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Seen At 11: Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder With Ecstasy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- What if a club drug, known for giving users a feeling of euphoria and trust, could do more than give users an illegal high?

New research suggests that ecstasy could be used as a possible treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported Wednesday.

"I would get very extreme stabbing sensations in my body, and then, you know, like fixed visuals, like being, for instance, raped," Rachel Hope said, recalling her abusive childhood.

Hope said she tried everything to ease the mental trauma, but nothing was working.

"I tried EMDR, rapid eye movement therapy, hypnosis, Gestalt, yell it out, scream it out, nothing worked," she said.

Searching for a solution, Hope tried a form of treatment that combines intense psychotherapy with MDMA, or ecstasy.

"Sometimes people did have a very positive affirming experience, but a lot of the time it was revisiting the trauma. It was a painful difficult experience. But the MDMA experience seemed to make it possible for them to do it effectively," explained Dr. Michael Mithoefer.

Within weeks most of Hope's symptoms had disappeared. Other patients who were treated with MDMA said that they felt even better in the long run, according to a recently published study.

Experts told CBS 2 that the drug could be responsible for helping PTSD sufferers deal with troubling feelings.

"People who've been through something awful are stunned by it. They have trouble dealing with their feelings," explained Dr John Markowitz.

PTSD is common among returning veterans, and experts say the need for treatment is significant.

"Among troops coming home from the Middle East, the numbers may be as high as 20 percent, so there is a great need for treatment," Dr. Markowitz said.

A new study on ecstasy could offer hope to veterans and first responders.

"It does have a direct neurotoxic effect on the brain. So it does damage nervous tissue in the brain for a long, long time, perhaps permanently. On the other hand it has significant addictive potential," Dr. Petros Levounis explained.

More research is needed to determine if the benefits of using ecstasy outweigh the side effects, Dr. Levounis said.

"If ecstasy is going to be helpful this is exactly the kind of situation where I would expect it to be helpful," he said.

The Veterans Administration told CBS 2 that it would not involve veterans in the use of any illegal drug, including ecstasy.

How do you feel about the use of illegal drugs to treat serious medical problems? Let us know in our comments section below...

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