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U.K. doctors to study benefits of ecstasy

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LONDON, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The first clinical study of ecstasy in the United Kingdom is being planned to test the drug's benefits for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist, and Taunton-based psychiatrist Dr. Ben Sessa are two scientists hoping to recreate a successful trial conducted in the United States on the benefits of MDMA, The Guardian reported Friday.

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"I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation. The drugs have been made illegal in a vain attempt to stop kids using them, but people haven't thought about the negative consequences," Nutt said.

The U.S. study involved 20 people who had previously been in therapy and on medication for an average of 19 years for PTSD; 12 participants were given MDMA before a therapy session, the rest were given placebo pills.

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Eighty-three percent of the group given ecstasy showed significant improvement after two sessions compared with 25 percent of the placebo group.

"I expected it was going to be effective," said Michael Mithoefer, the psychiatrist who ran the U.S. study. "I suppose we wouldn't have done it otherwise. But I didn't necessarily expect we'd find such statistical significance in that number [of people]. That was the icing on the cake."

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Nutt said PTSD is "an extraordinarily disabling condition and we don't have any really effective treatments. In order to deal with trauma, you have to be able to re-engage with the memory and then deal with it. For many people, as soon as the memory comes into consciousness, so does the fear and disgust."

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Sessa said he wants to reproduce the trial in the United Kingdom but "with an added twist – lots of neuro-imaging," adding MDMA "is not about dancing around nightclubs -- it's a really useful psychiatric drug."

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