WRAL Investigates

Iraq vet convinced ecstasy therapy helped cure his PTSD

Posted November 11, 2019 5:36 p.m. EST

— The use of psychedelic drugs to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and other conditions keeps gaining traction.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year classified MDMA, the party drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly, as a breakthrough for treatment of PTSD after researchers found that PTSD was dramatically reduced in 70 percent of their test subjects.

A third round of clinical trials combining the drug with intense therapy is underway, and if the results mirror what researchers have already seen, the FDA could give the green light in a couple of years to making the drug a prescribed treatment for PTSD.

Jonathan Lubecky, a former Marine and member of the North Carolina National Guard who served in Iraq, said the ecstasy therapy he received years ago is still working to keep his PTSD at bay.

"The last time I took MDMA was in March of 2015," Lubecky said recently.

He was part of an earlier trial of the drug, following five suicide attempts.

Lubecky had three treatments using ecstasy, six to eight weeks apart. The drug helped counter his flight-or-fight mentality when talking about what he saw in Iraq.

“The MDMA puts the mind and body in a place where the therapy can work,” he told WRAL Investigates last year.

He now says he's convinced the ecstasy therapy saved his life.

In August, his military training kicked in after a shooting in downtown Charleston, S.C., where he and another bystander administered aid to the shooting victim.

"Half a block away, gunshots rang out," he said. "So I jumped in. He did chest compressions, and I did rescue breathing."

The man who had been shot was too badly wounded to save, but Lubecky said his past therapy and the ongoing availability of doctors prevented a relapse for him.

"Having somebody die right in front on you – get shot – is exceptionally traumatic," he said. "I had some issues that evening. I had some nightmares. But after about two or three days, I'd processed the trauma, and I'm still PTSD free."

Without the ecstasy therapy, he said, "I would have shut down for at least weeks, and I would have gotten into a very large downward spiral."

Lubecky now travels the country as an advocate for the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, which is working on the latest ecstasy clinical trials. He said he wants to erase the stigma of experimental drugs to free up more funding and research for others in pain.

"We can heal PTSD like a broken bone," he said. "If it can help someone like me heal from mental injury, then it should absolutely be available."

Recent studies show as many as 20 percent of Gulf War vets suffer from PTSD, so he's also lobbying the Department of Defense to consider ecstasy therapy for active-duty soldiers.

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