Ecstasy: The Medicine of the Future?

Originally appearing here. This article has been automatically translated from French to English. If you’re interested in helping create a better translation, please contact Clubbers who swallow as Haribo probably did not notice: This year marks the centenary of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy. A discovery that we owe to the German Empire, who synthesized a year before the First World War. A century later, MAPS, a pharmaceutical company specializing in the study of prohibited substances, working on the benefits of “ecstatic.” It is tested on victims topics “post traumatic stress” [in English, for PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder]: U.S. Army soldiers, rape victims, police. The result of the study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in November 2012, is very encouraging. 83% of victims of PTSD were cured after treatment. Taken in a medical context and attended ecstasy assist witnesses of violent events to face their past and rebuild. There is a sacred potential in the United States, where one in seven soldiers developed a type pathology PTSD insomnia, isolation, and narcodépendance alcoholism, violence, suicidal tendencies. This company makes 275,000 individuals concern: nearly one American in a hundred, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which spent $ 5.5 billion on PTSD-related disability pension in 2011. In a century of existence, ecstasy has had several lives. His longest was sleeping in the rays of Merck, who synthesized in 1913 but never really knew what to do. According to the website, the U.S. military would vaguely tempted to make a truth serum in the fifties. Without success. This is a California psychiatrist, Dr. Andrew Shelgin, who first identified the healing properties to ecstasy in the early seventy years: the debut of the modern era of MDMA. At the time, he could be formally prescribed by U.S. psychologists to treat anxiety or relationship problems. Unless the meantime, American campuses also detect it other properties, more trivial and recreation. Victim of his reputation love drug, it will be forbidden by the Reagan administration. Explanations with Dr. Michael Mithoeffer. Where you come capsules if this drug is banned? * They date from 1984, at the time when it was still medically prescribe MDMA United States. A chemist at the University of Purdue, Dave Nichols, has synthesized a large amount. Will suffice for our past, present and future research. At regular intervals, the product is tested, and the molecular structure of ecstasy Dr. Nichols remains stable. Purity does not change, it is the same ecstasy for thirty years! The drug is stored in a file on the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, ed], the “Drug Masterfile.” The administration knows precisely how much drug we have for each study, and how much we have left. How are the sessions? The experience itself lasts eight hours, during which my wife Ann, who is a nurse, and I remain in contact with the patient what. He is given three capsules: one containing a high dose of MDMA, the other an average dose, the third is a placebo. Neither he nor we know which pill it ingests, it is a standard protocol to avoid the placebo effect. The initial reactions of patients are sometimes positive, radiant. Others feel anxious, feel a sense of loss of control. After a while, all relive their trauma. A patient once asked me why we call this “ecstasy”, because the sessions are not exactly pleasant for them. Ideally, you have to alternate periods of concentration and relaxation. The patient spends half sitting with eyes closed listening to music [They can bring their own provided it is instrumental, ed]. This intimate experience is very important. The other half of the time they talk with us. The treatment lasts three to five months. The catch must be spaced a month, time to “digest” each experiment. It should be noted that all have used a classic kind of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy sessions, and nothing worked. Did you test the product on yourself? I already drank acid when I was a student in Hartford, Connecticut. I think it is important to note. It was in an informal setting with friends. You had difficulty convincing the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration, police agency in the fight against drug trafficking) to do research on ecstasy, classified as a narcotic Tier 1 as well as heroin . Yes, their approval was hard to get. I guess it is because of the anti-drug war in force in government. I understand that people are aware of the toxicity of the product, but they rely more on misinformation and political agendas than pure science. My colleague Alexander Shulgin had the first idea of ​​using ecstasy for therapeutic purposes, in the seventies, so before it was consumed in the rave. At that time you could even prescribe medically. But after his success in the dance scene, the DEA set up a commission of inquiry to make a definitive opinion on the subject. Dozens of psychologists were interviewed. It was not a bunch of hippies: they were renowned psychiatrists from Harvard and UCLA, the best in the country. The judge also ruled in favor of the medical prescription of MDMA opinion. But eventually the DEA ignored the judge’s decision and has banned the product. In the 2000s, I was increasingly frustrated with the situation that’s an interesting product, as psychologists and psychiatrists describe as deemed useful … And yet we were not allowed to use it, or even to make research on it. Was it a political decision? I’m not in the know. But override scientific advice and the decision of the judge of the inquiry suggests that this was a political decision, and that decision has made us lose decades of research. That said, today, things are progressing well and we have no problem getting new authorizations. Referring to the effects of drugs on patients, your colleague Andrew Feldmar, also a member of MAPS, speaks of a state of consciousness where “shame goes and opens the heart” . What does he say? MDMA is not a magic wand. It allows to decrease the least ashamed to be aware of this shame, to cope. Shame is a feeling embedded in the minds of victims of severe trauma, whether relating to war or rape. “The heart that closes” is a mental reaction of protection from pain and fear: a general numbness, depression where life has more flavor. Ecstasy is therefore on the part of the brain that governs our fears? MDMA is able to extract the traumas of amygdala [the “fear center”, ed] and reconnect with other parts of the brain, putting them in perspective. This is the opposite of brainwashing. Ecstasy can reconnect painful moments. It helps to talk about it and deal with it. Fear of victims of PTSD is a primal fear. It is a bodily sensation, disconnected time. Freud said – although I’m not a big fan – in the unconscious, time has no value. Well that’s exactly it. Among victims, trauma disconnects other life experiences. It remains isolated in the limbic system and at the same time it pollutes everything. Work in brain imaging show that MDMA can decrease concentrated in the amygdala while stimulating the prefrontal cortex activity, part of the brain that registers our actions over time. People do not forget as MDMA. Instead, they have a more accurate view of the traumatic event. After the experience, people remember more detail. They speak more clearly and realize subconsciously they obscured. Research they could be applied to other psychiatric fields? Before it was banned, he was much talk of using it for couple therapy. Under MDMA, people talk with more empathy and trust, less aggression. Harvard tried to test MDMA on patients at end of life, such as terminal cancer, to reduce their anxiety. But the study never took off because of legal problems in recruiting volunteers. Our laboratory, MAPS, also works on autism. If eventually we get the right to prescribe MDMA to treat certain mental illnesses
, doors will open. French magazine Les In Rocks covers the success of MAPS’ research into treating PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Researcher Michael Mithoefer speaks about his experience conducting studies using MDMA as well as his expectations for the future of psychedelic research.