For many returning veterans, dealing with some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has become a way of life.  Often, it manifests as manageable depression or anxiety, but in some cases the symptoms can become too much to cope with, leaving veterans like C. J. Hardin, who served in three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, unable to manage the disorder and maintain an ordinary life.

“Nothing worked for me, so I put aside the idea that I could get better,” said Hardin. “I just pretty much became a hermit in my cabin and never went out.”  Hardin eventually found himself divorced, struggling with alcoholism, and living in a cabin alone.  Unlike so many veterans, Hardin even proactively pursued every form of treatment available to him, including psychotherapy, group therapy and nearly a dozen different medications.

In 2013, however, he found a course of treatment that seemed to actually work.  “It changed my life,” he told the New York Times, “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.”

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed patients being treated with the same drug that helped Hardin were met with equally incredible results.  Patients reported a fifty-six percent decrease in the severity of their symptoms on average and a full two-thirds of the study’s participants no longer met the criteria for having PTSD upon the conclusion of treatment.

There’s just one problem.  The drug that’s proving to be so effective is Ecstasy.

Despite Ecstasy’s reputation as an illegal party drug, the primary chemical ingredient in it, MDMA, has demonstrated itself to be sufficiently effective to warrant the Federal Food and Drug Administration to grant permission for a large-scale clinical trial.  If the results of this clinical trial coincide with the incredible improvements demonstrated by smaller scale studies, it could be the final step before Ecstasy can be prescribed as a legal drug and medical treatment.

“I’m cautious but hopeful,” said Dr. Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine and a leading PTSD researcher. “If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use. PTSD can be very hard to treat. Our best therapies right now don’t help 30 to 40 percent of people. So we need more options.” Marmar went on to warn of the drug’s potential for abuse and the dangers of prolonged use.

Previous studies have included administering three doses of MDMA under the guidance of a psychiatrist, as a part of a broader course of treatment that included therapy.  Most patients underwent twelve weeks of psychotherapy, which included three eight-hour sessions in which they were given MDMA and asked to lay on a futon and listen to soothing music.