A new report just released this week by Nature Medicine has a lot of players in both medicine and the psychedelics industry talking. MDMA and other psychedelics like psilocybin have been under scrutiny lately as a possible avenue of treatment for not only PTSD but mental health issues generally. Dr. Mike Hart is back to chat again with us about that report on MDMA-Assisted therapy for severe PTSD. Dr. Hart is the Host of Heart to Hart Podcast and a medical doctor at the Ready To Go Clinic in London, Ontario.
Here’s some highlights from the interview:
PTSD very difficult to treat
Dr. Hart stresses that it’s a difficult condition to treat, because a lot of traditional medications don’t work on PTSD. Research on pharmaceutical drugs often show that they’re not effective overall. And in some cases, patients actually have worse outcomes when given some of the anti-anxiety medications and other prescriptions.
Hart says that MDMA-Assisted therapy works because the psychedelic reduces ego
Some people may look at this report, Dr. Hart says, and think that they can just “take ecstasy with their friends” to improve their symptoms. He insists that this is not the case at all, and that such behavior could actually be damaging to them. The analogy is more appropriately that in this study, it “is putting psychotherapy on steroids and making it much more effective.”
When trauma is caused by something that a veteran has done, it can be difficult to talk about something that causes so much shame. In these instances, ego is preventing them from “surfacing the things that they need to talk about.” He is quick to point out that this is not ego as we view it in a traditional sense; ego is there to protect us.
MDMA-assisted therapy in these instances creates what Hart causes an “ego-smash” or an “ego-dissolution.” When you put a substance like MDMA on board, he says, “people become more comfortable talking about uncomfortable subjects. … A lot of the guilt gets alleviated, and you can have a conversation with your psychotherapist and get some type of relief.”
Hart feels legalization within a year unlikely, and other MDMA-assisted therapy studies will improve
Dr. Hart says he doesn’t know if medicinal legalization of MDMA is likely in the next 12 months – though he hopes it will be. Right now, psilocybin has more of a movement to it, and chemically, it falls under the category of being a plant medicine, where MDMA is not. Hart says that fact shouldn’t affect whether or not it will be legalized, but “sometimes things like that do matter.”
In the meantime, other companies such as Numinus are conducting similar trials to deliver MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, and Hart expects that Nature Medicine’s results will be replicated. Indeed, they may be able to correct any results that they weren’t happy with in the first study, and in time perfect a course of treatment.