(Evert-Jan Daniels/AFP/Getty Images)

Since their introduction to the global public in the 1950s, antidepressants have been prescribed to countless patients in their attempt to find relief from depression. Today there are five different oral families of antidepressants. Two of these families involve reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, SNRIs), meaning the drug is allowed to stay in the synapse of the nerve rather than being reabsorbed. Reuptake inhibitors are the most widely prescribed drugs for treating depression. When combined with the other three families of antidepressants (SARI, Tetracyclics, MAOIs) these five families of antidepressant medications total more than 30 different brands of oral antidepressants. Prozac, Effexor and Zoloft are a few of the more familiar product names.

However, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that approximately half of the patients who were prescribed oral antidepressants were unresponsive. Couple this with the statistic that 1 in 10 Americans is prescribed an oral antidepressant and that fact is staggering. Many people who live with depression do not respond to today’s psychotropic solutions.

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A Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel displays confiscated illegal drugs, known Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly refered to as ecstasy, at a press conference at the BOC headquarters in Manila on September 14, 2016. / AFP / NOEL CELIS (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Drug Scheduling and Breakthrough Therapy

MDMA (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine), the molecule comprising the popular party drug dubbed “Ecstasy,” was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2017 as a breakthrough therapy for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Breakthrough Therapy Designation was introduced in 2012 as part of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. “Breakthrough therapy designation is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions,” according to the FDA. Thus, obtaining breakthrough therapy status means MDMA can be used in FDA-approved clinical trials for treating PTSD, the goal of which is the approval of MDMA for pharmaceutical use. A press release by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), the organization that ran the clinical trials, states, “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is a novel treatment package that combines psychotherapeutic techniques with three administrations of MDMA as a pharmacological adjunct.”

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