Psychoactive Drugs in the Management of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Promising New Horizon

Cureus. 2022 May 23;14(5):e25235. doi: 10.7759/cureus.25235. eCollection 2022 May.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that often presents after exposure to a traumatic, life-threatening event. Experiencing a traumatic event is not rare, with inciting incidents ranging from being burglarized to politically motivated genocide. While traditional psychopharmacology and psychotherapy are the mainstays of the treatment of PTSD currently, psychoactive drugs (otherwise known as psychedelics) are being explored for their novel role in the treatment of PTSD patients. Psychoactive drugs such as MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin have been shown to specifically target and decrease fear and anxiety pathways in the brain. These unique properties hold the potential to be utilized in addressing symptoms of trauma in those with refractory or treatment-resistant PTSD. Historically, federal and state laws have restricted research into how psychoactive drugs can be used to treat mental illness due to the widespread belief that these drugs present more harm than benefit. However, the current shift in public opinion on psychedelics has propelled research to look into the benefits of these drugs for patients with mental illness. This article aims to discuss the mechanisms of how MDMA, ketamine, and psilocybin work in the PTSD brain, as well as their beneficial role in treatment.

Keywords: anxiety disorder; ketamine; mdma; mental health; post traumatic stress disorder; psilocybin; psychedelic assisted psychotherapy; psychoactive drug; psychoactive drugs; ptsd.

Publication types

  • Review