Eating Disorders (ED) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are strongly correlated, however, no proven treatment options are currently available. A team of researchers recently conducted a randomized placebo-controlled study to explore whether MDMA-assisted psychotherapy might be a viable option for the treatment of ED-PTSD. The results of their research are incredibly promising.
The study included 90 individuals with severe PTSD who received MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of MDMA-AT. In addition to other standard assessments, the participants completed the Eating Attitudes Test 26 (EAT-26) at baseline and at study termination.
The participants included 58 females (placebo = 31, MDMA = 27), 31 males (placebo = 12, MDMA = 19), and 2 non-binary individuals (MDMA: 2). Seven participants discontinued prior to study termination. At baseline, 15% of the 89 individuals with PTSD had total EAT-26 scores of ≥20), and 31.5% had total EAT-26 scores in the high-risk range of ≥11, even though none of the participants has an ED diagnosis with active purging or low weight. Of the 82 who completed the trial, there was a significant reduction in total EAT-26 scores in the group that received MDMA-assisted therapy versus placebo. There were also significant reductions in total EAT-26 scores in women with high EAT-26 scores ≥11 and ≥ 20 following treatment versus placebo.
The image below demonstrates the significant reductions in the percentage of participants with high EAT-26 scores at baseline and at the post-treatment follow-up.
There is a strong correlation between PTSD or PTSD symptoms, and ED and ED symptoms as well as a long list of risk factors including female gender, history of personal and/or family psychiatric disorders, history of childhood trauma or other prior traumas, high trauma scores, personality factors, and absence of social support, as well as high morbidity and mortality rates including suicide and self-harm. With few to no high efficacy treatment options, unfortunately, both of these debilitating conditions have been historically under-treated.
This study offers both insights into the correlation of the two conditions and offers hope by demonstrating that MDMA-AT significantly reduced ED symptoms compared to therapy with placebo among participants with severe PTSD. Further research is warranted to further explore this promising option for PTSD with ED patients.