Legal Ecstasy in Five Years? 

Legal Ecstasy in Five Years? 
Posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 07:45:11 PT
By Kristen Philipkoski 
Source: Wired News 
Ecstasy, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), will be available for use with psychotherapy in as little as five years according to one expert. It's a goal that people like Sue Stevens are working toward by telling the world about their experiences. At the State of Ecstasy Conference in San Francisco on Friday, Stevens shared a passionate and moving account of how taking MDMA helped her and her husband cope with his terminal cancer. 
Stevens said she gained years of quality life with her dying husband by using MDMA. This was her first public speech, but she has been written up in various publications including Time magazine and appeared on 48 hours and MTV, hoping to convince the mainstream that MDMA is a valuable psychotherapy tool, not just a party drug. "In one night with six hours worth of an MDMA therapeutic session, we managed to cure every emotional problem we had that was associated with the cancer," Stevens said. When her husband Shane was diagnosed with liver cancer when he was 22 years old, the couple began to fight visciously on a daily basis. They didn't consider that the disease and their fear of his imminent death might be causing their problems, but a close friend suggested that could be the case and pointed them in the direction of MDMA therapy. "The cancer was the problem. We couldn't open up to each other. He did everything in his power to avoid making me cry, and I did everything in my power to avoid making him angry," which she says put them at arm's-length and made them miserable. While taking MDMA guided by a therapist, Stevens said she and her husband spent six hours confronting every fear they had and listened to each other more closely than never before. "After this one night I can honestly say we never got into another fight," she said. Stevens pleaded with the researchers present never to give up trying to bring MDMA through clinical trials and get FDA approval. They clearly had no thoughts of quitting the fight. MDMA can move through U. S. Food and Drug Administration approval in five years on a budget as small as $4 million, said Rick Doblin, a psychedelics researcher and founder and director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). MDMA works with psychotherapy, can get FDA approval on the cheap, and can be regulated -- all of which will pave the way for the drug's broader legalization, he said. Doblin mourned the fact that since MDMA was made a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency 15 years ago, only one clinical trial using the drug was approved by the FDA from 1992 to until 1999, when one more study was approved to look at the drug's effects on the psyche of terminal cancer patients. "The loss will take at least five more years to get MDMA through clinical trials, and the benefits will be substantially dwarfed by the lost benefits not achieved in that period of time," he said. Nevertheless, he believes the FDA will do the right thing and approve the drug for use in psychotherapy. If researchers can show good data, the FDA will approve it, said Katherine Bonson, a pharmacologist with the Controlled Substances staff at the FDA. She didn't address MDMA specifically but referred instead to "Drug X." "The government isn't as opposed to the drug as you may think. You give us data that makes it look like a good drug and we'll approve that drug," Bonson said. That's exactly what Doblin and his colleagues hope to do. Even if the FDA approves a drug, the Drug Enforcement Agency or even Congress can always step in the way, but researchers hope their data will be compelling enough to stick. An MDMA therapy program has begun in Madrid, Spain, addressing post-traumatic stress disorder. Marcela Ot'alora is a therapist with the program, and reported that although the program is in its very early stages, preliminary results are positive. "I will never forget the look on one of my client's faces when she realized so humbly that she had been in love with her pain, and that's why she held onto it," Ot'alora said at the conference. She said she hopes that soon MDMA therapy will also be available in the United States. "The government's job is not to take away but to provide therapeutic resources and as much information as possible," she said. Call it touchy-feely, but those in the audience who had experience with MDMA -- and odds are that number was high -- clearly empathized. Emanuel Sferios, founder of DanceSafe, a nonprofit organization that promotes health and safety at raves and in nightclubs, asked for a show of hands of those in the audience who had never used an illicit drug. Not a single hand went up. Empathy, coincidentally, is MDMA's defining therapeutic effect, advocates say. The drug releases serotonin and dopamine, causing feelings of empathy and pleasure. Hardcore scientific research on the physical effects of MDMA is hard to come by, mainly because it's illegal and studies require government approval. The most prominent researchers in the field presented their results. The big argument is whether MDMA is "neurotoxic," i.e., whether it permanently damages serotonin brain cells and can cause permanent brain dysfunction. Some researchers, like Dr. Charles Grob doubt that it does. Grob is the director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA School of Medicine, and the only researcher to date to have performed an FDA-approved clinical trial on MDMA. Others, like George Ricaurte, believe MDMA is too dangerous to give to humans under any circumstances. Ricaurte works in the department of neurobiology at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, and has published research showing monkeys still showed damaged serotonin axons seven years after they were given MDMA. While Grob is waiting to begin his next study, other researchers are proceeding with animal studies. The body's apparent inability to regulate its temperature while under the effects of MDMA according to many press reports in the past several years has sent many "ravers" to the emergency room with symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia. So Jessica Malberg at Harvard University gave MDMA to rats and studied them for the same symptoms. Since simply handling a rat can change its body temperature and invalidate the study, Malberg and her colleagues devised a temperature-controlled box out of a dorm room refrigerator. Next, they built an AM radio device about the size of a jelly bean, and implanted it in the rats. The radio signal beamed the temperature of the rat to the researchers. As expected, the researchers found that in cold temperatures, the rats' body temperatures decreased significantly under the effects of MDMA, and in warm temperatures it went up. Ultimately, many of the conference attendees hope for broad legalization of MDMA. "I hope it will be like the Berlin wall, and it will come down in a big crash and it will be a whole new world," said an elderly man at the conference. Doblin of MAPS agreed. "People should be able to decide on their own to take these risks," he said. Source: Wired News (US Web) Author: Kristen Philipkoski Published: February 5, 2001Address: 660 3rd Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94107 Copyright: 2001 Wired Digital Inc. Fax: (415) 276 8499 Contact:  newsfeedback Website: Related Articles & Web Sites:DanceSafe Association for Psychedelic Studies Disunited States of Ecstasy In the Sky, With Therapists
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Comment #23 posted by Peter on May 30, 2001 at 10:51:57 PT
As a college student, me and about 20-25 of my closest friends try X maybe once every 4 months. If this trend was only to last until graduation would we notice any effects at all! What should I tell some of these students that do take it more often than others. Seeking advice, thank you!
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Comment #22 posted by DontArrestMe on February 07, 2001 at 12:47:41 PT
I Digress
L-methAMPHETAMINE, the active ingredient in Vicks Inhalers. Doesn't cause brain damage or even significant CNS effects.DL-AMPHETAMINE, tradename Adderall,top 200 drugs, prescribed for ADD and Narcolepsy.D-AMPHETAMINE, tradename Dexedrine, prescribed for ADD and Narcolepsy.D-MethAMPHETAMINE, tradename Desoxyn, street name meth-crank-ice, prescribed for ADD and Narcolepsy.Dosage is key. You keeping noting that double doses cause those lesions with MDMA. Adderall and Dexedrine can cause brain damage with frequent heavy usage but they can be used safely in children at moderate levels without consequence as well as people with narcolepsy. Desoxyn is used in a similar fashion but has the lowest safety index and it has been suggested to cause damage to the brain like the other two, but also a more extensive damage that the other two don't cause at all. In all of these drugs, the damage areas are usually those where dopaminergic neurons are heavily concentrated. In MDMA, the damage areas are only thought to be serotonergic neurons. If you read some of the latest experiments regarding MDMA, many researchers will caution that there is limited generalizability in referring to MDMA as an amphetamine, and then assuming that it has the same mechanism of action, toxcitiy, etc. And let us not forget that amphetamine and methamphetamine are highly psychologically addictive while MDMA just isn't. I have never heard of anyone going on a 2 week long MDMA sleepless binge. Have you?
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Comment #21 posted by Dr. Ganj on February 06, 2001 at 09:53:05 PT
3,4 Methlyenedioxyphenylisopropylamine HCL
Folks, I've taken this amazing drug more than 120 times over the past 15 years, and I'm doing just fine. As a matter of fact, I'll be taking some next month while on vacation in Hawaii. :-) If you consider how many millions of people have used this drug, and how few deaths have occurred, you'll realize how safe it really is. Compare MDMA to Tylenol. I'll wager a big wad of legal tender that more people have died from Tylenol than MDMA. Also, because MDMA is illegal, I'll also wager that most of the deaths from "MDMA" are in fact because of multiple drug interaction, ingesting too much of the drug, or that the said drug was in fact NOT MDMA, but some other drug(s) that caused the death of the person.If only 100% pure MDMA were used, in proper amounts- in the 125 milligram range, we would see that this drug is quite safe indeed, and should be regulated like any other schedule II compound.The rewards far outweigh the risks-I know.Dr. Ganj
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Comment #20 posted by aesop on February 05, 2001 at 15:53:15 PT
boy who cried wolf
Suppose that all the research showing MDMA to cause neural damage is on-the-level and straight-up science. A question begs itself: does this research matter?  Because government-paid scientists have lied so many times with regards to so many other drugs (the official lies around cannabis come to mind), the current warnings will simply be ignored by the large majority of MDMA users, whether neural damage is actually present or not.
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Comment #19 posted by bcg on February 05, 2001 at 14:41:29 PT:
MDMA certainly does cause serotonin lesions, and probably dopamine lesions as well. There is a question as to whether or not "weekenders" exhibit these lesions, and what the functional consequences are, but I think it is responsible to let people know that right now there is a scientist in my department using only twice the recreational dose to lesion serotonin neurons in monkeys. That means that like heroin, a pill that might be more than it seems could be damaging. Of course, a pill that isn't at all what it seems might be more damaging as most of the deaths due to "X OD" are usually adulterated pills with DMX or some other chemical.BTW, MDMA stands for "3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylAMPHETAMINE hydrochloride (MDMA)"* *From the synthesis in PhikalIf it looks like amphetamine, smells like amphetamine, or is amphetamine with a couple of side groups on is amphetamine. As I said, amph. pulls dopamine and serotonin out of the nerve cells in the brain, overstimulating the downstream cell. These drugs also have the more damaging effect of pulling neurotransmitters out of their packaging inside the cell. The buildup of intracellular, but unpackaged transmitter molecules interact with MAO, the metabolic engine for transmitters, and cause free radicals inside the releasing nerve cell. This causes widespread oxidative damage (like UV rays, but inside the neuron) which can kill or "prune" the nerve ending. This is all pretty well worked out by neuroscientists.As for LSD like effects, my experience is that it is similar to LSD in terms of body sensations and psychedelic effects, but without the primal fear LSD can give you (which can be exhillarating). To me, this was fun but in the end, not enough "work" to be of any psychic use to me like LSD or psylocybin.As I said, I am all for letting people choose what they want to do to their bodies, but they should be informed - with truth - not anti or PRO propaganda. I think those of us in our camp should take heed of how the antis-propaganda and lies are collapsing upon them and strive to avoid the same fate.
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Comment #18 posted by dankhank on February 05, 2001 at 13:59:15 PT:
Yes, FOM a good idea, we used to do that, although much less formally, :-)Just watch out for each other, land especially the first-timers ...
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Comment #17 posted by DontArrestMe on February 05, 2001 at 13:23:36 PT
bcg,you are wrong to state that amphetamine derivates have been totally proven to cause brain damage. Plus, MDMA is not an amphetamine derivate; they merely come from the same class, the phenethylamines. You are also wrong about the type of damage in question. MDMA has no negative effect on dopamine neurons and thus cannot contribute in any way to Parkinson's disease. You must also realize that animal studies are not easily extrapolated to humans. I suggest you read up at or another site so that you don't add to the misinformation and propaganda surrounding this potentially valuable drug.
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 12:58:01 PT
Non Trippers
Dankhank what I think we need is designated non trippers if people are going to trip. Someone who knows how to help a person back to a better frame of mind if the trip turns bad which does happen. That would prevent any bad things from happening I believe. Can you imagine if a person gets busted while tripping and put behind bars. That would be horrible for them.
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 12:53:28 PT
Thanks Paul
Thanks Paul, Then using good sense helps. Common Sense! We need common sense in our drug policies. Bill Maher said on his show the other night what is insanity. Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again with the same results. That's what they've been doing for decades now. It's time for a change.
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Comment #14 posted by Dankhank on February 05, 2001 at 12:47:53 PT:
is what we called ecstacy in the late 60's.It was good then, and will be good now, if you get a good dose, and don't abuse it.Just like acid, you can use too much too fast.Discussion of ALL illegal drugs is appropriate in this forum.I had MANY excellent acid trips and DO remember the first of what was probably a hundred or so trips.I didn't try to do them all in the first two months I found that amazing drug. It is a very powerful drug, so don't underestimate it's ability to really screw with your head.Never do any drug, except pot, alone. If you have to smoke pot alone once in a while it OK. Just try to share the herb at every junction.Peace ...
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Comment #13 posted by paul casey on February 05, 2001 at 12:36:17 PT:
drug x
I have used the drug x many times in the past but never have i felt dependent on it to have a good time.Before i used it every week but now it is more like a special occasion type of thing,maybe 3 times a year.Although the amount of pills i take in a single session has increased from 1 or 2 to about 7,the feeling i get is still the same.I think that there is room is this world for x and that it should be made available but a system put in place so that it can only be taken in moderation by people.This would be the only way otherwise it could ruin many peoples lives.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 11:53:02 PT
freedom fighter you got me thinking and I did LSD a handful of times back in the 70s but by darn I can't remember the first time. So much for flashbacks. I guess short term memory loss overides it. LOL!
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 11:40:49 PT
My Opinion
bcg then coming down gets to be a problem so you finally quit? That makes sense. At some point people who do drugs must come to a place where they decide is this worth it. When a drug or alcohol gets in the way of a person maintaining their normal life style then that is a good time to re-evaluate is this drug use worth it. Jail won't make a person come to that conclusion but how it effects your daily life and those around you is what will make a person stop or they might just die. That's how I feel. I've known people who've OD and died. No matter how much I tried to help them they still died. 
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Comment #10 posted by freedom fighter on February 05, 2001 at 11:40:33 PT
From what I read about X
is like those Acid trips. I do not know if you have done acids before. But I suppose it applies to many drugs. When a person does it for the first time, it usually is only best trip one can have. One seem not able to experience same feeling when taken the second or third time. Like myself, I stopped doing LSD after so many trips, it became a headache for me. I just simply cannot get off anymore. Had no withdrawl feeling to it. I just simply stopped. I think it is similar to X. Xperts would have answer that for us. :)) 
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Comment #9 posted by bcg on February 05, 2001 at 11:01:09 PT:
My experience
Is that exctasy doesn't have a terribly high abuse liability because the "high" diminishes over time and the "low" doesn't the hangover makes the trip not worth it. Like the way I feel about EtOH. And, while I agree that people should be allowed to make informed descisions about their own bodies, I think it is pretty well established that amphetamine derivatives cause neural cell death by over stimulating them (they pull neurotransmitters out of the cell so the levels between the cells are artificially high - like 2500x (vs. 400x for a "natural drug like cocaine). So, if people want to take these drugs, they should know that there is a potential for these drugs to exacerbate Parkinsons disease or depression if someone is prone to them.
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Comment #8 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 05, 2001 at 10:44:19 PT:
Two Excellent Pages for MDMA Info
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 10:36:28 PT
I agree
Thanks freedom fighter,I agree the illegality of a drug puts the control of the purity of the drugs in the wrong hands. I still wonder why a person would stop doing Ecstasy and why or do people continue to use it indefinitely? Is it that mild? I really don't know. Is there withdrawal from long term use of Ecstasy even if it is only a psychological withdrawal? I sure feel old when I ask these questions. 
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Comment #6 posted by freedom fighter on February 05, 2001 at 10:22:59 PT
Only way to abuse it
is by prohibition which does not control the quality and dosage. Just this week a 16 yr old died from taking X. It is pretty sad. 4 have been arrested over it. The law blames these kids but I blame the Law for it.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 09:54:48 PT
One More Thing
I have the flu and feel grumpy and snappy and sick so take what I said today with a grain of salt. I might care about Ecstasy tomorrow if I feel better. I just want Cannabis available, I really do. 
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 09:47:04 PT
Thank You Dr. Russo, I went and looked at the conference information. I just don't know why this drug is so important. Medical Marijuana and at a minimum decriminalization of Marijuana is very important to me but I just don't get Ecstasy or other designer drugs. I guess I would like to hear from someone who has done it and given it up and why they did. I really want them to separate Cannabis from harder drugs or we will be in this battle for a much longer time. Cannabis get's blamed along with other illegal substances. It's guilt by association I think. 
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Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 05, 2001 at 08:53:35 PT:
MDMA Controversy
I believe that the Lindesmith Center has the symposium online. For other information, check
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on February 05, 2001 at 08:11:03 PT
Dr. Russo a question
Hi Dr. Russo, I have such a hard time with articles about Ecstasy and other newer designer drugs that weren't around when I experimented with drugs back in the 70s. Is Ecstasy a bad drug? Is it just a nice drug that makes you speed a little? I wish I would have done Ecstasy so I would know what it is all about. I've grown out of my youthful indiscretions so I'm just not sure.Thanks FoM!
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on February 05, 2001 at 08:02:16 PT:
Tangential? I Think Not
Some may consider this article tangential to the work of, but I think not. Go through the article and substitute the word cannabis for Ecstasy, and you'll get the idea. The arguments are the same, pro and con. Advocates note appropriate medical usage, while certain NIDA-supported researchers claim brain damage. Vehement government propaganda abounds. What is the truth? Here's what I think:In many Native American and indigenous cultures, the words for medicine and poison are synonymous. It is just a matter of dose. Usage requires knowledge that the tribes foster communally.Perhaps MDMA may be abused. I tend to think that the greater danger arises from counterfeit substitutes, and the difficulty of harm reduction techniques due to its illegality. It is clear that this drug has important medicinal qualities and can be a boon to psychotherapy. Many pharmaceutical tools have side effects, but those do not prevent their appropriate use. That's it!
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