Can Ecstasy Treat PTSD? - NBC 7 San Diego

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Can Ecstasy Treat PTSD?

One family whose soldier son committed suicide wonders if ecstasy could have prevented it



    Estimates are that 30 percent of Vietnam veterans, 20 percent of Iraq veterans and 10 percent of Afghanistan veterans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, there’s growing debate if the illegal street drug ecstasy could be used to treat PTSD. NBC 7 military reporter Bridget Naso has one family’s plea. (Published Wednesday, March 26, 2014)

    It is being called a growing epidemic by the National Institutes of Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Now, there's growing debate over the use of an illegal drug to treat PTSD that some say is working with good success.

    Estimates are that 30 percent of all Vietnam veterans, 20 percent of Iraq veterans and 10 percent of Afghanistan veterans have PTSD.

    Some get better with a variety of treatments by therapists. But others like Daniel Somers do not.

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    Somers’ family believes in cases like his, the drug ecstasy may be the difference between life and death.

    MDMA, known on the street as ecstasy, has been banned by the federal government and classified as a dangerous drug with no medicinal value.

    But more studies appear to show it could it help veterans suffering with PTSD.

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    Somers, a veteran who served in the Army National Guard in Iraq as a machine gunner, was blown from a Humvee. He was diagnosed with PTSD-- a traumatic brain injury-- and other ailments. Medication and therapy did not seem to ease his mental or physical pain.

    “He had literally, I'm not kidding you, a drawer that was this wide and this deep full of prescription bottles,” his mother Jean Somers described during an interview with NBC 7.

    He eventually took his own life. Now, his parents wonder if treatments with MDMA could have saved him.

    “If it's something that will starve a suicide, that will hold that off, then it's worth it,” Jean said.

    A group of non-profit researchers think it's worth it. They have clinical trials underway approved by federal drug authorities. Still, there are no large trials.

    Dr. Farris Tuma with the National Institute of Mental Health says the agency supports more experimental medication, but has concerns with MDMA.

    “The challenge I have with it at this point is we can't narrow it down. (I) haven't seen the data to suggest here is the mechanism and the way we think the drug is going to work,” Tuma said.

    The Somers say veterans like Daniel who fought for our freedom should have the freedom to do whatever it takes to get well.

    “These guys are suffering so, so badly,” his father Howard Somers said. “Why don't we do whatever we can to help?"

    Some therapists in Northern California are reportedly using MDMA in their practice even though it is illegal. Several therapists in San Diego told NBC 7 the drug is not being used here to their knowledge.

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