Clinician's Digest III


Old Pills, New Promises for PTSD

September/October 2012


With nearly eight million Americans affected by the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and tens of thousands of troops returning from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers are hard at work trying to identify new, effective treatments for the disorder. Currently, there are only two FDA-approved medications for the treatment of PTSD: sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil). The evidence of the effectiveness of these antidepressants and other medications used "off-label" for PTSD-related symptoms is limited, and the medications often cause problematic side effects, such as sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and fatigue, which many users find disagreeable. New studies suggest that two drugs previously used for very different purposes may provide hope for PTSD sufferers. Unlike other psychiatric medications, these drugs aren't intended to treat the symptoms of PTSD directly--they're meant to augment traditional psychotherapy approaches for the disorder.

The first drug, ethylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is better known by its street name: Ecstasy. MDMA proponents suggest that the mood-mellowing effects of the drug may allow for more controlled and efficient processing of traumatic material in psychotherapy sessions. After years of campaigning, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in California received federal approval for the first randomized…

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