The F.D.A. approval is a beacon of hope for the roughly eight million Americans believed to suffer from PTSD, a group that includes victims of abuse, refugees, and combat veterans. The shortcomings in the way we have typically treated PTSD mean that many are condemned to suffer from the condition for years, even decades, with little relief. Less than 20 percent of patients are estimated to get effective treatment through prescription psychiatric drugs like Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, which, along with psychotherapy, have been the global standard of mental health care since the 1990s.
This could change with the F.D.A.’s decision, which has given MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD the status of a potential “breakthrough therapy.” Based on promising early results, this designation permits the fast-tracking of trials in hopes of proving the drug, which has psychedelic and stimulant effects, to be safe and capable of doing what no other drug on the market can.