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A Mental Health Care Company in Canada Is Now Able to Perform MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD Patients

MDMA-assisted therapy

A Mental Health Care Company in Canada Is Now Able to Perform MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD Patients

Numinus, a mental health care company in Canada, has received federal approval to perform a safety and feasibility study that studies MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to their CEO Payton Nyquvest: 

“We are thrilled that Health Canada has issued its No Objection Letter allowing this important study to proceed and, in doing so, potentially advance Canada toward a legal, regulated system for MDMA-assisted therapy. We are gratified that our study will provide safety and outcome data to regulators to support integration of this treatment into mainstream mental health care.”

Passed the Pre-implementation Stage

This study has passed the pre-implementation stage at their Vancouver clinic and has obtained the required federal regulatory approval.

Study preparations are now getting into the final stages of training, importing medication, and acquiring ethical approval. That way, it can permit the recruiting of participants that meet COVID-19 public health protocols.

During this study, there will be research, medical, and therapist staff at Numinus who will acquire data on the safety and effectiveness of MDMA-assisted therapy. They will also inform Health Canada, who can then support making MDMA-assisted therapy possible to folks living with PTSD in Canada.

Related: Experts Call for More Mental Health supports for BIPOC Communities

How Will Numinus Help PTSD Patients?

Numinus aims to provide access for patients who are not benefitting from other treatment options. They also strive to create the physical, human resources, and other infrastructures necessary to enhance access to MDMA-assisted therapy once federal approvals are in place.

Numinus Medical and Therapeutic Services Director Dr. Devon Christie will be the study’s Qualified Investigator and study therapist. Dr. Christie’s background is being a family physician with expertise in multidisciplinary pain management. They are also a certified Relational Somatic Therapist.

According to Christie in a statement:

“Health Canada should be recognized for its ongoing leadership through its support of this study. At our Vancouver clinic, we have spent months establishing the physical, technical, clinical, and human resource infrastructure needed to move the study forward and ultimately foster greater access to MDMA-assisted therapy.”

What Is MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD?

MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy or Molly, is a psychoactive drug. It is a stimulant that releases chemicals into your brain and provides an energizing effect, heightens people’s senses, and enhances emotions like self-awareness.

Experts have been studying MDMA’s therapeutic effects for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition impacts nearly 9.2% of adults in Canada and 3.5 percent of adults in the United States.

How Can MDMA Help People Diagnosed With PTSD?

PTSD occurs after someone has been through a traumatic event. Types of traumatic events can include sexual assault, war, severe injury or accident, and more. Memories about the distressing event can come back in flashbacks or nightmares and cause people to relive these unsettling events. In the most extreme cases, severe PTSD can lead to suicide. 

There are actually no specific medications that treat PTSD. Some people with PTSD seek out talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. However, nearly a third of these individuals quit therapy, while up to 58% still experience PTSD symptoms after they are done therapy. That’s why MDMA can be so effective – it can help patients open up about their trauma. 

Experts discovered that when people who experience PTSD are given a specific amount of MDMA under the supervision of a mental health professional and in a clinical setting, it can help them work through their traumatic events and talk about them easier. 

However, MDMA itself is not yet approved for legal use. This is due to the fact that it has a history as a recreational drug, which increases the possibility of substance abuse and addiction. Since 2017, the FDA, on the other hand, has recognized the drug’s beneficial effects for PTSD symptoms and believes it is a “breakthrough therapy.”

How Does MDMA Work Inside the Brain?

MDMA creates the release of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers to brain cells that shift brain activity. These medications release “feel-good” hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, oxytocin, prolactin, cortisol, and vasopressin.

The effects can induce feelings like self-awareness and empathy and cause a person to feel more energy and less anxiety. MDMA can also increase sensory pleasure, encourage people to open up about their feelings, and affects how folks see time and space.  

Mental health experts believe that these emotions can make for an ideal setting for people with PTSD to talk about their complicated feelings, encourage more self-reflection, and the ability to work through disturbing events that have triggered the condition. 

What Is Involved in MDMA-Assisted Therapy?

MDMA-assisted therapy sessions do take time – usually two or three sessions over 12 weeks. However, by committing to this time frame, you will be able to experience benefits from the treatment.  

Your therapist will speak to you about expectations and mentally prepare you for the treatment.

Your mental health professional will provide you with a tablet or capsule containing a 125-gram dose of the drug during each session. It will take approximately 45 minutes for the medication to take effect. 

Your doctor or therapist may decide to follow up with a half-dose two hours following the first one if deemed necessary. 

The drug’s effects can last up to 8 hours, which will give you extra time to reflect and work through traumatic events.

A minimum of two psychotherapists will be present for the entire session to help you work through physically and emotionally draining emotions. 

What Else Is There to Know About MDMA Use for PTSD?

If you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and think that MDMA-assisted therapy would be an ideal fit for you, it’s essential to note that this treatment should be performed only with an expert in a clinical setting.

MDMA-assisted therapy is not the same thing as recreational ecstasy. Street drugs do not have similar therapeutic effects, and you don’t know the exact dose or purity of these drugs when you take them recreationally.

According to researchers, ecstasy purchased illegally can contain other substances like methamphetamine, ketamine, caffeine, or ephedrine. These combinations can be dangerous for your physical and mental health. 

In Summary

MDMA-assisted therapy won’t work for everyone. That’s why you’ll need to be physically cleared by your doctor before you undergo this therapy or take this medication.  

If you are curious about MDMA assisted-therapy for your PTSD symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor, counselor, or mental health professional about whether it’s the right option for you. 

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Kaitlen Knowles, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, LCSW (she, her), Rochester, NY

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