Ecstasy: Could This Club Drug Cure Diseases?

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MJS Molly drug

“OH MY GOD, I’M TRIPPING BALLS! WOOOOO!”

That’s what the guy next to me screamed to no one in particular as he was staring at the multicolored strobe lights pulsating from above the DJ booth. It wasn’t the first time I had heard this yelled out loud that day, nor was it the last time that guy would tell the crowd how hard of a trip he was experiencing.

I wasn’t oblivious to what he was on – one study found that almost 70% of people who attended raves were rolling.

THE LOVE DRUG

Commonly known as the “love drug”, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is the third most common illicit drug used in the United States.

MDMA facilitates the spike of serotonin (the “feel good” chemical) in the brain that causes euphoria, increased empathy and is also known for its effects as a stimulant (i.e. turns people into dancing machines). Users feel a sense of unity, positive connection (you’ll want to touch things) and closeness with others, decreased hostility and an increased awareness of emotions.

However, the exact effects one experiences while on the drug vary depend on the person and setting.

In its pure form, Molly looks similar to powdery white crystals but is commonly seen in capsules or in pressed pills.

The drug is usually swallowed, but can also be snorted, injected or even smoked. Typical street prices range from $10-$20 USD a pop and are dosed around 200 milligrams. Depending on its purity, MDMA kicks in around 20 to 45 minutes after ingested, with its effects peaking around 2-3 hours into the trip and tapering off at around 4 hours.

A LITTLE HISTORY

The history of MDMA dates back to the early 1900s, when Merck, a pharmaceutical company in Germany, developed it as a possible appetite suppressant.

In the 1950’s, the U.S. Army conducted experiments designed to assess whether the drug could be an interrogation tool, although no evidence suggested it would be effective as one.

Later on in the 1970s, a psychedelic chemist, Alexander Shuldin was the first to synthesize and test MDMA at 120mg. After he experienced its effects, he noted:

“I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. I have never felt so great or believed this to be possible. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvelous feeling of solid inner strength continued throughout the rest of the day and evening. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience…”

Then in 1985, the DEA placed MDMA on the list of schedule one drugs due to the belief it had a high potential for abuse with no medical utility.

PROMISING MEDICAL RESULTS

Although Molly has been widely used as a club drug and formally outlawed, recent studies have suggested it may be an effective adjunct to traditional medicine in treating some forms of mental disorders, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Uni-Polar and Bipolar depression, forms of anti-social personality disorder and autism.

Because of MDMA’s ability to induce feelings of compassion and openness, some medical practitioners believe it could assist in insight-oriented psychotherapy to enrich the therapeutic process.

A promising study published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology also documented the powerful results of treating patients who suffer from PTSD with MDMA. Researchers found that after treatment, 83% of the subjects who were given MDMA assisted psychotherapy no longer met the criteria for PTSD. Every patient that received a placebo also went onto receive MDMA assisted treatment and experienced lasting positive results as well.

Psychologists also observed that it increased responsiveness in therapy by unearthing repressed memories, helping to confront emotional trauma and enhancing self-worth.

In another trial, a patient who met the DSM-III criteria for schizophrenia reported after treatment that, “The paranoia that I was experiencing was temporarily halted and replaced with an immense sense of love, compassion, intimacy and closeness.”

NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK

MDMA has a reputation for being one of the more dangerous recreational drugs, but the extents of its adverse side effects have been greatly embellished. MDMA has one of the lowest overdose rates out of any other drug (near marijuana; significantly lower than alcohol and prescription painkillers).

Short-term adverse side effects related to recreational use such as loss of sleep, depressed mood and decreased appetite are common, but nothing dangerous.

Although clinical trials are still on going, evidence suggests that MDMA should be used as a drug to treat severe mental disorders. Maybe one day it will, but until then, if you do decide to use MDMA as a recreational drug, remember to party smart and safely.

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About Eric Bates

Eric received his B.S. in political science with an emphasis in international relations from Santa Clara University in 2012. Upon graduating, he traveled and worked for a non-profit in Central America. He is a religious viewer of Conan O’Brien and also loves traveling. Eric is attending San Jose State University's graduate school program to receive a M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications. He can be reached at ebates0@gmail.com.
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  • BridgetBishop

    “Psychologists also observed that it increased responsiveness in therapy by unearthing repressed memories, helping to confront emotional trauma and enhancing self-worth.

    WTF? Repressed memory therapy has resulted in horrific cases of false memories. You use a mind alerting drug and call what is remembered *reality*? It’s a shame, a crying shame, what passes for mental health in this country. Little wonder the NIMH pulled it’s support for the DSM (there is no science to it) and APA is under attack for ethics violations. This is appalling.