Combat-Related PTSD: Investigating a New Form of Treatment

By: Jonathan Chang, Alexa Henrie, Emma Nguyen, Kate Reiss

Why MDMA-assisted therapy should be a treatment option for veterans with PTSD.

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This magazine investigates the psychedelic drug MDMA as a new form of treatment for combat-related PTSD. PTSD is pervasive within veteran populations, and current treatment modalities, including antidepressants and exposure-based psychotherapy, have been proven to be ineffective. Veterans deserve relief from their symptoms through effective, accessible treatment and based on promising research about MDMA’s therapeutic potential, we propose that this is possible. MDMA is capable of effectively treating combat-related PTSD when combined with psychotherapy. PTSD is a disorder of emotion in which negative, fear-based stimuli are prioritized over neutral information. This results in avoidance, arousal, and re-experiencing of the event. MDMA promotes a sense of well-being, fear extinction, and trust which negate the symptoms associated with PTSD. It also helps survivors address their traumatic event with therapists by allowing them to revisit and work through their triggers. Veterans have very unique lived experiences, so we have centered the information on personal narratives to ensure that their perspectives are conveyed with justice. We also wish to highlight the many nuances associated with this treatment so that readers will fully understand the historical context and social implications of psychedelics. If adapted as a form of treatment, it is not enough for their use to be legalized in clinical settings. Rather, we argue for the need of decriminalization so that veterans, and other marginalized populations, will have equitable access to their therapeutic benefits. Oregon and California, states that have made efforts to decriminalize psychedelics, will serve as case studies for this type of legislation.

This is a really elegant and sensitive presentation of a difficult topic and a hopeful treatment, and an especially moving use of vet’s own words and testimony about PTSD and MDMA… very well done! –Prof Kelty

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