While it's gotten a reputation as a club drug, ecstasy could have unexpected benefits — as a treatment for PTSD.
The Guardian reports that British scientists want to recreate a small US study that tested MDMA on twenty PTSD patients. One was a combat veteran; the rest were survivors of rape, child abuse, or assault. They received either MDMA or a placebo, both in conjunction with therapy. At the end of the experiment, 83% of those who took MDMA showed improvement, comparied to just 25% of the control group. Study author Michael Mithoefer said participants didn't join the study in order to get high, and that PTSD therapy on MDMA is, unsurprisingly, nothing like a rave:
[S]everal people said after their session: 'I don't know why they call this ecstasy' –- because it was not an ecstatic experience. They were revisiting the trauma. It was very difficult and painful work, but the ecstasy gave them the feeling they could do it.
Combine that with news that the active ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms may cause positive personality changes, and it looks like illegal drugs have a lot of potential benefits. That doesn't mean they'll be legal any time soon. Says psychopharmacologist David Nutt, who's leading the effort to reproduce the MDMA trials in the UK, "If we get the study funded and into the public domain, the Daily Mail will try to have it banned." They should probably just pretend they're studying mums who dropped 20 stone while dressing their kids like hookers, and they'll be totally fine.