Upon his return from duty in Afghanistan, military veteran Jonathan Lubecky struggled to live a normal life. Starting out as a Marine, he served the country dutifully for 4 years, but after the events of September 11th, he and many others signed up for additional tours of duty. This time, he planned to be an army pilot, but before he could start training, he was deployed to Iraq.
The months and years that followed during that tour of duty were horrendous. He was stationed at a base nicknamed “Mortar-itaville” for the sheer number of times it was mortared, which was roughly 6,000 during the time Lubecky was there.
A Severe Case of PTSD
After this stint, he developed a severe form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that caused him to attempt suicide five times.
“My first suicide attempt was on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning in 2006—right after I got back,” Lubecky stated in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Thankfully, his story does not end there. Desperate for a treatment, he went to the local Veterans’ Affairs hospital where he tried several ineffective treatments. At one point, Lubecky was on a 42 pill a day regimen, several of which had negative side effects.
His luck began to change when he was introduced to a clinical trial that used MDMA, also known as ecstacy or molly, as part of a therapeutic treatment for PTSD. It involved 3 therapy sessions, spaced 6 to 8 weeks apart, that began with a dose of MDMA. The effects of the drug actually helped break down mental barriers for Jonathan and other study participants that allowed them to talk about and process their trauma.
After this treatment, the results have been life-changing for Lubecky. He has experienced a 60% reduction in PTSD symptoms, and his thoughts of suicide have all disappeared.
Similar Stories in the MDMA Clinical Trial
Other participants in the clinical trial have seen similar results to Lubecky. All applicants to the trial needed psychological tests performed to confirm PTSD and have evidence of other unsuccessful treatments. Nicholas Blackston made the cut.
Before getting into the study, he served as a U.S. Marine. During his second deployment, he was in a Humvee when a grenade hit the car, sending shrapnel everywhere and killing the driver. After returning, he found himself suffering from PTSD, always on high alert and awaiting the next attack. He did not feel safe. Blackston spoke of other medications that “treated the symptoms not the cause”, which is where the MDMA treatment was different. He needed to deal with his trauma, and after three MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions, Blackston was able to process it in a meaningful way without becoming overcome by fear.
Nigel McCourry, another participant with a military history, believed there was nothing he could try that would improve his quality of life when he got back. Before this study, he was desperate for help. After the new treatment with doses of MDMA, he was no longer showing measurable symptoms of PTSD. McCourry feels as though this experiment gave him his life back.
The Benefits of MDMA for Mental Health Disorders
Beyond the clinical trial for PTSD, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been used for people like John Saul and Andy Gold. John was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease and Andy Gold was battling late stage colon cancer. Both were experiencing debilitating end-of-life anxiety when Dr. Wolfson introduced them to his research with MDMA and coping with death. Both of them have experienced incredible transformations. Gold says that MDMA gave him healing, growth, and deep comfort because it allowed him “the ability to look inside and go through the closets of your life. It gives you access to your emotional content.”
It is very likely that MDMA could be developed into a prescription in the near future to be used in other capacities for mental health disorders, simply because of the way it affects the brain. The direct effect is on the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions, making it easier for patients to open up and process difficult emotions and reactions. Organizations like the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) anticipate that could happen as early as 2021. There is still a lot of research to be done, but results from preliminary studies show great promise.