Exploring therapeutic effects of MDMA on post-traumatic stress

It costs about $2,000 to buy an ounce of the illegal drug, the therapist said — enough for roughly 150 doses. She pays her longtime dealer in cash; he gives her a Ziploc bag of white powder.

Back home, she scoops the contents into clear capsules. She calls it “the medicine”; others know it as MDMA, the active ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy.

MDMA has been banned by the federal government since 1985 as a dangerous recreational drug with no medical value. But interest is rising in its potential to help people suffering from psychiatric or emotional problems.

A loose-knit underground community of psychologists, counselors and healers has been administering the drug to patients — an act that could cost them their careers.

“I do what is morally right,” said the therapist, who lives in Northern California and did not want to be identified. “If I have the tools to help, it is my responsibility to help.”

A series of clinical trials approved by federal drug authorities is now underway to see if the drug’s ability to strip away defensiveness and increase trust can boost the effectiveness of psychotherapy.

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