For a number of mental health disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD), there are not many available treatment options. Recently, there has been renewed interest in the potential of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) to restore function for patients with these disorders. The primary hypothesis is that MDMA, via prosocial effects, increases the ability of patients to address the underlying psychopathology of the disorder. However, the use of MDMA poses potential problems of neurotoxicity, in addition to its own potential for misuse.


In this article, the proposed potential of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD is evaluated. The rationale for the use of MDMA and the positive results of studies that have administered MDMA in the treatment of PTSD are provided (pros). A description of potential adverse effects of treatment is also presented (cons). An overview of MDMA pharmacology and pharmacokinetics and a description of potential adverse effects of treatments are also presented. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-produced oxytocin release and decreased expression of fear conditioning as well as one of the MDMA enantiomers (the n R- entaniomer) are suggested as potential mechanisms for the beneficial effects of MDMA in PTSD (suggestions).


There is some evidence that MDMA facilitates recovery of PTSD. However, the significant adverse effects of MDMA raise concern for its adoption as a pharmacotherapy. Alternative potential treatments with less adverse effects and that are based on the ubiquitous pharmacology of MDMA are presented.


We suggest that additional research investigating the basis for the putative beneficial effects of MDMA might reveal an effective treatment with fewer adverse effects. Suggestions of alternative treatments based on the behavioral pharmacology and toxicology of MDMA and its enantiomers are presented.

Schenk, S., & Newcombe, D. (2018). Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in Psychiatry: Pros, Cons, and Suggestions. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology38(6), 632-638., 10.1097/JCP.0000000000000962

Link to full text