Friday, December 31, 2010

New study: Ecstasy may help those with PTSD or autism

From The NY Daily News:

The club drug ecstasy may help people who have trouble connecting to others, according to a new study.

The drug, also known as MDMA, has long been known to encourage feelings of happiness and playfulness in people - despite its dangers. But now doctors say, in addition to encouraging casual hookups, it also can help increase sociability in people with a variety of conditions, according to the study published in the Biological Psychiatry Journal.

"These 'empathogenic' effects suggest that MDMA might be useful to enhance the psychotherapy of people who struggle to feel connected to others, as may occur in association with autism, schizophrenia or antisocial personality disorder," the journal's authors said in a press release.

The latest study isn't the only one to praise the use of ecstasy in medical situations.

It can also help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, according to another study published in July, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

But the drug also comes with some life-threatening side effects, the study and most drug experts note. While it might make people more social, it also impairs a person's risk-assessment and can quickly dehydrate users.

And the effects might not be that long-lasting. While it can increase sociability, the drug doesn't increase empathy, according to the December study.

"Within the context of treatment, these effects may promote intimacy among people who have difficulty feeling close to others," Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, said in the press release. "However, MDMA distorts one's perception of others rather than producing true empathy. Thus, MDMA may cause problems if it leads people to misinterpret the emotional state and perhaps intentions of others."