An ecstasy pill, with the logo of the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) is seen in Utrecht, The Netherland, October 5, 2015. More commonly known as a party drug, MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, is gaining interests by psychiatrists for its potential healing effects on PTSD and alcoholism. File Photo by Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/EPA
July 4 (UPI) -- Doctors in Britain will begin the world's first study involving MDMA's effects on alcohol addiction.
The study's aim is to find out whether small doses of MDMA, most commonly used in the party drug ecstasy, can be used to treat alcohol addiction more effectively than common treatments. In addition to the MDMA, subjects will be put on a psychotherapy treatment course, as well.
"We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy," said the study's clinical psychiatrist Ben Sessa, a senior research fellow at Imperial College London, according to the Independent.
The study will involve 20 participants who will be heavy drinkers who drink the equivalent of five bottles of wine per day and and have tried multiple treatment options.
"After 100 years of modern psychiatry our treatments are really poor," said Sessa at the Breaking Convention conference in London, according to the Guardian. "The chances of relapse for these patients are really high – 90 percent at three years. No one has ever given MDMA to treat alcoholism before."
Sessa is a staunch advocate is testing MDMA to treat addiction and trauma. But due to its illegal status and popularity as a party drug, legal experimentation in clinical settings can be difficult to do.
"At present MDMA is unlicensed and cannot be legally prescribed as a treatment for [post-traumatic stress disorder] – either here in the UK or anywhere else around the world. But this is a situation we are trying to change," he said on his website. "For the last ten years I have been working with colleagues in the UK and abroad to develop MDMA science within British medicine and neuroscience."
Sessa's clinical trial will be the first to test MDMA for alcohol addiction. But in the U.S., the drug was recently approved for a large-scale trial to monitor its effects on PTSD in November 2016.
According to results published in April, 67 percent of PTSD patients in the clinical trial no longer showed effects of the illness.
"The results I've seen so far with MDMA are so much better than anything I've seen so far," said Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in Charleston, S.C. and principle investigator in the trial.