Ecstasy, MDMA may help alcoholics beat addiction; World’s first trial to begin amidst fears of backlash from anti-drug campaigners

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Ecstasy Pills
Ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical, are pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Reuters/U.S. DEA/Handout

Ecstasy could help alcoholics deal with trauma and stress, factors that cause people to get hooked, according to a study. The drug is being tested as part of a revolutionary treatment to help alcoholics beat addiction.

Scientists are prepared to carry out the first of such trials to see whether the controlled substance can make a difference in treating alcohol addiction. The trial has received approval from UK regulators

A group of patients from Bristol will be administered two doses of ecstasy, also known as MDMA, over the course of two months. Scientists are of the opinion that stress and trauma are underlying factors behind addiction, and this drug can help patients deal with them. The trial is a world-first, where ecstasy will be used to treat alcohol addiction.

Though the trial has been approved, there are fears of backlash from anti-drug campaigners. Lead researcher Dr. Ben Sessa, senior research fellow and clinical psychiatrist at Imperial College London, stated that scientists are now looking for newer treatment methods to treat alcohol addiction as currently available treatments are considered substandard. Tests in the US revealed that MDMA may be effective if used in combination with psychotherapy. The trial will involve 20 alcoholics.

“We know that MDMA works really well in helping people who have suffered trauma and it helps to build empathy. Many of my patients who are alcoholics have suffered some sort of trauma in their past and this plays a role in their addiction... There will probably not be much progress made in the session where the patients take MDMA, but it is in the subsequent sessions that will make a difference,” Dr. Sessa told The Sun.

Dr. Sessa recently spoke at the Breaking Convention conference on psychedelic drugs and explained that the 20 alcoholics will be given eight weekly sessions of psychotherapy. In two of these sessions, patients will be given a dose of MDMA. The patients will be closely monitored after taking the drug.

The trial is being conducted with Prof. David Nutt, a former government chief drugs adviser. Dr. Sessa and Prof. Nutt are also waiting for an approval on the second trial. This will involve post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers being given MDMA.

While ecstasy pills are available for a few dollars on the streets, it is costing researchers £62,000 (AU$10,200 approx) for just 12 grams of pharmaceutical grade MDMA. Despite tight regulatory controls, ecstasy pills are easily available in Australia.