According to the US’ National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 90 per cent of people dependent on alcohol are likely to experience at least one relapse over the four-year period following treatment.
“There’s no other part of medicine that would tolerate that”, Sessa told us. “Imagine those kind of outcomes in surgery or immunology or even oncology. Doctors wouldn’t tolerate that. After a 100 years of modern psychiatry, it’s outrageous! If we can do any better than 90 per cent relapse rates then we’re onto something.”
MDMA assisted therapy has already proved to be highly effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, following US studies. Similarities between PTSD and alcohol dependency, particularly their association with trauma, has prompted the exploration of MDMA as a viable drug to enhance therapy.
“Alcoholism is PTSD as far as I’m concerned”, Sessa says, “the vast majority of my patients with alcohol and other addictions are essentially ‘PTSD plus’”.
He explains that as a child psychiatrist he has spent 15 years working with abused children, “And now I work also with addicted adults – it’s the same cohort of kids who’ve grown up into these mental disorders”.
“It’s so frustrating seeing the way we treat these disorders, because we don’t cure them, we paper over the cracks with symptomatic treatments.”