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November 2004
Recent News and Updates
by Erowid
Nov 2004
Citation:   Erowid. "Recent News and Updates." Erowid Extracts. Nov 2004;7:2.
Ecstasy's Perceived Safety #
A forthcoming article that seems worth noting is Gamma, Jerome, Liechti, and Sumnall's "Is ecstasy perceived to be safe? A critical survey", to be published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The article describes the results of an online survey--which we coded, helped author, and conducted on Erowid--about perceived safety of ecstasy and perceived reliability of different sources of information. The paper came, in part, out of annoyance that ecstasy research and news often state, without supporting references, that ecstasy users believe it is a "safe drug". The assumption is that if people use ecstasy, they must, by definition, believe it to be without risk.

The survey ran on Erowid for a few weeks and resulted in 923 valid responses. The primary findings were that most ecstasy users who responded to the survey recognize that there is risk associated with the use of the drug and, not surprisingly, tended to say that Erowid was the most reliable of the information sources.

Survey respondent rankings of the relative health risks of a dozen different psychoactive drugs, including cigarettes and alcohol, showed they were well informed. As Gamma et al. describe, "[These results show] that the perceived relative risk of ecstasy does not substantially diverge from its scientifically recognized risks relative to other drugs."

For more information, see: Erowid.org/extracts/n7/ecstasy_safety.shtml
Novel PTSD Pharmacotherapy #
A study underway at Jerusalem's Hebrew University is investigating THC in the treatment of PTSD. In research approved by military and civilian review boards, Israeli soldiers are being administered THC dissolved in olive oil under the tongue. Animal studies performed in Israel and elsewhere have demonstrated that both cannabinoids and endocannabinoids modulate memory. Research published earlier this year in the journal Psychopharmacology found that the administration of THC and cannabidiol made rats forget prior conditioning. The effects of THC on stress (in mice) were first discovered by Germany's Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in 2002.

MAPS PTSD Study#
Five subjects have completed their experimental sessions in the MAPS-sponsored study investigating MDMA therapy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. In several weeks, all five will also have completed their final follow-up evaluations, scheduled for two months after the second and final experimental sessions. No significant adverse reactions have occurred and the initial results seem promising.

Free Speech Anniversary#
On Saturday, October 9th, Earth and Fire spoke at the 40th Anniversary of the Free Speech Movement on the UC Berkeley campus. They participated in a panel discussion about the impact of the Drug War on civil liberties along with Dale Gieringer of CA NORML and John Gilmore of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The theme of their talk was that acting on one's beliefs naturally works to protect civil liberties. They observed that people often give up their own civil liberties out of fear rather than making the government actually step up and take them away. They discussed other dangers to free speech related to psychoactive drugs, including the more practical problem of copyright restrictions that put the ownership of publicly funded research in the hands of profit-driven companies. They also touched on how the last century of prohibition has shifted expectations about the reasonable powers of the federal government. This shift in expectations directly affects civil liberties because courts decide what is and what is not a constitutionally protected right on the basis of cultural norms and "reasonable" expectations.

Turnout for the event was lower than expected, but the participants included some very interesting people, including men who spoke from personal experience about how important and complicated cannabis and psychedelics were to the free speech movement of the 1960s. Thanks to Michael Rossman for organizing the discussion.

Reason Magazine Mention#
Earlier this fall, an article in Reason Magazine generated some discussion. "Open Secrets: how the government lost the drug war in cyberspace", by Michael Erard, focused on the DEA's decision to publish its newsletter Microgram, online. The article describes how sites like Erowid, Bluelight, and others have changed the drug information landscape so that prohibitionist government agencies are having to reconsider what and how they publish.

Erard writes: "Ultimately, DEA officials say, they recognized that the spread of information via the Internet had made the law enforcement restriction on Microgram obsolete, so they decided to end it. A lot of the information that was previously sensitive is now very common knowledge that's available to anybody,' says Bob Klein. It's basically made moot many of the previous reasons for keeping [Microgram] law enforcement restricted.'"

It is quite satisfying to have the DEA confirm that one of Erowid's primary missions--to turn important information about psychoactive plants and chemicals into "common knowledge"--has been successful. Erowid filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request in 2002 for a 1995 issue of Microgram. The request was flatly turned down because, we were told, the information was too sensitive for public release. Fortunately, we now have a nearly complete set of Microgram issues from 1967 through the early 1990s. We should have the collection of these scanned PDFs ready for release in the next few months.

The Microgram editor also admitted what everyone in our field knows all too well: the government has no interest in improving drug information. "Bob Klein acknowledges that the government allowed drug myths to circulate. A lot of information [passed among drug users] was flat-out bogus,' he says. A huge amount of material circulating around the chemical underground,' such as smoking dried banana peels or making amphetamine from chicken feed, was just bullshit. And the government wasn't going to correct those misconceptions for obvious reasons.'" Perhaps obvious to him.