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MDMA is going to be trialled as a treatment for alcoholism

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Tom Victor
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A plan to use MDMA in treatment for alcohol addiction has been given the green light in the UK.

The Class A drug, generally used recreationally, will be given to patients as part of a trial due to be carried out in Bristol.

According to The Metro, patients will be given two doses of a pure form of the drug – the active ingredient in ecstasy – over a two month period after the trial was approved by UK regulators.

“We know MDMA helps people who have suffered trauma,” said Dr Ben Sessa, one of the scientists leading the new trial.

“Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction.”

Professor David Nutt is working with Dr Ben Sessa on the trial

The treatment will form part of a series of psychotherapy sessions aimed at targeting addiction. MDMA is widely believed to carry a low-to-moderate risk of addiction, with scientists considering it to carry a lower addiction risk than alcohol.

Furthermore, former government adviser Professor David Nutt – who is co-leading the study with Dr Sessa – once argued ecstasy is less dangerous than horse riding, arguing that society "does not adequately balance the relative risks of drugs against their harms".

Dr Sessa has written of the unique properties of MDMA which he believes make it suitable to dealing with the specific issues brought about by both addiction and PTSD.

“Early life psychological trauma – especially when induced by child maltreatment and abuse – is very difficult to manage. It underlies most if not all adult anxiety-based disorders such as PTSD and addictions,” he writes.

“Sadly, traditional psychiatric treatments with antidepressants and counselling are ineffective for 50% of sufferers because the severity of their distressing trauma is too great for them to discuss and explore their memories with a therapist.

“But MDMA provides exactly the right blend of subjective psychological effects to safely and gently hold the PTSD sufferer; providing a secure platform of containment in which they can reflect upon and eventually resolve their long-standing emotional issues.’

Below is Dr Sessa’s TEDx talk on MDMA and its potential use in medical treatment.

(Images: Rex Features / iStock)