The drug MDMA, better known as party drug Ecstasy, could be used successfullyto treat alcohol addiction, research suggests. Early findings from the trial – the first study to use the drug for such purposes – indicates that it could prove better than standard treatment. Psychiatrists are testing a programme which combines a few doses of MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy, After nine months follow up, around half of those in the small study remained “completely dry” with just one suffering a full relapse. By comparison, eight in 10 of those given standard treatment to tackle alcohol addiction return to drinking within three years. The results also found the drug was safe to use as part of therapy, with no physical or psychological problems identified.Dr Ben Sessa, an addiction psychiatrist and senior research fellow at Imperial College London, who led the trial, said: “With the very best that medical science can work with, 80 per cent of people are drinking within three years post alcohol detox.”Eleven people have so far completed the safety and tolerability study, which involves nine months of follow-ups.“We’ve got one person who has completely relapsed, back to previous drinking levels, we have five people who are completely dry and we have four or five who have had one or two drinks but wouldn’t reach the diagnosis of alcohol use disorder,” he told The Guardian. A government spokesperson said: “We have a clear licensing regime, supported by legislation, which allows legitimate research to take place in a secure environment while ensuring that harmful drugs are not misused and do not get into the hands of criminals.” Addiction is often linked to previous trauma, often from childhood.Researchers said MDMA “selectively impairs the fear response,” allowing recall of painful memories without being overwhelmed.The first stage of the new study was only designed to show the therapy is safe. Further trials will compare results with a randomised control group who receive a placebo instead of MDMA. Under the programme, participants are given an eight-week course of psychotherapy, including two doses of MDMA. After taking the drug they spend eight hours lying down, discussing the thoughts that come to mind with psychiatrists and psychologists. Dr Sessa said: “We let them lead the sessions as to where they want to go. What comes up comes up, so it’s not very guided by the clinicians,” Close monitoring in subsequent days found no evidence of drug withdrawal or comedown symptoms from the drug.”There is no black Monday, blue Tuesday, or whatever ravers call it. In my opinion, that is an artefact of raving. It’s not about MDMA,” said Dr Sessa. MDMA was used as a legal prescription drug to enhance the effectiveness of psychotherapy in the US from the 1970s to 1985 and in Switzerland up until 1993.In recent years it has shown promise as a treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One study published earlier this year found more than 60 per cent of participants no longer suffered from PTSD, two months after treatment, with results sustained a year later. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.