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25 June 2017
Evening Sedition

The Agony and the… Ecstasy?

Ecstacy Pills

There's an old saying about letting not the left hand knoweth what the right doeth. That seems to be an adage well understood by the United States Government. The Guardian reports that ecstasy (MDMA) — that's right, the drug that the goverment tells us causes irreparable damage with a single dose — is now being investigated as a treatment for US soldiers with PTSD from Iraq and Afghanistan:

American soldiers traumatised by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be offered the drug ecstasy to help free them of flashbacks and recurring nightmares.

The US food and drug administration has given the go-ahead for the soldiers to be included in an experiment to see if MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, can treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scientists behind the trial in South Carolina think the feelings of emotional closeness reported by those taking the drug could help the soldiers talk about their experiences to therapists. Several victims of rape and sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder, for whom existing treatments are ineffective, have been given MDMA since the research began last year.

Michael Mithoefer, the psychiatrist leading the trial, said: "It's looking very promising. It's too early to draw any conclusions but in these treatment-resistant people so far the results are encouraging.

"Ecstasy Trials for Combat Stress" by David Adam, The Guardian, 17 February 2005

Now, this can't be explained just as yet another aspect of the crappy health care that der Fuherer gives to the soldiers mutilated in his illegal wars. MDMA might work, and it is just one of a number of severely controlled or illicit substances being investigated for legitimate medical uses by reputable doctors:

The South Carolina study marks a resurgence of interest in the use of controlled psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs. Several studies in the US are planned or are under way to investigate whether MDMA, LSD and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, can treat conditions ranging from obsessive compulsive disorder to anxiety in terminal cancer patients.

"Ecstasy Trials for Combat Stress" by David Adam, The Guardian, 17 February 2005

Why use MDMA? Simple:

"It's really tough doing psychotherapy with people who have anxiety disorders because when you get to the heart of the matter it causes a panic attack. For somebody who has a particularly gruesome time trying to talk about important end-of-life issues it bubbles into anxiety and nothing gets achieved," Halpern says.

"MDMA may be potentially useful in that it doesn't induce that reaction. We want to see if that can translate into decreased anxiety and meaningful increases in the quality of life for these people."

The alternative, he says, is heavy doses of sedatives such as Valium. "At the moment these people have a choice of being over-sedated and not having anxiety or being alert and suffering panic attacks."

Patients volunteering for the trial will receive up to 125mg of MDMA over two experimental sessions several hours apart - about the same or a little more than in a typical ecstasy tablet. They will also receive more conventional help during several non-drug sessions. Psychologists will assess their mental state before and after the trial to judge whether the drug has helped.

Rick Doblin, the founder and head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which funds the Harvard research, says the study could bring one step closer his goal of making MDMA a prescription medicine.

"Treating Agony With Ecstasy" by David Adam, The Guardian, 17 February 2005

I find it interesting that the FDA has approved this clinical trial given the "official" government view on MDMA:

MDMA is toxic to the human nervous system. Scientific studies, with both animal and human subjects, found that MDMA use produces long-lasting, perhaps permanent, damage to the neurons that release serotonin, and consequent memory loss. Because MDMA affects the serotonin system, which regulates mood as well as body temperature, use can result in a marked increase in body temperature (malignant hyperthermia) leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure. The biggest short-term threat of MDMA is its ability to overload the heart, precipitating heart attacks or strokes, depending on the age of the user.

Moreover, MDMA use can result in mental confusion, anxiety and panic attacks, depression and paranoia. We now know that it leads to significant impairments in visual and verbal memory and may lead to impairments in other cognitive functions, such as the ability to reason or sustain attention. In a recent study, primates exposed to MDMA for four days experienced brain damage still present seven years later. Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of NIDA, explains, “[P]eople who take MDMA, even just a few times, will likely have long-term, perhaps permanent, problems with learning and memory.” An English study demonstrated preliminary proof that MDMA use during pregnancy causes serious birth defects.

America at Risk: The Ecstasy Threat, Donald Vereen, Deputy Director Office of National Drug Control Policy, Testimony before Senate Drug Caucus, 21 March 2001

Yet the deputy director admits that MDMA is safer than other problem drugs like cocaine or heroine. (I can't believe anyone goes to an emergy room with a marijuana overdose. "Like, doc, ya gotta help me, man, I, like, ate an entire pizza and then watched reruns of the, like, Brady Bunch and Family Feud all evening, man. Then I, like, totally ate a pint of Haagen-Daaz all by myself and took a nap.")

Nevertheless, emergency room mentions of MDMA are rare, compared to those of cocaine (168,763 mentions in 1999), marijuana/hashish (87,150 mentions in 1999), and heroin/morphine (84, 409 mentions in 1999). While the number of deaths reportedly related to MDMA use remains small (41 deaths in 1999 based on the Drug Abuse Warning Network, Medical Examiner Data), we should not underestimate the public health threat posed by this substance.

Ecstasy: Underestimating the Threat, Donald Vereen, Deputy Director Office of National Drug Control Policy, Testimony before Senate Drug Caucus, 25 July 2000

Omitted from their list is a drug that mutilates and kills staggering numbers of Americans each day: alcohol.

Alcohol Impaired Driving Statistics
Total Fatalities / Fatality Rates

1. 250,000 people have died in alcohol related accidents in the past 10 years.
2. Presently 25,000 people are killed each year in alcohol related accidents.
3. 500 people are killed each week in alcohol related accidents.
4. 71 people are killed each day in alcohol related accidents.
5. One American life is lost every 20 minutes in alcohol related auto crashes.
6. It is estimated that one out of every two Americans will be involved in an alcohol related accident in his or her lifetime.
7. In 1994, New Hampshire had 119 total highway fatalities, 42 were alcohol related (or 35.3% of the total). New Hampshire leads the nation with one of the lowest percentages of alcohol related fatalities.

Community Alcohol Information Program (CAIP), New Hampshire

So the next time some bible-thumping moron from red-state America rants about how ecstasy is killing people, explain that alcohol murders one American every twenty minutes. If terrorists, let alone illegal handguns used by criminals, killed seventy-one Americans a day, you can bet that just about everyone would be screaming for the government to do something. But alcohol? Naah. All the public says is, make mine a double.

Somethin 'bout those little pills
unreal the thrills they yield
until they kill a million brain cells

Now I need to go, who's gonna give me a ride to the after show (me!)
I hope that I have enough change so I can make my brain rearrange
I'm going down to La La Land
I hope to see ya soon in La La Land

— "La La Land" Green Velvet

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