MDMA Drug Research Offers Promise

Originally appearing here. I didn’t know it back in the 1970s when I was experimenting with psychedelics but others were looking at applications other than an altered state of consciousness. My “experiments” weren’t as meticulous, nefarious, or luxurious as some. Aldous Huxley made meticulous notes on the afternoon he took mescaline, from which he wrote The Doors of Perception. A CIA-backed project in a Montreal hospital illegally used LSD, tape loops and sensory deprivation in a macabre attempt to erase memories of unsuspecting patients. A hospital based in a B.C. mansion hosted Hollywood celebrities who paid $1,000 for a 12-hour LSD therapy session. Someone dear to me had been institutionalized because of mental illness and it seemed to me that these powerful psychedelics might have a therapeutic application. So did others. Psychedelics were already being used by psychiatrist R.D. Laing in London. He was treating celebrities with LSD says Taras Grescoe in the Globe and Mail. And in the U.S., actor Cary Grant was amazed at the results of LSD therapy. “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” he said. It also seemed to me that psychedelics might also provide an insight into mental illness. Again, others thought the same. The staff at Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan were encouraged to take LSD to empathize with schizophrenic patients. It was in Weyburn that the term psychedelic (“manifesting a clear mind”) was coined by Humphry Osmond, the British psychiatrist who had introduced Huxley to mescaline. All that investigation came to a grinding halt when psychoactive drugs moved out of the arena of scientific investigation and into the realm of pop culture. The response from politicians was the prohibition of psychedelics, a policy, like the prohibition of alcohol, that was doomed to fail. Only now are researchers returning to study valuable applications of psychoactive drugs. It took years to approve but Health Canada has authorized a study on the therapeutic use of MDMA (ecstasy). The study is sponsored by the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. MDMA has shown promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and the timing couldn’t be better for the thousands of Canadian soldiers returning from war with PTSD. One of the MAPS team, Andrew Feldmár, who studied with Scottish psychedelic pioneer R.D. Laing, says: “Having PTSD is like having an alarm permanently going off in your head,” he says, “Under the influence of the drug, you go to what was unspeakable – the rape, the torture, the abuse – and you begin to speak about it. MDMA is an empathogen: It opens your heart, releases you from shame, and puts you in the present moment.” In the absence of research and era of prohibition, Canadians are self-medicating with disastrous results. Unable to find treatment for their mental illness, they are turning to street drugs and black-market prescription narcotics such as OxyContin. Canadians have been deprived of treatment long enough. The delay in development of psychedelics has left too many ruined lives. Kamloops News reports on the recent approval of MAPS’ upcoming Canadian study focusing on treating PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. After the long review process, Health Canada is giving us permission to import 9 grams of MDMA to be used in the study.