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CBS Local — The Food and Drug Administration is turning to a widely condemned narcotic in an effort to help people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The FDA has classified the noted party drug as a “breakthrough therapy” for patients.

The “breakthrough” designation isn’t just a ceremonial title. The FDA will now fast-track the review of ecstasy as an approved treatment for PTSD. The pills, known by drug dealers and users as “Molly,” reportedly contain the chemical MDMA, which researchers believe is a key in treating the disorder.

According to reports, MDMA helps patients deal with traumatic memories by relieving some of the stress associated with the experience. PTSD typically surfaces when the patient is reminded of a painful memory.

The stress of recalling the event can lead to debilitating flashbacks, anxiety, or depression. The condition is commonly seen in military personnel who have been in combat.

“The disabling element of PTSD is the fact that when the memory starts, the emotions completely override you and overwhelm the brain,” said David Nutt of Imperial College London.

According to one study, 67 percent of patients who were given MDMA therapy had no signs of the illness after three treatments. Only a quarter of the patients receiving standard psychotherapy treatment for PTSD had the same results.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says seven to eight percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD as some point in their lives. The percentage is double among veterans who have served in recent conflicts in the Middle East, the Gulf, and Vietnam.

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