There are few medications with demonstrated efficacy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment guidelines have unequivocally designated psychotherapy as a first line treatment for PTSD. Yet, even after psychotherapy, PTSD often remains a chronic illness, with high rates of psychiatric and medical comorbidity. Meanwhile, the search for and development of drugs with new mechanisms of action has stalled. Therefore, there is an urgent need to explore not just novel compounds but novel approaches for the treatment of PTSD. A promising new approach involves the use of psychedelic drugs. Within the past few years, 2 psychedelics have received breakthrough designations for psychiatric indications from the US Food and Drug Administration, and several psychedelics are currently being investigated for the treatment of PTSD. This review discusses 4 types of compounds: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, ketamine, classical psychedelics (e.g., psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide), and cannabinoids. We describe the therapeutic rationale, the setting in which they are being administered, and their current state of evidence in the treatment of PTSD. Each compound provides unique qualities for the treatment of PTSD, from their use to rapidly target symptoms to their use as adjuncts to facilitate psychotherapeutic treatments. Several questions are formulated that outline an agenda for future research.
Keywords: MDMA; PTSD; cannabinoids; ketamine; psychedelics.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CINP.