A belated realization on the media coverage of the MDMA/PTSD paper
July 24, 2010
The following is a more casual description of a stream of thought I had about these posts I’ve been writing on the MDMA/PTSD paper.
ok, so there’s this paper that has finally come out. I’ve been bashing away at the project itself on the blog since, oh, forever. I finally had a chance to get around to blogging the paper. no biggie.
takehome message, MDMA is good for treating PTSD if given in the therapy session.
one of the features of such a study is that it is going to get media attention. I was ignoring that all week so that I could blog the paper unmolested.
Trolling around the media coverage I started on a slow burn.
Going through Google hits, there was a great deal of emphasis on PTSD caused by combat stress. Angles on the story which suggested we have a big ol’ problem looming (true dat) and won’t it be great to have some new hope (true dat) and then doing a less than complete cockup of the facts of the paper.
Problem is that it is a small study as it is, 12 MDMA-treated, 8 placebo controls, but only ONE had combat trauma as the index trauma. ONE. The rest were mostly sexual assault, crime (not further specified) and childhood trauma (sexual assault and physical neglect). Me, I was happily bashing away at the overselling of the single combat PTSD case in my draft.
On the way home it hit me.
Belatedly I will admit. the overfocus on the single warfighter meant, you betcha, not much talk about the fact that most of the patients were women who had suffered some sort of sexual and/or (presumably) other physical criminal attack.
So now I’m going to have to comb through the coverage with an eye to that as well. any bets as to relative ratio focusing on the respective index traumas as opposed to a simple, and sterile, mention of PTSD?
Right? So here’s a scientific paper which give the opportunity to talk about a disorder which is distressing and harmful and debilitating to many people. The media gets this because they are linking it, on extreeeeeeemly thin grounds, to combat PTSD. A saleable media topic, given that our national attention is on the two wars that we are prosecuting.
Why is our national attention not on sexual violence against women? And sexual abuse and other violence against children?
That, after all, was what this Mithoefer 2010 study was about. The index trauma of the subject population was predominantly in these areas. Scientifically, you have to be seriously skeptical about whether anything was demonstrated in this trial at all about combat PTSD. There was only the single patient, assigned to the active MDMA-assisted psychotherapy group, in this study. (The group continues to recruit for a combat-focused sample though)
So why the heck does the media not jump all over the underlying lasting PTSD trauma associated with the real sample? Because we just aren’t that concerned about women who have been raped? About adults who were assaulted as children and have lasting and debilitating scars?
Come ON, media, pull your head out.
(yeah, me too)