Summary: MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study participants from MAPS’ clinical trial in Israel speak about their experiences overcoming trauma in a new documentary film. “I was afraid I would go crazy with drugs,” says one study participant. “But my life was saved.”
Originally appearing here.
His life was destroyed when he arrived with the ambulance he was driving to the scene of the attack on bus No. 5 on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. The first instinct of the driver Yom Tov was to leap toward the bus, to see who could be saved.
The mirrors of the bodies had not left him for years. The shouting for help, and especially the utter helplessness he felt when he realized that he had no way of saving the wounded. Yom Tov broke away from his previous life, left his home and moved to a public park. Today he is rehabilitating his life following an innovative and unusual treatment for MDMA, better known as Ecstasy. Yom Tov was among the first in Israel to successfully pass the Ecstasy experiment. The treatment, which is in the final stages of the experiment, has not yet been confirmed, but dozens of people, among them soldiers who are battered and sexually assaulted, owe them their new lives.
Ecstasy, a psychoactive drug invented in Germany in 1912, which creates a sense of euphoria, mutual trust, openness and closeness, became popular in the 1980s. “This special treatment is combined with psychotherapy,” says Prof. Moshe Kotler, the principal investigator in an experiment that once served as the director of the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Hospital, where the extraordinary procedure took place.
“If you come to see a doctor, the last thing you want to do is touch her because she hurts you so much, just feeling that the doctor will get close to the wound gives you chills, but the only way to treat Morse is to open it. The wall that blocks the abscess does not allow the blood vessels to enter the treatment, which explains why conventional treatments for posttrauma often have difficulty reaching the patient and the pain center.”
“When MDMA patients create a state of calm that allows the doctor to open the abscess very slowly without feeling the tremendous pain, then all the material begins to flow out and can be processed,” says Prof. Kotler, who is now deputy dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
The special treatment for post-trauma is documented in Gil Karni’s controversial documentary, “Trip of Compassion,” which will be screened this coming Saturday (22:00) on Channel 1. The film presents excerpts taken during the experiment under the influence of the drug and in conversations between therapists and patients. The patients were able to return to the time before the injury, regain control of their lives, and discover that the traumatic event included aspects of heroism, not just victims, all of whom agreed that the intimate documentation of the treatment room, which was initially carried out for research purposes, would be revealed to the world in recognition of its importance and its desire to share post.
Nachum Pachnik was a combat soldier in an elite commando unit, aged 19. During his service he was sexually assaulted by a relative on one of the army vacations. “I remember his breathing,” he describes the attack, “but at the moment of truth, I, the great fighter, froze for many years … I was not there, only my body … as if my soul came out of the body, .
The experiment came by chance. “I grew up in an ultra-nationalist community,” he says. “I never dealt with drugs until one week I heard from two different people about MDMA treatment, I thought it was an addictive drug, I did not know anything about it.” I spoke to Dr. Marchevsky, one of the doctors who promoted the study, And I consulted with my wife. I was very distressed then. I felt that my trauma was almost subduing me. I was in pain all the time and I took lots of painkillers. I drank, I smoked, I could not work regularly, I was a father and a nervous and angry partner. My children kept my distance. It took me many years to realize I was post-traumatic.”
The first session of the trial was attended by patients with many concerns. “There was a lot of desire to trust alongside a difficulty in trusting,” says Pachnik. “I had the fear that I would go mad from the process, I was afraid he would take out hidden violence from me, but I immediately realized that my two therapists were very experienced.The first three sessions were designed to build basic trust and prepare for the first journey – the session with the drug. Of returning home to yourself. ”
After that session, there were three more sessions of conversations in which the therapists talked to the patients about the insights. “In one of the treatments, I saw myself as a one – year – old boy lying on the street, struggling with myself, I had a part that wanted to ignore this child and go, another part wanted to take him to me, it was a long struggle between me and myself until I decided to take him into my heart. It was a deep physical feeling of accepting myself, who I am as a child, as a child, as a boy and as a man, like a ceremony I had done with myself, a self-acceptance of the child inside me, a child I had been alienated from for years.
“Afterward, I did the same internal process with my partner, who is an amazing woman who supported me throughout the process, and with my children, and I moved from a place of much anger and guilt to a place of acceptance, That I became a better partner and a better father. ”
Exposure is difficult to comfort but it is important for him to tell about the treatment to prove how good he was. In addition to the treatment itself, it is important for him to reveal his sexual abuse. “This trauma has a great deal of shame, and exposure is another healing process, and I have been ashamed for many years, and I think that I am flawed, that I should be silent and ashamed, for me to tell the story without being ashamed is part of the cure. Tell mine and get inspired. ”
For Nachum the treatment ended with great success. I do not have any more migraines, I do not smoke or drink anymore, I returned to playing guitar after many years, I eat healthy, meditate and breathe, and my relationship with my wife has deepened and I have a deep and wonderful bond with the children today. I am less angry with the family and the offender, and I have a lot more understanding and compassion, and I understand that behind every hurt person there is also a person who is hurt.”
Ortal, who was kidnapped by four men on her way to Lima, the capital of Peru, during a trip to South America, felt that her life was collapsing and that darkness was closing in on her. “We got on a taxi,” she says in the film. “I think I’m not in the direction, let’s go.” We started to argue, and the way we suddenly argue, the taxi stops, I see four people in black and that’s it, I had a blackout, we did not see anything, They hit me in the back, in the head, grabbed me hard, we heard a lot of shots, and she said to me, ‘Ortal, they’re going to kill us.’ “I started to pray.”
Ortal came to the treatment after she returned to Israel and closed herself up in Hadera for days, finding it difficult to sleep at night and function. The emotional pain was so great that all she wanted was to die, just to silence the thoughts. During the treatment, a shaky journey went back to that taxi, to her friend’s blood-soaked scream for a walk. Her body experiences the trauma again. She shared with the caregivers how she had been tied to a chair with her face covered with a black sack, how she feared fo
r her life, and how, in the end, she had been able to free herself from her captors. Ecstasy, she says, actually saved her life for the second time.
The meetings in the film, produced by Tsafrir Kochanovsky and Miri Ezra, were filmed for research purposes and only later were transferred to Gil Karni. He himself was not present at the meetings. “The film was born out of a desire and mission of people to share materials to give hope that there is a way out of post-trauma,” he says. “I wanted to make a film about combat soldiers, and that’s how I got to the guys I knew and treated with medical cannabis, and one of them told me that he was undergoing an MDMA trial, I did not know what that was. “Six months passed and a good day, the ambulance driver called, and when I entered the subject, I did not know that our country was so afflicted with post-traumatic stressors.”
“The stages of the kidnapping in the warehouse made me want to say ‘Kat’, that it will be over.” It was hard to work with the materials of the reconstructions, and during the editing phase we watched hours and hours of sessions, and we saw a lot of hard and revealing materials. “My goal in the film was to pass on the knowledge I was exposed to, and I feel that I am a messenger who documented and can bring the message to many people who need information.”