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Could ecstasy effectively treat debilitating PTSD symptoms?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a debilitating condition, and it is a mental disorder that currently affects hundreds of thousands of people in our country. Unfortunately, the condition can be so difficult to live with that it prevents some folks from being able to work or even from being able to enjoy spending time with their loved ones.

PTSD is commonly associated with military veterans. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported that about 275,000 veterans collected disability benefits for PTSD last year. But many other folks who work normal jobs can suffer from PTSD as well.

Besides living with disabling symptoms, including depression, frightening flashbacks and panic attacks, folks who suffer from PTSD also may have a challenging time finding the right treatment they need. However, a new study may provide some hope for those with the condition. According to researchers, party drugs like ecstasy may actually help those who have been diagnosed with PTSD, making their symptoms much more manageable to live with each day.

The effects of PTSD can be disabling because the condition forces people to re-live traumatic experiences. One psychiatrist said that it makes some sufferers feel as if their lives are truly about to end when they have flashbacks of traumatic experiences. This makes treatment difficult because treatment may include discussing an experience.

However, drugs like ecstasy could make it easier for folks to get treatment because the drug could help PTSD sufferers to talk about their experiences without feelings of anxiety, fear or anger. "You re-experience the trauma in a different way, it's not so threatening for you, you have a sense of being safe and secure," a psychiatrist notes.

Researchers who are studying the effects of treating PTSD patients with ecstasy have seen positive outcomes from the treatment method. In one study, 83 percent of the study's participants had benefited from using ecstasy during psychotherapy sessions. After two months of treatment, the patients were no longer diagnosed with PTSD.

Researchers recently published another study that analyzed the long-term benefits of psychotherapy and ecstasy treatments. Researchers discovered that after three years since receiving treatment, fewer than 20 percent of the patients had any serious symptoms of PTSD.

As a result of the research, the U.S. military has decided to test this type of treatment on veterans who suffer from severe forms of PTSD.

Source: NBC Chicago, "Party drug ecstasy may help tough cases of PTSD, researchers say," Tony Shin and R. Stickney, Nov. 28, 2012

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