Washington Post - Since 2001, 364,000 veterans have received treatment for possible post-traumatic stress disorder. Some researchers believe the vets could benefit from a drug called MDMA. For 30 years, the federal government has blocked research into MDMA because it is the active ingredient in ecstasy, better known as the party drug that fuels raves.
"When it comes to the health and well-being of those who serve, we should leave our politics at the door and not be afraid to follow the data," Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, a retired Army psychiatrist, told The New York Times. "There’s now an evidence base for this MDMA therapy and a plausible story about what may be going on in the brain to account for the effects."
Ecstasy first became popular among psychiatrists as a therapeutic tool after the Vietnam War. The drug, they found, made people more trusting and gave them the courage to talk about their pasts. They called it "penicillin for the soul." Yet no real research had been conducted on the drug. In 1985, the Reagan administration placed MDMA on Schedule I, declaring it an illicit substance without medical value despite the objections of an administrative law judge.
Since then, researchers have had a difficult time getting MDMA for use in clinical trials, and federal grants have been hard to come by as well. A not-for-profit organization in Santa Cruz, Calif. appears to be the only source of funding for studies right now. "Ecstasy is an illegal drug," a spokesman for the Department of Veterans Affairs told the Los Angeles Times. The V.A. "would not involve veterans in the use of such substances."