSD treatment
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, QMI Agency
Last Updated: August 5, 2010 4:36am
OTTAWA - Canada's military would use the illicit dance-floor drug Ecstasy to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder if it's proven safe and effective, says a top DND doctor.
Lt. Col. Rakesh Jetly, a psychiatrist and senior health adviser for the Canadian Forces, said the department of national defence (DND) is committed to evidence-based care, and would embrace any treatment that has undergone rigorous scientific research to help relieve suffering of battle-scarred troops.
"If you replaced Ecstasy with substance X - whether it was an absolutely approved legal drug, a mainstream medication, my answer would be the same. The fact that it's Ecstasy means nothing to us," Jetly told QMI Agency. "If there's any substance, any drug that has the research, the randomized controlled studies, the publications to prove its efficacy, we would entertain adding it as an approved treatment."
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows a small clinical trial found 80% of chronic patients treated with psychotherapy and MDMA - called Ecstasy on the street - no longer showed signs of t-traumatic stress disorder if (PTSD) and had no serious side effects.
Three patients once so debilitated by the disorder they couldn't work were able to return to their jobs after treatment.
MDMA was used by psychiatrists and psychotherapists to aide treatment before it was outlawed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Jetly said because all treatments endure broad-based, tough scientific scrutiny and robust risk assessments support before they are ever approved by Health Canada, he is not bothered that a potential remedy stems from a street drug.
"If there's merit and the benefits outweigh the risks of adverse effects, then everything is fair game to consider, if there's evidence to prove its efficacy," he said. "From our point of view, we're in the business of stopping suffering and if something is shown to do it then we would certainly give it serious consideration."
But Commodore Hans Jung, the CF Surgeon General, warned studies on Ecstasy are still in the very early stage and that it would take many years of tests and research before it might be deemed ready for regulatory approval. Any soldiers suffering from PTSD should seek professional care and should never self-medicate or treat themselves with any drug that has not been proven to be safe, he said.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which sponsored the Ecstasy pilot with subjects traumatized by war, crime and abuse, is conducting a second focused trial with veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. Other clinical trials are planned for Canada, Switzerland and Jordan.
MAPS spokesman Randolph Hencken said the Health Canada-approved Vancouver project was delayed due to "bureaucratic hurdles" moving the Ecstasy across the border but is now expected to launch in the next few months.
"We believe it will be a good option in that it actually treats the causes as opposed to masking the symptoms," he told QMI Agency, noting the goal of approval of the drug as a prescribed medication is likely still years away. "People who have PTSD and have been afraid to face the trauma and overcome it, when they use MDMA-assisted psychotherapy they are able to comfortably discuss the trauma, face the issues and overcome them."