Current issue


Volume 39, issue 2

Review article

MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of PTSD in adults – literature review

Monika Nowak1, Julia Górczyńska1, Michał Gebuza1
1. Faculty of Medicine, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland
Farmakoterapia w Psychiatrii i Neurologii 2023, 39 (2), 131–142
Date of publication: 19-01-2024
Keywords: PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, MDMA, psychotherapy, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine


Objectives. This paper aims to review the literature on the potential use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) therapy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The paper also includes a description of the mechanism of action of MDMA and its effects on the human body.

Literature review. MDMA was first used for treatment in the late 1970s. Its anti-anxiety and pro-social properties were used to help patients cope with emotional difficulties and improve interpersonal relationship building. Unfortunately, MDMA was banned worldwide between 1985 and 1986 due to its neurotoxic effects. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, researchers have shown renewed interest in the controlled use of MDMA in therapy. Clinical trials conducted since 2010 have shown promising effects of MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of social anxiety in adults with PTSD. The study showed that patients receiving MDMA-assisted therapy experienced a reduction in their responses to anxiety-provoking stimuli. This allowed them to work more effectively with traumatic memories and reduce PTSD symptoms.

Conclusions. MDMA is a semisynthetic substance with a structure similar to serotonin and norepinephrine. Its mechanism of action is based on acting as an activator on certain receptors, resulting in stimulation of the secretion of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Moreover, MDMA is a substrate for transporters of these neurotransmitters and it inhibits their breakdown as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. MDMA in therapy may help patients understand and accept traumatic experiences and may help reduce PTSD symptoms, but further research is needed to confirm the efficacy and safety of this therapeutic approach.

Address for correspondence:
Monika Nowak
Faculty of Medicine, Wroclaw Medical University, Wroclaw, Poland
Wydział Lekarski, Uniwersytet Medyczny im. Piastów Śląskich we Wrocławiu
ul. wybrzeże Ludwika Pasteura 1, 50-367 Wrocław, Polska