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Brookline Therapists See PTSD Patients Improve Significantly With Experimental Ecstasy Therapy

BROOKLINE (CBS) -- The trauma of war or sexual abuse can be a lifelong struggle. But, therapists in Brookline believe a treatment using the drug MDMA, better known as ecstasy, is the key to bringing relief to those suffering from PTSD.

Jim Hopper, a therapist in the MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD program at Boston MAPS, says it's about giving patients a new way to deal with so much pain, "so they can have three-to-five hours in a state of mind and body where they can feel much safer than they usually do, much easier to be with the scary and upsetting memories of their trauma."

It's trauma that military veterans like Scott Ostrom know all too well.

"I think a lot of combat veterans, just think about suicide on daily basis, whether you're going to act on it or have a plan to do it I think it's something that's kind of always in the back of your mind," Ostrom said.

"And sometimes things get really hard, and it seems like a solution."

Ostrom has been trapped with debilitating nightmares since his deployment to Iraq in 2007.

"Nightmares where, like, you're engaged in combat and then, like the bullets just dribble out of the end of your gun, or you get separated from your team and you can't find them."

For Ostrom, sleep was hard to come by. "I never really got continuous sleep and then when I would wake up, I'd be on edge," he said.

But all that is changing with this new treatment, a combination of the drug MDMA and intense psychotherapy.

Hopper said it involves closing off the outside world, "and part of that is they actually wear headphones and have eyeshades on their eyes so they can go inside and access their own inner healing wisdom or their inner hearing intelligence."

Patients go through three, MDMA-assisted therapy sessions over the course of three months. Principal Investigator for the study, Susan Walker, said the results are eye-opening.

"Eighty-eight percent of them show some significant signs of improvement of the symptoms with this treatment which is really extraordinary."

The study is now in its third stage and FDA approval of the therapy may come soon. And for those suffering it could mean a lot.

"There's a lot of trauma in the world. So, it would be nice if you could ease that pain for a larger group of people," said Ostrom

Walker has enjoyed seeing her patients improve. "For these people who have had PTSD for decades and now are relieved of these symptoms that haven't allowed them to feel connected to loved ones, connected to themselves to feel alive, it's a profound thing," she said.

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