Posttraumatic growth after MDMA‐assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been shown to significantly reduce clinical symptomatology, but posttraumatic growth (PTG), which consists of positive changes in self-perception, interpersonal relationships, or philosophy of life, has not been studied with this treatment. Participant data (n = 60) were pooled from three Phase 2 clinical studies employing triple-blind crossover designs. Participants were required to meet DSM-IV-R criteria for PTSD with a score higher than 50 on the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-IV) as well as previous inadequate response to pharmacological and/or psychotherapeutic treatment. Data were aggregated into two groups: an active MDMA dose group (75-125 mg of MDMA; n = 45) or placebo/active control (0-40 mg of MDMA; n = 15). Measures included the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) and the CAPS-IV, which were administered at baseline, primary endpoint, treatment exit, and 12-month follow-up. At primary endpoint, the MDMA group demonstrated more PTG, Hedges’ g = 1.14, 95% CI [0.49, 1.78], p < .001; and a larger reduction in PTSD symptom severity, Hedges' g = 0.88, 95% CI [-0.28, 1.50], p < .001, relative to the control group. Relative to baseline, at the 12-month follow-up, within-subject PTG was higher, p < .001; PTSD symptom severity scores were lower, p < .001; and two-thirds of participants (67.2%) no longer met criteria for PTSD. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD resulted in PTG and clinical symptom reductions of large-magnitude effect sizes. Results suggest that PTG may provide a new mechanism of action warranting further study.


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