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E for Enlightenment!

by Nicholas Saunders
Ecstasy effects are surprisingly dependant on user groups. While the majority of new users have only taken E as a dance drug, many older users have never danced on it. Likewise, but more rare are what you might call 'special interest groups' who only use E for a particular goal. What follows is an article I have just written for Eternity, an English rave magazine.

I started off as a 'home user', and went round telling ravers how they were wasting the experience dancing and should try E quietly at home. It was not for several years that I got off on E at a rave, and I was so impressed that I went round telling my 'home user' friends what they were missing! The experience is so different that one researcher even suggested that it may be due to different chemicals released into the brain as a result of the exercise.

For most people (including myself), their first experience of E is so good that they can't imagine anything better and don't see the need to try other ways. However, purely for the sake of research, you understand, I have experienced E in as many different ways as possible. And I have interviewed people who have used it in even more ways.

The extreme opposite to raving is to lie on the floor in a quiet, dark room with earplugs and closed eyes. The intention is to look inward and see who you really are; to accept yourself, and to see your situation in life more clearly. Some people do this alone or with a friend, but the best situation is to have a 'sitter' friend to give you 100% attention, and to remind you of your original intention in case you wander off. You may have other intentions, such as to look at your relationship with your mother, a lover or someone you can't stand.

The result can be a useful revelation, but do not rush to the phone, you may regret it - particularly if it concerns a relationship. Like phoning a lover who's wrecked your life and you finally got clear of, and saying how you forgive everything! I have certainly had useful insights, but other 'insights' turned out to be more of a different viewpoint than The Truth. So its wise to absorb the new-found view for a few days before acting on it. In early days, many people mistakenly 'realised' on E that they had found their life-partner, resulting in T shirts saying "Don't get married for 3 months after taking Ecstasy".

Psychotherapy is another use of Ecstasy. In fact it was widely used by therapists in the seventies before it became known as a street drug, and licensed psychiatrists have been using it in Switzerland up till this year. Even now there are a few therapists in California, Germany and Denmark who feel the benefits are worth risking their license for. There have been 'miracle cures' such as serious stutterers suddenly speaking fluently, and people crippled by back pain finding themselves able to walk normally, but most therapeutic use is less dramatic. Probably its best use is with people who have suffered traumatic experiences (such as women who have been raped) as, with support from a therapist, it allows them to relive the experience in a calm way and let go of the horror. Last year I visited a military hospital in Nicaragua where they tried Ecstasy on soldiers suffering from war trauma. The doctor simply called in 20 "incurable" patients and gave then E, then sat back and watched. When they came up, 15 of them formed a huddle, lamenting the killings and expressing love, even for the enemy - but not all: one was paranoid, thinking it was all a trick, and the other 4 became very upset, which the doctor was unprepared to handle.

Some 'cures' have their down side. I interviewed a Californian who had made himself a fortune out of shrewd and tough dealing in the commodity market. But he was not happy and was unable to have warm relationships, so he had (illegal) MDMA sessions. This made him feel much better - but he lost his business skills and started losing money! Recently I interviewed a Benedictine monk, a rabbi and a Zen Buddhist who use E for spiritual purposes. Each of them is a well established religious leader, and, I should add, all of them first took E when it was legal. Because their intention and expectation was focused towards religious experience, that's what they got. The Benedictine finds that the drug "opens up a direct channel to God", and when I asked him what he thought about E being used by teenagers at raves, he said it was quite unsuitable! Like ravers, he could not imagine E producing a different effect to the one he knew.

The rabbi told me that the old-established religions had all lost contact with mysticism, and that the best chance for young people to have a true religious experience was through raving on drugs, LSD and E in particular. The Zen monk, who was in his seventies, was even more enthusiastic, saying that E was a wonderful tool for teaching meditation, allowing novices to 'get there' straight away which made it far easier for them to know where they are aiming in meditation. I even persuaded him to come to a rave, and after being reluctant to start with, he suddenly declared "This is meditation!".

How is it that E can have such different effects? Its simply that E doesn't have a particular effect, but takes away blocks and allows the user to flow in the direction they are already pointing. I think the blocks are fear, the fear of letting go. There is a saying, "Love is letting go of fear".

I have been asked by a researcher into Ecstasy to help find volunteers who have taken over 200 E's and have taken at least two per week for the past three months. Volunteers will have to attend The Maudsley Hospital in South London once only at 9am, where they will be given an injection of fenfluramine (a drug prescribed for reducing appetite) and have 6 blood samples taken. They will have to fast from midnight (but will be given breakfast) and will either be collected or have their fares paid. It is essential that volunteers really do turn up on time, and commit themselves to not taking E for the previous two weeks. We all need more knowledge about whether MDMA is toxic, and this is a chance for you to help. Please ring Dr Karl Jansen on 0171 701 7371 and ask for pager 2710, or 0171 267 7397 and leave a message on his answerphone.

Nicholas Saunders 1994