Ecstasy as Therapy

Ecstasy as Therapy
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A Florida nonprofit corporation, headed by a pro-legalization advocate, is funding government-approved research into possible medical uses of the drug ecstasy, the St. Petersburg Times reported May 9.

Rick Doblin’s nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies is backing the first tests on whether methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), or ecstasy, has therapeutic value for treating victims of post-traumatic stress disorder. Ecstasy is a known mood enhancer sometimes referred to as the “hug drug” by users.

Peter Lewis, former CEO of Progressive Insurance, has given $250,000 to Doblin to support ecstasy research. South Carolina psychiatrist Michael Mithoefer is combining counseling and ecstasy to see if they help 20 test subjects cope with memories of past violence. “These are all people that have failed other treatments,” he said. “They’ve had therapy and medicines and still have PTSD symptoms.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration both approved the research.

Doblin himself is an admitted recreational ecstasy user and has worked to get government approval for a number of other studies on the drug, both in the U.S. and internationally. Among the supporters of his $1-million annual budget are doctors, civil libertarians, ex-hippies, and mainstream businessmen.

Some anti-drug activists say that even talking about therapeutic uses of drugs like ecstasy can be problematic. “It sends a message that is socially harmful, and that is that this stuff is good for you,” said Bob DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Doblin says he supports drug legalization but adds that abuse of legal, prescription drugs like OxyContin makes the discussion somewhat moot. “The government wants to characterize it all as evil and makes no distinction between use and abuse,” he said.

Join Together, a drug abuse prevention organization, ran a news summary regarding the recent St. Petersburg Times article on the MDMA research MAPS sponsors.