Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Could MDMA Cure PTSD?

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- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,

or PTSD, is a mental illness

that affects around 8 million Americans a year.

The most common treatments include a combination

of therapy and medication, but recent clinical trials,

mainly in the US, Canada, and Israel,

have turned up a surprisingly effective alternative,

the synthetic drug MDMA,

commonly found in the party drugs ecstasy and molly.

How does a recreational drug

known for its psychedelic effects

help PTSD patients?

And what exactly is Israel's role

in this groundbreaking new treatment?

PTSD affects people who have experienced or witnessed

a life-threatening event,

like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident,

or a sexual assault.

The symptoms vary and may include flashbacks,

nightmares and severe anxiety,

as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

For years, the most common treatments were antidepressants,

talk therapy, meditation, and exercise.

But in the last decade,

MDMA-focused treatment has popped up,

with clinical trials largely funded by a California-based

nonprofit called, MAPS

the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

In 2016, Israel's Health Ministry

approved the use of the drug on patients

in regulated therapeutic settings,

despite the fact that it was still illegal on the streets.

The research has been led by Dr. Keren Tzarfati,

a cognitive-based therapy researcher for MAPS in Israel.

She has conducted clinical trials in a pilot program

held in hospitals around the country,

including in Haifa, Be'er Sheva, and Lev Hasharon.

Keren came to MDMA-assisted therapy

through her work with psychedelics.

As Keren puts it.

- One of Karen's early trials in 2016

was encouraging, a year after the MDMA treatment,

a whopping 68% of patients

were no longer experiencing PTSD related symptoms.

Although scientists don't have a complete grasp

on how exactly MDMA affects the brain,

the psychoactive drug is known

to cut down activity in the amygdala,

the brain's fear center.

This lets patients examine their trauma

with fewer potential panic-triggers.

- A typical MDMA-assisted treatment

looks like this.

Two specially-trained therapists

oversee the whole 12 week course of therapy.

During this course, there are two to three daylong sessions

where the patients take a dose of MDMA

and delve into their trauma

under the guidance of the therapists.

The patients lie in a bed, with the therapists beside them,

talking about their experiences

and occasionally listening to music through headphones.

According to Dr. Danny Brom, a psychologist who founded

the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma

at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem,

the treatment also makes use of, somatic experiencing,

in which the patients focus on specific bodily areas

where the pain is centered

and visualize and confront the intangible pain

as a real thing.

Over 10% of Israel's population suffer from PTSD,

a figure that's three times higher

than in the United States.

Studies have shown that PTSD rates are much higher

in places where armed conflict is the norm.

Israel, with its mandatory army service,

constant threats from its neighbors,

and a high number of wars

and security-related tragedies in the 71 years

it's been around,

is a breeding ground for this kind of trauma.

Israeli research into MDMA

showcases the country's ingenious

and creative problem solving abilities,

but also highlights the fascinating out-of-the-box work

being done in PTSD research and treatment

in Israel and elsewhere around the globe today.

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