by Nicholas Saunders
[ References 51-100 ] [ Index ] [ References 151-200 ]
Appendix 1: Reference Section (101-150)
- 101 Research in Russia, from MAPS newsletter, Nov. 1991
- "A collaborative working relationship has been established between MAPS,
Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky, a psychiatrist in St Petersburg, and psychiatrists
working on the MDMA protocol here in the US," it is reported. Dr. Krupitsky
says it may be possible to do research on MDMA at the Leningrad Institute
of Oncology. He hopes to receive permission to do research into the
potential of MDMA for relief of pain and alcoholism.
- 102 Attenuation of Alcohol Consumption by MDMA in Two Strains of Alcohol-Preferring Rats, by Amir Rezvani et al., 1991, from Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour, vol. 43
- Alcohol preference and manifestation of alcoholism in rats are thought by many to be associated with serotonin dysfunction in the brain. Since MDMA stimulates serotonin release, experiments were carried out to determine the effect of MDMA on alcohol consumption.
The rats, which were bred to be alcoholics, were given free access to food, water and 10% alcohol [similar strength to wine]. After being injected with MDMA for 3 consecutive days, they drank less alcohol and more water from the time of the first dose, with the effect diminishing to nothing 3 days after the last dose. No behavioural changes were noticed on MDMA, so the results are presumed to be the direct effects of the drug.
- 103 MDMA - The Psychoactive Substance for Therapy, Ritual and Leisure (book), by Weigle and Rippchen, published by Der Grune Zweig [no date]
- This short book, available in German only, includes items on the pharmaceutical and legal aspects of the drug and its effects, dangers and therapeutic uses [chapter 9]. It describes circle rituals of the Native American Church in which MDMA is used in place of Peyote [chapter 10].
- 104 International Journal on Drug Policy, Vol. 2 Oct. 1989 Ethnographic Notes on Ecstasy Use Among Professionals by Rosenbaum Morgan and Beck
- This is a study of a group of drug users whose lives are much more focused around their careers than around any drug. It includes 100 in-depth interviews. Typically, these tend to be people who used LSD in the sixties but have since led drug-free lives except, perhaps, for moderate use of alcohol and marijuana. Ecstasy presents them with an opportunity to be open and relaxed within the context of a professional lifestyle that is stressful and regulated. They use MDMA very sparingly (three or four times a year) because "they are too busy, too discriminating [they are concerned about the effect on their health] and a bit too old". They plan ahead and arrange a two-day event with a few close friends in a quiet location with comforts, music and refreshments well prepared, starting in the morning so as to get a good nights' sleep. Newcomers are well prepared and looked after. Some will even match the dose to body weight, using 1 mg per pound.
[100 mg for someone weighing 7 stone.]
"During the trip there is much warm, affectionate conversation, a feeling of bonding and closeness with friends. Generally, the spirit is positive and euphoric. There is much affirmation of life, of relationships," the report says.
The second day is spent quietly together, and is regarded by some as the most valuable part of the experience, when the "best interactive work can be done".
The report concludes that people who live highly stressed lives can condense the relaxation of a fortnight's holiday into a weekend.
- 105 MDMA use as an adjunct to spiritual pursuit by Watson and Beck in Journal of Psychoactive Drugs July 1991
- New Agers typically believed that carefully planned experiences possessed significant material of lasting spiritual and/or therapeutic value. Although the aims of individuals within this group differed, the study showed how greatly social worlds influence the quality of MDMA experience pursued and valued.
- 106 Misuse of Ecstasy, letters in the British Medical Journal, 1/8/92
- The letters related various symptoms relayed to Ecstasy use:
1. Recurrent acute hepatitis associated with the repeated use of MDMA. The patient admitted to using Ecstasy 8 to 15 days before each of 3 episodes of jaundice.
2. A 20 year-old student had been taking "one or two tablets of Ecstasy at weekend parties for the previous three months. He had ingested about 20 tablets over this period. . .Illness developed many days after use of Ecstasy."
3. Three normally fit teenagers came to the emergency department of a hospital complaining of severe chest pain. Had all danced for some hours. All discharged themselves after learning that their pain was not cardiac.
4. Two young men arrived at a hospital by ambulance. One had had a fit after taking Ecstasy. The second collapsed after complaining of a headache, and was kept in overnight. The next morning he said that the experience would not stop him using Ecstasy again.
5. Four patients between 16 and 30 had cerebrovascular diseases related to Ecstasy or amphetamine. Three made good recoveries, but the fourth had died. [The report did not say which drug was taken by the person who died].
- 107 Possible Interaction Between MAOI and Ecstasy, letter to American Journal of Psychiatry, 149:3, March 1992
- A patient on the antidepressant monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) consumed some Ecstasy. The same drug had normal effects on her friends. One hour later she was delirious and agitated; five hours later she returned to normal. Another similar case is referred to. The conclusion is that there may be an interaction between these drugs, and this may be due to them both affecting serotonin levels in the brain.
- 108 Behavioural and neurochemical effects of prenatal MDMA exposure in rats, by St Omer et al., in Neurotoxicol Teratol, vol. 13
- Groups of pregnant rats were administered varying doses of MDMA on alternate gestational days. Gestational duration, litter size, birth weights and physical appearance were unaffected. Behaviour and intelligence of the offspring were unaffected, except that subtle behavioural changes such as enhanced olfactory discrimination were noted.
- 109 The Placebo Effect in Healing, by Michael Jospe, 1978, pp 22-25 related to Ecstasy
- Over 2,000 studies on the effects of LSD were carried out between 1943 and 1963. Jospe says: "The relationship between such drugs and what happens when placebos are administered in their place makes for interesting reading and points out some thought provoking results . . ."
33 volunteers were told they were being tested as to the effects of LSD, but were given tap water instead (Abramson, 1955). The symptoms of 25-60% of the sample corresponded in some ways to what would have been expected if they had taken LSD, though only 5% answered positively to such questions as "Are things moving around you?"
In another trial (Zegans 1970) the effect of LSD on creativity was tested. Some subjects were given LSD, others water. No differences were observed. However, it is pointed out that the subjects may not have been creative people in the first place.
A trial using male actors (Linton 1962) found that placebo subjects experienced maximum loss of control after 30 minutes, and this declined gradually. "After two hours, subjects reported feelings of having acquired new meanings and a more prominent general feeling of disinhibition." The researchers found that those who had taken placebos experienced similar types of symptoms at 2, 5 and 8 hours after ingestion, although the symptoms varied from strong to very weak.
With marijuana, some placebos were made by extracting varying amounts of the active ingredient THC. The symptoms reported by most subjects were consistent with strength, but the unexpected result was that chronic users felt stronger reactions from the placebo.
- 110 Psychedelics Encyclopedia, by Peter Stafford, 3rd edition published by Ronin, 1992
- This edition has an added 26-page piece on MDMA. It describes how MDMA was scheduled in the most dangerous category of drug because of scares regarding a previous "designer drug" called China White which caused Parkinson's disease, and the false assumption that MDMA is similar to MDA which had already been scheduled. These drugs were confused in the press. Rick Doblin, president of MAPS, is accused of making well-meaning but misguided attempts to publicise the benefits of MDMA. The strong opposition to the scheduling of MDMA failed to prevent the drug being scheduled. It would be too expensive to challenge MDMA's status again.
MDMA has little abuse potential because it exhibits tachyphylquaxis - rapid build up of tolerance - so that repeated use over a short period leads to a loss of the desired effects.
A tiny proportion of people are hypersensitive to such compounds as MDMA and so it is best to try a low dosage first.
MDMA has an unusually consistent response compared to psychedelics. Set and setting are far less important. According to Claudio Naranjo, it gives a "brief, fleeting moment of sanity".
Stafford also mentions a meeting of therapists enthusiastic about Ecstasy in March 1985 at Esalen, a psychotherapeutic centre in California. The combined total clinical experience of using Ecstasy among those present was several thousand sessions, and they reported uniformly positive reports. The drug was found to reduce defensiveness and fear of emotional injury, thereby facilitating a more direct expression of feelings.
Problems encountered in using Ecstasy therapeutically were raised at the meeting. The main problems aired were that an Ecstasy trip would not fit in with the standard 50 minute therapy session, and that conventional psychologists might regard the ecstatic effects as pathological. Quick insights may not be absorbed as well as the slower approach. Stafford points out that when pure, MDMA consists of white crystals 2-3mm long. A brownish colour indicates incomplete synthesis.
- 112 Visit to August de Loor, administrator of a 'safe house' which offers drug sample testing and advice to the public - dealers included - from a basement office in AmsterdamAppendix 6
- When I visited there were three people having samples tested. An ordinary white plate on the table had particles of various pills placed around the edge, and a drop of a clear liquid was placed on each from an eye dropper. The particles changed colour within a few seconds, but it was not obvious to me how to describe the colour except to say it was dark, some bluish and some brownish. de Loor would not reveal what the test was because, he said, a previous test for cocaine became useless when dealers added an ingredient to make it show positive without cocaine.
He showed me an American report called An evaluation of the potential for clandestine manufacture of MDA analogs and homologs - of which MDMA is one - that explains how MDMA is made and what equipment is required. August knew of one factory producing 250,000 Es a day. He also said that recently there was a party in Rotterdam attended by 22,000 people and there were only 3 casualties, all due to people falling over. Although presumably many people were on Amphetamine (because so much is sold as Ecstasy) these must have been affected by the 'contact high' and there was no violence. Pills made for export look different to those sold in Holland, so as to be less easy to trace back. Mistakes in manufacture could lead to overdoses - at the time there is some double strength MDA on the market.
- 113 Drugs Arena, National Criminal Intelligence Service, 1990
- Seizures of tablets included fake MDMA consisting of prescription mianserin tablets, rubbed down to remove markings and to give them an 'illicit' appearance. Most Ecstasy is believed to originate in the USA or Holland, but there is some evidence to suggest UK manufacture.
- Illicit synthesis of MDMA is usually achieved by reductive amination of 3,4 methylenedioxyphenyl-2-propanone which can be obtained from commercial sources. During MDMA synthesis, deliberate or mistaken substitution of the butanone for the propanone, followed by reductive amination, results in the formation of 3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl-3-butanamine (HMDMA). HMDMA does not have the phenethylamine moiety necessary to make it a controlled drug under the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971).
None of the seizures of "Ecstasy" contained poisonous or addictive substances.
- 114 Ecstasy makers face 14 years jail, from The Daily Telegraph, 10/11/92
- Changes in the law will make it illegal to manufacture or supply four key components known to be used to make E, with a maximum penalty of 14 years jail. They are methylenedioxyphenyl-2-propanone, piperonal, safrole and isosafrole. The changes to the law are expected to be in force by the end of 1992.
In 1990, 44,000 tablets were seized; in 1991, 365,000.
The article says that Ecstasy, selling for #30 a tablet [!], is "emerging as the biggest drug problem".
The Daily Telegraph's science editor, Roger Highfield, says legislation may backfire and encourage use of a plethora of more dangerous drugs. Dr. Russell Newcombe is quoted as saying that additional dangers could arise when manufacturers have to do without these raw materials.
- 115 Traffickers, by Nicholas Dorn et al., published by Routledge, 1992
- The popular image of well organised gangs of drug dealers run by a "Mr. Big" is a myth, according to Dorn and his colleagues. Among drug dealers in Britain, there are "no cartels; no Mafia; no drug barons and relatively little corruption," although such forms of organisation may well exist in producing countries or to some extent in the US. Here, drug distribution is best described as 'disorganised crime'.
The authors interviewed 25 convicted drug traffickers of both sexes in prison and found that they had a wide range of motives. They also spoke to 55 people who had been active in the illegal drug market but had not been convicted. Some were still dealing.
They found that dealers fell into a number of main types:
1. Trading Charities: people who are motivated by ideological reasons rather than profit.
2. Mutual Societies: networks of user-dealers who are friends.
3. Sideliners: legal businesses that trade in drugs as a sideline.
4. Criminal Diversifiers: criminal businesses that also get involved with drugs=09
5. Opportunistic Irregulars: people who get involved in a variety of activities - legal and illegal - including drug dealing.
6. Retail Specialists: organised drug dealing enterprises with a manager employing a number of people in specialist roles to distribute.
7. State-sponsored traders: drug dealing enterprises that result from collaboration between the police and dealers, such as those allowed to trade in exchange for information.
The situation is fluid, so categories are loose and dealers change their methods. There has been a general shift towards the more overtly criminal type of dealer.
In the 1960s there was a greater number of hash dealers who distributed just to get free supplies and status.
Pubs are used as distribution points by 'sideliners' ."There are wholesale pubs and retail pubs," the authors say. In the former, deals of #5,000-#20,000 can take place "twenty times a day". It is quite common for dealers in stolen antiques to move into drug dealing.
Retail specialists, the most organised type of dealer, are on the increase. They organise distribution in a way that mirrors other commercial distributors: specialists work under a general manager. The specialists include buyers; accountants dealing with the 'washing' of money; "reps" negotiating with security staff at raves; sales reps finding customers but not carrying drugs; people looking after the drug stock; lookouts and people to provide physical protection. These last may prevent other gangs from poaching on the gang's territory, and help to create diversions to distract the police, by, for example, starting a fight.
The authors discuss various methods by which drugs money is laundered and the mistaken police policy, adopted from the United States, of trying to 'get Mr. Big'.
Widespread knowledge of police policies helps the dealers to adapt and to avoid being caught. Because the dealers are well-informed, flexible and constantly adapting, random methods would be more effective than current policies in tracking them down.
Undercover police operations
Police agents adopt an identity and lifestyle that is maintained on a 24-hour basis for a lengthy period. The authors give a long graphic account of a police operation to find drug manufacturers. A policeman poses as a buyer for a gang and negotiates a test deal in a pub and, later, a bigger deal. The suppliers get suspicious that the "buyer" is prepared to pay so much given the quality of the drug they are selling, but come to the wrong conclusion that he is part of a gang trying to get the drugs without paying. Arrests are made and the undercover agent head-butts a policeman and gets away, thereby hiding his true identity.
The authors say that the rise of Ecstasy and the return of LSD are not linked to crime in the same way as heroin, users of which are said to commit crime in order to pay for their habits, and crack cocaine, which is associated with violence.
A chapter on 'intelligence' includes a survey of what the police regard as 'good intelligence'. Curiously, intelligence that is 'current and detailed' scores twice as high as intelligence that proves 'right on investigation'. It is mentioned that the first seizure of 100,000 MDMA tablets resulted from police tracing a manufacturer through their materials suppliers.
- 116 High Time for Harm Reduction, by Russell Newcombe, Druglink, Jan. 1987
- Newcombe says that it is too late to apply 'primary prevention' - education to prevent people taking drugs - to the present generation of drug users. In general terms, primary prevention has failed. However, it has been shown that education can slow the development of the more problematic forms of drug use, while leading to an increase in safer forms of drug use. This suggests that it would be prudent to divert some resources towards 'secondary prevention' or 'harm reduction' - preventing overdosing, accidents and infections which result from ignorance.
Policy makers should be giving serious consideration to the question: "Would it be preferable to reduce the incidence of illicit drug use while not promoting safer forms of drug use, or would it be more realistic to give greater priority to the reduction of harm from drug use?" According to Newcombe, the four main components of a harm reduction strategy should be: (1) rationale, (2) content, (3) implementation and (4) evaluation.
1. It should be acknowledged that people like to get high, and that this is not likely to change. Drug use may be rational, not deviant, Newcombe says. It should be acknowledged that many psychoactive drugs are no more harmful than prescribed drugs. "The message that drugs are unhealthy is akin to warning soldiers in battle that chewing gum can cause indigestion," he says. Harm reduction policies are based on a caring rather than a judgemental approach, and are therefore less likely to drive drug users underground.
2. The strategy must be based on knowledge. The focus should be on controlling use rather than seeking complete abstinence, which is out of character with modern life. Instructions should be given on suitable quantities, effects, safest methods of administration, obtaining help when needed, avoiding hazards and methods of controlling mental states.
3. The implementation strategy should draw on knowledge of how to maximise the probability of success. Drug use tends to follow on from heavy smoking and drinking, so smokers and pub goers are a suitable target, although there may be a risk of arousing an interest in drug use, and there may be objections from parents.
4. It will be necessary to do 'before and after studies' and long-term follow-ups using control groups to evaluate the effectiveness of harm reduction strategies.
- 117 The Reduction of Drug-Related Harm, a conceptual framework for theory, practice and research, by Russell Newcombe, from The reduction of drug-related harm, edited by O'Hare et al., (book) published by Routledge 1992
- Assessing the harm that can be caused by a drug and the effectiveness of harm reduction policies is difficult because both the harm and benefits resulting from drug use - or abstention from use - must be taken into account and some of the benefits may not be evident in the short term. Risks and the effectiveness of risk reduction policies are easier to assess, and risk assessment can often be carried out through questionnaires. It is possible to separate the risk factors involved and to measure these by means of observation, interviews and questionnaires. Interpreting the outcome of harm reduction is complex and requires clearly defined objectives at the outset. Hypothetical examples are given.
- 119 Harm Reduction Courses
- A leaflet advertising courses by the Atlantic Project, 20 Fir Road, Waterloo, Merseyside, L22 4QL (051-928 2234) included the one day course "Working at Raves and Clubs". A poster on Party Drugs is also available.
- 120 Rave Research Bureau, 25 Halkyn Avenue, Liverpool L17 2AH
- This is the trading name of Dr. Russell Newcombe, lecturer in social policy and social work at Manchester University, under which he supplies information sheets and reports on Ecstasy use and related matters. Dr. Newcombe's consultancy work also includes organising surveillance of raves and nightclubs for their owners and producing reports on the presence of drug dealing and use.
His surveillance method conforms to a 10-point code of practice. (1) Researchers must be suitable, i.e. qualified social workers or similar care professionals. (2) Researchers must participate in specialist training and know the relevant legislation. (3) Work is voluntary. (4) Researchers should be familiar with rave conditions and hours. (5) While working, researchers' behaviour must simulate the behaviour of customers. (6) They should blend in but avoid making strong personal connections. (7) If drugs are offered for sale, they should inquire about the price only. (8) Monitoring should be kept covert, and notes should be written after the event. (9) Incidents involving the police should be observed at a distance. (10) Researchers must not to talk to the press, media etc. without permission.
- 121 Telephone interview with Marcia Ash of Dance Ambulance, a first aid service in Manchester for ravers, 6/2/93
- Ash is a dietary therapist who used to go to raves and clubs and find that she was helping people who were feeling sick or paranoid, so she thought "Why not get paid for it?" Dance Ambulance is the result. The Parliament Club, which opened in Manchester in autumn 1992, introduced new safety guidelines from the outset - in line with a harm-reduction policy adopted by Manchester City Council - which required some security staff to have first aid training. Ash offered her services and now works at the club every Saturday night. She has recently applied to public and private backers for funding, and has received some encouraging responses. She also hopes to get funding from the Seized Assets Fund - money from seized assets of drug dealers. Ash uses a range of alternative therapies including homeopathic remedies, "polarity therapy" and "flower essence therapy". Various people have expressed interested in joining Dance Ambulance, including therapists, community drug workers and counsellors.
The work consists mainly of helping women in the toilets (far more women than men appear to suffer side-effects at raves). Many are paranoid or sick. Ash makes sure that sufferers have their friends with them and gives them homeopathic or flower remedies until they feel better or decide to go home. Ash joins in the dancing herself, but keeps an eye out for people needing help. Sometimes she sees girls "stuck in the corners" and asks what's wrong. A typical answer is: "Just fucked" - they feel rotten, perhaps paranoid, and can't move.
Ash believes that most problems come from being sold substitutes, including drug cocktails, instead of MDMA.
Ash is trying to recruit a number of helpers, who would be identified by their T shirts and to set up a permanent office for Dance Ambulance. All helpers would have to take first aid courses and learn about drugs and Lifeline, the Manchester drugs agency, has offered to help with training.
- 122 Marketing in 1992 and Beyond, a paper presented to a Royal Society of Arts conference in 1988 by E Nelson
- Nelson reports that a market survey revealed the following change in values: "People have the need to feel their body in new and different intensive ways, the desire for frequent emotional experiences and the enjoyment of doing something which is just a little bit dangerous and forbidden".
- 123 Phone interview with a couple who use E for playing music
- A couple living in California have been using Ecstasy for playing spontaneous music over the past 15 years with a few intimate friends in an unusual way. They take small doses of about 50 mg every hour or so for a whole day and have even gone on for several days, though the first couple of hours is the most creative for the woman. They have had several hundred such sessions.
There is more harmony between them, probably due to their increased empathy. They find no problems due to the E causing distractions, they can get right into it. But it can be helpful to start with a strong base note playing, to beat out a rhythm, as a basis to work into the music. She is too shy to play freely without, together they are more free to express themselves in creative ways without being self-judgemental.
Asked how music stood up to scrutiny afterwards, they answered well. It was more spontaneous, more inspired and freer without falling back on known routines though not basically different in character to the way they played without. However they have got bored with it over the years because it doesn't take them far enough into another space.
Asked whether E would work in same way with strangers, they said it would probably help, but they don't know others doing it.
The couple also like to go out on a lake in a canoe wearing wireless headphones connected via a home made electronic system that can produce various effects such as time delay or sound distortion which he can easily handle on E. They first used it to clear a lot of shit between them, and later to develop and get into nature. The experience is more on an emotional level than spiritual. They have no set goal, except to develop themselves and their relationship, and lately just to have fun. Once a regular monthly event, they have now cut down as they find the after effects are worse.
- 124 Interview with couple who use E while floating
- This couple have their own float tank and say that E adds to the high produced by being in isolation in the tank. On E you can verbalise ideas about what's happening emotionally and bounce these off yourself. When you hit a button and can face up to it, then can you feel your body become more relaxed as that bit of tension is relieved. The tank alone can help relax the body releasing more energy for the mind, but this doesn't always work without Ecstasy.
- 125 'E'sy sex: a cultural myth in perspective paper by Andrew Thomson presented at Medical Sociology Conference, York University 1993
- Preliminary results of Andrew Thomson's study (see Appendix 5) showed that some 80% of those interviewed had practised sex while under the influence of Ecstasy. Furthermore, some 18% claimed that Ecstasy use did impair their decision to have safe sex.
- 126 Albert Hofmann Foundation Meeting 12/10/93
- Held at Oscar Janiger's house. Director's meeting from 7 till 9, then open to invitees including myself. About 25 came. There were none looking like old hippies, all smart well-off professionals such as real estate agents, established therapists and film directors.
Bob Forte will edit the Association's Journal. Says he wants to look at psychedelics as sacraments rather than as therapeutic agents. After the meeting, I spoke to Leonard Berne, a psychotherapist who used MDMA until it became illegal.
Dr. Berne says the benefits of using E are: 1. As an aid to the therapeutic alliance, 2. To increase introspection, 3. To lift the sense of shame and 'endangerment'. It is this state that is the cause of neurosis, and people find ways to constantly reinforce this fear of letting go.
He says it is important to work at the end of the MDMA session and over the next few days about the reality of the state, and to examine what are the client's beliefs that buttress the sense of endangerment.
He thinks that the greatest potential use in psychotherapy is not with clients but for training analysts. E would make them aware of their own neurosis and increase their empathy. Analysts tend to avoid close introspection and the E would help them to see their own state, thus helping to break down their Godlike attitude towards their clients. Of course the present cleft suits most therapists, but many recognize that empathy with clients is needed.
Asked whether he thinks E will become acceptable, says that he believes the revolution will come from top down, because there is a current trend towards recognising that empathy between client and therapist is a key to successful treatment, and that E is the obvious way of improving this.
- 127 Meeting with Dr. Charles Grob 13/10/93
- Dr. Grob came to see me primarily to brief me about what to check up on and look out for when visiting Nicaragua and discussing their proposed trial. MAO inhibitors (commonly used on prescription) can be dangerous if taken with MDMA - can cause bounding pulse, severe headache and induce a stroke in people who were are predisposed. People with cardiac arrythma (uneven heartbeat) particularly at risk. Ayahuasca also has MAOI activity, and so should not be used with E. There is now a pill made up sold as a synthetic Yage; if this contains Harmine or Harmaline could be dangerous if used with MDMA. Dr. Grob has heard of sessions where these two are used together and so are potentially dangerous.
Asked about liver and kidney damage due to MDMA use as reported by Dr. Henry, Dr. Grob assumes this was due to impurities as a result of contaminants resulting from poor quality manufacture.
Asked why use MDMA with cancer patients. Dr. Grob believes that MDMA raises pain threshold, probably due to its effect on the neurochemical mechanism of the brain. In addition, it appears that MDMA enhances the effect of morphine. The second benefit is expected to be emotional: MDMA generally improves mood and provides patients with a greater sense of being in control.
His trials are being conducted in a pedantically correct and proper way with impeccable protocol within the system so as to provide a solid base. If the results show benefits from MDMA, then no-one will be able to dispute them. Although this approach was frustratingly slow, he felt it was worthwhile. He has learned from past experience of people such as Timothy Leary who ran ahead without protocol, and as a result gave psychedelic research a bad reputation. In fact, he believes that it was Leary's rash enthusiasm and uncontrolled trials that resulted in shutting down serious work on psychedelics for the past 25 years - to fly in the face of the establishment is counterproductive. However, to be fair to Leary, much research in the past was conducted in ways that would not now be acceptable.
Asked about other research, he says that there is very little. There is a little in Germany and one man in Holland, Dr. Bastious, but he is about to retire without successor.
Own story. In early 70's dropped out of college and decide that what he really wanted to do in life was serious work on psychedelics, so spent the next 7 years studying for qualifications to do so, thinking that by the time he had qualified their value would have become universally recognised since in 50's and 60's the use of psychedelics was at the cutting edge of psychiatric treatment, then abandoned in spite of promising results due to overreaction to the use of recreational drugs. So it has taken until now for him to get to the first step.
Dr. Grob also told me about his recent research on Ayahuasca in central south America (not yet published). He studied 15 long-term users (who were members of a church based on both Christianity and shamanism who used Ayahuasca at least twice a month) and 15 controls using structural psychiatric interviews, and found that the Ayahuasca users scored higher than controls on every count! He also had the Ayahuasca users use the drug with catheters in their veins from which blood samples were taken every 30 minutes. Analysis implies the drug has a serotonergic effect which is what he would have expected. Trials were surprisingly easy to do because the users seemed to be unusually calm and cooperative, possibly as a result of their Ayahuasca use.
Dr. Grob has now applied for a grant to do a similar study of Mescaline users.
- 128 Psychedelic Explosion, by Inner Astronaut, an unpublished manuscript
- Sections are entitled Brief history of psychedelics; Psychedelic safety; LSD; Psilocybin mushrooms; San Pedro cactus; Ecstasy; 2CB; DMT; Harmala alkaloids; Ketamine; Multiple combinations; Further explorations and Bibliography. I have seen two versions, one typed and the other laid out as a booklet with 64 pages. I have spoken to the author and he tells me that the final version will be expanded and improved. Two publishers are currently interested, and it will probably be available by 1995.
If you are interested in exploring psychedelics other than Ecstasy, then this would be well worth having. I expect it will be sold by mail order catalogues (such as Books by Phone) or from specialist bookstores by the time this edition is available; I do not have an address. The book is the experience of a psychedelic explorer who lives in San Francisco and has a tripping room suitably equipped with everything down to a vomit bucket. I have shown it to several psychedelic explorers who have commented that it is excellent. Criticisms are that it is too biased towards Ketamine and that, apart from sex, he does not appear to value the social interactive enhancements of some drugs.
The author rates Ecstasy rather low (as do many people who are keen users of psychedelics), but the following are his views on combining MDMA with other drugs:
The addition of 2CB allows users to retain and develop their insights. It can be taken with, before or after the E. 80 mg E taken 11/2 hours after 2CB can produce deep empathetic content. It can also help an E trip to become sexual, but he suggests that, in general, the way to make any trip sexual is to get sexually involved early on.
LSD and E ('Candyflip') produces a more intense E high rather than an acid high. Nitrous oxide on E is 'quite enjoyable'. "A blast of nitrous oxide always feels good, especially if you're already high. . .It can put an additional peak on your peak, and can be used to 'break up' a state of mind so you can switch to something else".
- 129 Interview with Jack, undergoing MDMA therapy with a guide
- Jack is a 43-year-old man who was the scapegoat of a family of four children, having been blamed and beaten unfairly by his father and used by his mother to vent her frustrations - she would put him down as his father did to her. He was brought up to think of himself as the runt of the family and grew up without self respect, unable to look people in the eye and convinced of his own unattractiveness.
He went into investment banking and was very successful in making money through aggressive and sharp dealing. However, he always felt lost; disconnected from others around him and their affection. He had sexual relationships with men, but they were without empathy and unsatisfying. He also went into analysis, but even after 20 years of this felt there had been no real progress.
At the age of 43, he had become rich and respected as a dealer who would drive tough and judicious bargains but still felt unable to look people in the eye for fear they would see what a shit he was - he felt guilty, unworthy, someone who deserved to be kicked around. He then attended a Grof breathing workshop where he was profoundly moved, and saw Grof himself as the father he had not had as a child, and he cried for two and a half hours.
There he met an unqualified MDMA therapist or 'guide' who had been using MDMA with clients since 1980, and when interviewed he had just completed 6 monthly sessions with him. Sessions last from 12 to 6 and the dose is 125 mg followed by 80 mg 2 hours later, and he is advised to be spend the next day by himself if possible. He first reports on anything significant since the last session. Then he is asked about his intention for the session, and to concentrate on a good intention and to think of the pill as a sacred substance. After about 15 minutes, he lies down and takes the pill, then puts on a blind and listens to music.
As the drug takes effect, he sees something approaching a night time scene with lights and stars, while his guide will ask him to breath in the light and other such visualisations. He feels able to speculate about anything. His guide does not direct him so much as to ask questions to help him develop thoughts, and will point out such things as repetitions but without steering his direction. The guide gives him lots of comfort and holding when appropriate, and also encourages him to express anger by hitting with a bat.
The process that seems to him to be taking place is akin to 'rewiring his mind'. He explained that he feels that his traumatic childhood caused wires in his mind to become wrongly connected (his analogy for neurosis) that were now becoming untangled.
His guide originally suggested he should try 6 monthly sessions of which he has now had 5. He charges $300 for a session lasting from 12 to 6pm, which Jack thinks is very good value. Jack has never tried MDMA outside these sessions.
In the first sessions his intention and guided visualisation expressed a desire to heal himself. He was shocked and amazed by how much anger came out, which he related this to his father beating him as a child. On the third day following early sessions he would feel depressed and this depression turned to anger.
Over the months the anger has been got rid of leaving him calmer and space to develop. Outside sessions Jack is better able to relate to people, and at last is feeling both attractive to women and able to relate to them warmly for the first time. He is more able to look people in the eye without fear of them 'seeing through him'; he has become far more giving, self-loving and relaxed. His attention span has tripled and he feels more aware of the present. Jack also plays music, which has greatly improved and he has started primitive chalk drawings.
But in his work he has lost his ability to be super-critical and tough which was the secret of his success. He accepts the loss as a small price to pay for his improvement.
In addition to the MDMA sessions, Jack recently had an LSD session (also $300) with a different, but very expert, guide. The dose was 300 ug. He experienced a more profound and deeper level of heart opening, and felt as though he was regressing to being a 4-year old girl. He feels that LSD can take him further and may go for another session.
- 130 Visit to Dr. Manuel Madriz at the military hospital in Managua, Nicaragua, 22-24 October, 1993
- At the end of 1989, Dr. Madriz was visited by an enthusiast in MDMA therapy who provided him with 40 capsules of the drug plus books and 2 videos on its use. The war was very hard then so he waited until January 1990 to try out the drug. First he tried out half doses on 6 patients, but saw no effect. Dr. Madriz or his staff did not try the drug themselves.
Next he called in 20 patients - all male soldiers who had previously been diagnosed as having depression or anxiety disorders such as PTSD. They were each given a capsule of MDMA simultaneously 1-5 days after admission. This was administered following their standard hospital procedure - the patients were simply asked to take the pill without being told what it was, and were given a standard warning that they may experience giddiness and blurred vision. There were about 8 staff present.
The first evaluation was made one hour later. Half said they felt better and half reported side effects. 15 of the group spontaneously came together and hugged one another, talking emotionally about how they wanted peace and an end to war. They were relaxed, felt good, but not euphoric. They were very communicative both to staff and to each other. Some praised the doctors; others said they felt love for everyone, even their enemy. They wanted a lot of attention from the staff, but were easy to deal with. There was no come down; the effects wore off so gradually they didn't notice and they felt positive for many days.
However, 5 separated themselves from the others. 2 of them panicked as though they were reliving the trauma and were given tranquillizers; one was at first paranoid as though he was being tricked. Of these, 3 were depressed.
Second evaluation was made 5 days later. 2 had dropped out; 13 were better of which 7 were regarded as needing no further treatment and were discharged, while the remaining six were treated for side effects such as tachycardia and anxiety. 5 were worse; 2 needing tranquillizers. Two were suicidal. One of those who were not improved had become an alcoholic as a result of his depression. Dr. Madriz and Sandino believed the symptoms expressed were latent before the MDMA was administered.
Dr. Madriz regarded this trial as encouraging but not scientifically significant. He introduced me to Dr. Estella Sandino who was present at the first trial, and she added supportive comments (she was obviously also very impressed by the effect of MDMA).
I asked why the patients were not informed what they were being given. Dr. Madriz replied that the normal practise in Nicaragua was that doctors gave medication and that patients accepted without question. They tended to be uneducated, and if asked, might become suspicious which could influence their response.
I also asked to interview some of the patients, but was told that they were from distant parts and would be difficult to trace, most probably having been discharged from the army due to their condition.
Dr. Madriz was now ready to start a scientific, double-blind trial with 100 patients, and he showed me 2 signed and sealed letters of authority from the hospital heads. He was adamant that no other permission was required since the government was independent from the army. He also showed me a well-produced preliminary protocol (in Spanish) which I was impressed appeared to comply with all of Dr. Grob's requirements except for Informed Consent and Independent Review Board. There would be pre- and post- physical tests; screening to choose patients with an identifiable problem; standard diagnostic interviews; exclusion criteria; psychological personality tests (MMPI and Beck Depression Inventory) before and after; psychiatric clinical evaluation and consistent structure of sessions. My overall impression was that Dr. Madriz is both able and keen to carry out an acceptable trial, but that he needs considerable assistance from outside. Fortunately he welcomes not only financial help but advice also, as was shown by wanting a visit very soon from Dr. Grob. He appeared unaware of the international legal situation, but may be able to get government approval. He was not keen on the idea of obtaining informed consent, but this may be a cultural difference.
Dr. Madriz says that this is the right time to do the trial; there is less pressure so the hospital and staff have capacity. He has 12 years experience of dealing with PTSD cases and has presented a paper on the subject in Caracas (which says that the symptoms of PTSD manifest more when the victims have poor support from family and peers).
The title is to be Efficacy of MDMA on Patients with Psychiatric Manifestations After a Trauma. It will consist of 5 monthly groups of 20 patients, half receiving placebos. Follow-ups will be at one, three and six moth intervals and altogether it will take exactly a year. The cost will be some $16-18,000 and in addition he will need visits from experts; literature on use; biochemical information; supply of MDMA; details of other research. Also a fax machine, mobile phone and Video 8 tapes. I expressed concern about those patients in the preliminary trial whose symptoms became worse and were given sedatives or tranquillizers. Dr. Madriz said that they were particular character types that he felt that he could exclude from the trial.
As an example of the type of patients suitable for treatment, I was shown a video of a diagnostic interview between Dr. Madriz and one of his PTSD sufferers. The soldier had been travelling with his wife when guerillas ambushed them. They were stripped; the wife brutally raped in front of him; he was tortured by beating and having his hair burnt off and a piece of flesh bitten out of one cheek, then was told that after he was beaten to death his wife would be further raped and then killed. Dr. Madriz told me that, after 15 years of war and bitterness, there were many such cases awaiting treatment.
I also asked if he had experienced MDMA. He had not, but intended that he and his team should take it together before the trial. I suggested that they could learn more from this event if an MDMA-experienced therapist was present.
- 131 Psychological Effects of MDE in Normal Subjects by Leo Hermle et al. Neuropsychopharmacology 1993 8/2
- A German study on MDEA (Eve) showed that MDEA produced an increase in responsiveness to emotions, but that these were experienced in a calm and relaxed manner without anxiety. Tests showed that sensitivity was not impaired - perception, formal though processes and memory were normal. MDEA has much the same effect as MDMA, although the two drugs were not compared directly.
- 132 Interview with Daniel Kaufman, 27/10/93
- Mr Kaufman is an artist who has used both LSD and E to explore and delve deeper within himself. He found that his style, which is abstract, became more open on E, and that within his paintings images occurred as though spontaneously - he believed it was his subconscious emerging. The results seemed to him to be a real advance, to have more character than previously. While on E he finds that the images flow out with clarity, and that the themes are cosmic and profound. He feels contact "with that which is eternal within us - love". But he was upset that he could not get such good results except while painting on E. He is convinced that the source of his work is inside him all the time and it worries him that he needs a drug to 'break through' his own barriers to act his true self. So now he is trying extreme purification through meditation, fasting and clean living in order to try to achieve the same state of calm and fearlessness, but so far without success. He meditates, and in fact used to teach Transcendental Meditation, but even the combination of cleansing and meditation only gets him part of the way that E takes him. The only equivalent to the E state he has experienced is being in love.
He has used E with lovers, and his experience has taught him that it is a great mistake to do so before the relationship is established, as it can lead to an in-love state without the necessary foundations. But, after several weeks of positive development, it is the ideal tool for bonding a relationship.
- 133 Interview with Max Shertz, 27/10/93
- Mr Shertz is an artist in his sixties who first took E in February 92. It was with his estranged wife, and it was the best experience of his life, spent in passionate kissing but without an erection. As he has high blood pressure, a friend monitored him the first time, and subsequently he has monitored his own blood pressure when using MDMA and found the increase was not excessive.
Mr Shertz told me he is an established artist with work in 40 museums and is known for his well-established style. However, after taking Ecstasy he made a breakthrough - his good, strict realistic style became fluid and abstract. He has never painted on Ecstasy, and does not directly attribute the change to its influence, although his artist friend Daniel Kaufman does. However, he has written poetry which he claims was greatly inspired by the drug.
- 134 Interview with Dr. Smith, a licensed psychotherapist
- Dr. Smith is a pseudonym for a well-established and experienced Californian therapist with a private practice.
Dr. Smith is one of those psychotherapists who believe that MDMA is such a valuable tool that they are prepared to take the enormous risk of being prosecuted and of losing their licenses by administering MDMA to clients. However, MDMA often takes the therapy onto a deeper level, so its use may prolong rather than shorten treatment.
He believes that E is an ideal tool as an aid to psychotherapy in a wide area, and if it were illegal he would use it more widely. It can be used as a spiritual awareness tool, and in fact he sometimes meditates and breathes on low doses, or before the drug has taken full effect. MDMA is also an ideal tool for couples, simply by allowing them to talk. As it is, with the risk of being informed on and struck off the register, he uses it only with clients who he completely trusts and have no serious problems, such as towards the end of a long series of sessions.
Not all clients are suitable for treatment using MDMA. Suitable people should have a strong sense of themselves and a strong spiritual sense. Out of 35 clients treated, one reacted in a negative way, seeing herself and her surroundings (which was her home) as dirty and ugly. He is now far more careful in selecting clients for MDMA sessions, as he believes that there are a small proportion of people who may react badly. However, it was a matter of mis-diagnosis, as the client's neurosis was not obviously apparent.
Neurotic people are not helped by being opened up by MDMA, he believes, because their base problem is that they do not believe in themselves which is the cause of their defensiveness: to open up by the use of MDMA adds to this problem. For them, it is safer to remain defended as it feels so alien to be opened up that they may deny that the experience is real. This may result in them forgetting the experience a way of avoiding the threat of being undefended, and they may deny to others and themselves that they were ever opened up by the drug. To help remind them, Dr. Smith records their session on tape which he gives to them afterwards, and sometimes uses photos.
Dr. Smith also believes the dose is important, and that body weight must be taken into account, 2 mg per Kg being about right. [He used to use 3 mg/Kg plus a booster of 1 mg/Kg. The 'normal' therapeutic dose is 2.5 mg/Kg.] If the dose is too strong, some people become scared and fight off instead of yielding to the effect, whereas too weak a dose may not overcome their defensiveness.
Dr. Smith has experimented with a wide range of doses on himself. He does not find that high doses produce speedy effects, and thinks such effects may be due to impurities. But on high doses his "mind runs away, becomes too busy, and is unable to hold onto thoughts".
While administering MDMA to a client, Dr. Smith prefers to take a light dose such as 50 mg MDMA, or better still, 6-8 mg 2CB (he weighs about 50 kg). This makes it easier to join in and stay with the client. He prefers a non-clinical setting such as in the client's home with music and sometimes earplugs.
Dr. Smith, who is a neo-Reichian, starts by asking the client to identify what the agenda is for the session. He may then begins with evocative music or perhaps simple drumming, and may ask his client to breathe deeply with his hand on their belly. Sometimes the clients use earplugsand eye shades. He encourages them to tell him what is happening, and reminds them if they wander from their agenda but without condemning it, as he believes that clients tend to "go where it is rich for them" - ie, tend to get involved in whatever is their most important issue. This may not have been anticipated, as for instance someone focusing on a superficial issue may see a deeper one. For example, one client suddenly remembered being raped as a child. Towards the end of a session, Dr. Smith uses an anchoring technique borrowed from NLP: he asks the client to go over what happened and to relive the highlights with the intention of holding onto them. At the same time, he asks the client to squeeze together their finger and thumb, with the idea that this physical action will help them to remember the experience at a later date. He always holds a normal session soon after an MDMA session to integrate what was learned.
The primary effect of MDMA is to lift anxiety, but it is important to accept that it plays an important role in life and can't simply be dismissed. He sees anxiety as fear neurosis which produces defensiveness which can be useful in some situations, but can be an obstacle in others. Dr. Smith suggests his clients to "respect your anxieties but ask them to stand aside ready to be called upon when needed."
Asked whether he believes in self therapy using MDMA on one's own, Dr. Smith replied that this only works for people without serious neuroses who are pretty good at self direction, otherwise the session is likely to be wasted. It is also important to establish a clear sense of direction before a self-session, and one way is to use the I Ching. The advantage of a guide is to interact and to bring one back to the issue rather than allowing the mind to wander. However, the helper need not be a fully qualified psychotherapist as most of the skill required is instinct.
Dr. Smith is a specialist in sexual problems. He uses imagery (sometimes with hypnotic trance) such as sap flowing with women who have difficulty achieving orgasm, and to treat pre-ejaculation the image of a bow being slowly pulled back.
I asked Dr. Smith whether he thought that MDMA would become acceptable in therapy. He doubted it would be as freely prescribable as he would like in his lifetime, but thought that its acceptance would start with well defined hospital programs.
Asked about possible problems due to inappropriate bonding, he said it had never happened in his experience. If at all, it seemed to him more likely that the therapist would fall in love with clients since they become so attractive.
Exhaustion depends on the dose and also the amount of emotional work done. To reduce fatigue he avoids secondary doses, gives 20 mg Prozac at the end of a session, and he also recommends calcium and magnesium. At the end of a session he encourages clients to eat simple food such as soup, bread and sweet tea.
Asked if he thought the E experience may be false sometimes, he said it could sometimes be 'tunnel vision' but was always true. However, ways of relating on E may not be appropriate in the real world and insights have to be tested to be of any value.
- 135 Interview with Dr. Debby Harlow, 30/10/93
- As newly qualified psychologists, Dr. Harlow and a friend first tried MDMA at a conference at Esalen when it was still legal. They were both amazed by the clear view that it gave them of their own psychology and by how easy it was to express to one another what they saw. They talked enthusiastically about its potential as a therapeutic catalyst. In later practice, until it was made illegal, she administered MDMA to over 200 clients without any bad reactions whatsoever, though she did screen out 'borderline' cases, ie people without clear boundaries between reality and imagination or those having fantasies about the therapist. Most of her clients were 'normal' people, those who could manage a normal life but wanted to 'grow'. Another licensed psychotherapist who started using MDMA with clients in the early 80s became disillusioned by his role as a therapist, believing it was the MDMA alone that benefited clients. He followed his conscience by becoming a dealer, selling MDMA and explaining how to use it as a better alternative to psychotherapy.
Dr. Harlow was involved in the movement to try to prevent MDMA being made illegal.
She undertook research into MDMA at the university of Cambridge (USA), though eventually that was curtailed by the change in the law. Some of her research involved using the Rorsach ink-blot test. Volunteers' cognitive aspects remained the same with the exception that some subjects spontaneously made connections between images seen on the ink blots and their own self, demonstrating a unique quality of the drug. For example, a subject saw an image as "Father about to hit me when he was drunk", bringing back a forgotten memory. By contrast, on hallucinogens this test shows very different cognitive aspects.
Dr. Harlow also did work with Jerry Beck for NIDA on the use of MDMA in a wider context.
Dr. Harlow suspects that excessive use of MDMA suppresses the immune system.
She is critical of the neo-Reichian use of MDMA because of its analgesic properties, and thinks that 2CB is much better for body work it does not suppress pain.
She sees the best use of MDMA for "re-patterning dysfunctional object relationships" - usually transferring one's childhood relationship with parents to others later in life. Examples are 'having to please' in relationships, or having to revolt against others in order to define oneself.
Asked what she thought about self therapy using MDMA, Dr. Harlow believes that a helper is essential to accept, listen, acknowledge and give the support of unconditional love to the client, but not to control the session. It is easier to emphasise if the helper is also on MDMA, but it is not necessary. She suggests that MDMA could well be used in co-counselling-type sessions, where two people take turns at being therapist and client. Another use of MDMA is as a 'gateway' drug to psychedelics, as it clears up fear problems.
She feels very sad that the benefits of MDMA have been lost by prohibition.
- 136 Interview with Martye Kent, 1/11/93
- Martye's first experience with MDMA was in 1982 when she went on a spiritual journey to an ancient Inca monument. She took the MDMA in a shrine where she meditated for 4 hours on her own. When she came out she felt everything was "holy ordinary", and was guided by an inner voice that directed her to discover an ancient pre-Inca statuette and made her aware that a huge snake she encountered was not hungry. She was also able to converse with Indians without any common language. Later she told the story to a priest who said that her description was that of being in a 'state of grace'. She attributes the experience to being without fear thus allowing intuition to flourish without needing to justify her insights. The event taught her to trust her intuition, and was a spiritual opening.
In 1985 she met Masaius who she considered a genius, being an Egyptologist, a mathematician and also an astrologer. He combined his talents to work out a spiritual path which he called The Lion Path, a system designed to activate each person to their highest level. "Originally, MDMA played a part by holding the gates open to the other worlds and raising the energy to help penetrate the delusions of everyday life".
Masaius believes that there have been 'open' periods in history at regular intervals, the last being the renaissance, when there is the opportunity for spiritual growth. The present open period is what some others regard as the New Age, and in March 1994.
Masaius claims he has interpreted hieroglyphics on 3 benches inside the tomb of Tutenkamen, and that they refer to 3 levels of consciousness. One is the everyday level, the next that experienced in altered states such as on psychedelics while the third is that achieved while following a practice such as The Lion Path. It is this state which is desirable for spiritual growth.
Using astrology, Masaius determines a series of dates for each individual, on lines similar to numerology, to coincide with planetary configurations. He chooses dates to match each individual's openness to that of the world, and it is on these particular dates that they should meditate in solitude. Originally, MDMA was used to facilitate the sessions, but since its prohibition Masaius supplies tones and vibrations on cassettes as a substitute. For the first 7 months meditations are about every 3 weeks and from then on every 4 months for the next 4 years. The doses of MDMA were specified, rising and falling in rhythm; reaching a peak of 150 mg and then reducing to a final dose of 25 mg. By this time the pattern should have become habitual to the point that the state can be achieved without drugs. Before each meditation participants fast and decide on their intention for the session - which may consist of a personal aim or acquainting oneself with the character of the ruling astrological power - lying down with eyes closed and "allowing the universal force to penetrate". This sets the pattern for individual spiritual growth "within a cosmic egg". There is no other dogma, and participants do not meet. However, Martye has organized meetings for participants and to teach new people the method (which has met with disapproval from Masaius). She found that, though each person reported positive changes, the benefits varied enormously. It seemed as though the method caused each person to develop differently and to flower as an individual, though it was definitely a spiritual path.
Recently Masaius has denied that he suggests the use of MDMA, though according to Martye he used to be open about it. In the book I was shown, numbers were shown without explanation that Martye said referred to doses of MDMA in mg.
Martye feels enormous benefit from following The Lion Path. She feels more alive, purposeful and able to resolve things.
- 137 Phone conversation with Dr. George Ricaurte, 16/11/93
- Dr. Ricaurte's paper on the 5 year trial comparing 30 MDMA users with controls has been accepted for publication provided he can show that his subjects were telling the truth, and list other drugs they were using. I asked whether the toxicity he found may also be caused by fluoxetine. He replied that the differences in action far outweighed the similarities - though they both lowered levels of serotonin, fluoxetine blocks its re-uptake rather than reducing its production. The only specific similarity is the long-term reduction in serotonin.
I also asked about fenfluramine. Dr. Ricaurte said that some brands consist of a mixture of isomers, one of which is believed to have similar toxicity to MDMA and another less toxic. The Lancet published an article about this toxicity and then published letters defending the supposedly toxic brand. Dr. Ricaurte believes the defensive letters were from people who have connections with the manufacturers.
- 138 Meeting with Clive, 1/11/93
- Clive is a Californian part-time dealer who sells at raves. He says there has been a shortage of Ecstasy, and that as a result 2CB has been used instead even for dancing. Though he finds it less good for dancing, he regards it as more profound and sees it as a stepping stone for E users into the world of psychedelics.
When in Taiwan experienced seeing work-stressed girls simply falling asleep as the E gave them a break from constant tension.
- 139 Interview with John, a dealer in California, 11/93
- John is an E enthusiast and also a dealer, visiting his clients every few weeks. He is also a musician.
I asked him if he ever played on E and he said that he has tried but couldn't provide the necessary discipline - except for this it would be ideal as creativity is improved and it allows one to be in touch without the fear that normally makes one censure free expression - "If you are trying, then you're not where its at". He finds E good for playing drums, but 2CB much better for playing music.
John supplies some of the well-known names in Hollywood, and says that demand has doubled over the past year. He believes this is not due to a shortage but simply E is spreading to a wider clientele. As an example, he mentioned a well-known film director whose latest film had been trashed by the media and whose wife had been ousted from a charity she had founded. They were both devastated when John visited them, but a few days later phoned him to say that their Ecstasy trip had put everything in perspective and restored their self esteem, a change which lasted.
John's sister in her late 40s was dumped by her husband who she had been very dependant on, having no social life of her own. John and her had not been close before, but he persuaded her to spend a day with him on E although she had never before taken a psychoactive drug apart from alcohol. It was an amazing day of exchange of heartfelt feelings between them, going back over events in their lives and establishing that they really did care for one another, which gave his sister confidence that she was not completely alone.
As a Father's Day treat, John chose to spend the day with his wife and two grownup children on Ecstasy. It was a delightful reunion, reestablishing the family's closeness and intimacy.
- 140 Interview with Jonathan in San Francisco, 2/11/93
- Although used to good experiences on E, Jonathan once had a paranoid experience on two capsules marked 70 mg, a higher dose than previously, but according to his friends the quality was good. He had been invited to a party where there was Ecstasy for people to help themselves to, and a friend he had brought with him had taken several Es for later use. Jonathan felt that the host hated him for bringing someone who had taken advantage of his hospitality. Jonathan felt he could not only read the host's mind, but that the host could read his and see all of his weaknesses, and was taking advantage of this ability to torment him by a kind of psychic torture. Jonathan had no doubts about the validity of his experience until he met the host some time later when he appeared not to even remember the occasion.
- 141 Visit from Stuart Frescas of Purdue University, 11/1/94
- Frescas is one of a team of 13 scientists who have been working under Dr. David Nicholls at Purdue University since the early seventies. Their work is backed by the US government health department and is devoted to understanding the human mind through the effect of psychoactive drugs. They not only test the effect of existing drugs but also synthesize new drugs for this purpose, and in this context have produced a psychedelic many times more potent than LSD besides drugs with very specific effects such as one that lowers pitch of notes by a precise amount.
Unlike Shulgin, they do not test new drugs on humans but use rats that have been trained to distinguish between various drugs - this is the established technique but is slow, expensive and does not show up subtleties such as the 'warmth' of MDMA. One of the team's major projects is to develop a new assay for psychoactive drugs based on electrodes planted in several specific regions of rats' brains. Computers will analyse information transmitted by the electrodes to produce comparable charts, allowing the effects of drugs to be compared objectively. This assay should provide a reliable way of assessing the psychoactive effects of a new drug by comparing its chart with those of drugs with known effects. This, along with new techniques of synthesis, is one of many developments that is likely to lead to the discovery of new psychoactive drugs.
A range of drugs act on both Dopamine and Serotonin in varying proportions. At the dopamine (speedy) end is Methamphetamine; then comes the Indan Amphetamines; then MDA, MDEA and MDMA and finally MBDB at the (warm) serotonin end. However, Frescas is intrigued by the empathy associated with MDMA, and thinks there is more to it than the known effects on serotonin and dopamine. He believes this subtle quality is also produced by Mescaline, which would explain why it is used in Peyote ceremonies. The similarity is confirmed by tests on rats that will substitute Mescaline for MDMA but not other psychedelics. While these two drugs 'close the gap' between people, the opposite is true of other psychedelics.
Frescas believes the effects of psychoactive drugs vary greatly according to the situation in which they are used, and quotes Dr. Nicholls as saying that in some situations, such as while dancing, users may not notice the difference between MDMA and methamphetamine. The full subtle effects of MDMA (and other drugs) can be best experienced when taken in isolation from external stimulus.
However, he says there is a possibility that LSD varies according to its 'brand'. This is because LSD decomposes into different active compounds in heat, air and light (in a few hours near a fluorescent tube). Thus "window pane" acid is protected from air but not light while blotters kept in the dark are protected from light but not air and so, after storage, may contain different active compounds.
Research done on monkeys, he believes, may have produced misleading results. They fight to avoid being injected, have to be chained to a chair and hate the researcher. In this restrained state they may well prefer the relaxation produced by MDMA, but this should not be interpreted as evidence of abuse potential (as it has been).
Toxicity. In animals, the axions (that produce serotonin) of some brain cells wilt and die back with high doses of MDMA. Although they regenerate, they appear to be more coarse than before, and this may be considered as permanent damage. Fenfluramine has almost precisely the same effect. However, no damage to brain functions has been observed associated with the damage to axions. Similar damage is also caused by methamphetamine, and Dr. Frescas is concerned that the use of MDMA together with methamphetamine may increase the toxicity to a dangerous level. He thinks the best hope of avoiding toxicity is to find a more potent substitute, since a smaller dose would be required. He doubts whether fluoxetine really has no effect on the MDMA experience (as has been claimed), and if taken afterwards thinks it would only prevent part of the toxicity.
Sex. Dr. Frescas mentioned that there has been much commercial research into trying to find a drug that will help people have satisfying sexual experiences, but without success. He thinks that good sex is the result of many components of which MDMA provides one and 2CB another.
Asked his opinion on reports that 1 in 12 Ecstasy users are at risk due to a genetic susceptibility, Dr. Frescas says these people would probably be aware of their sensitivity to amphetamine and non-prescription drugs such as Contac (for colds) and Sudafed, which would make them sleepless and agitated. Sensitive people should take smaller doses.
Dr. Frescas also mentioned that black current juice is a MAO inhibitor, and when one bottle (diluted) is drunk with MDMA or amphetamine the effect can be felt with increased blood pressure and heart rate. It should therefore be avoided.
- 142 Faxes from Rick Doblin
- The Russian research project has been postponed indefinitely. The researcher, Dr. Krupitsky, says that everything is unpredictable in Russia at present, and gracefully agreed that the funds for his project should be used for the Nicaraguan research.
Nicaraguan research project status as at 2/94. David Nicholls has applied for an export license for the MDMA and the Nicaraguan ministry is expected to give official approval soon. More top people have offered to support the project, the latest being Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a world expert in PTSD research. Sylvia Garma of the SF veterans administration, is interested in helping with PTSD throughout South America, has offered help. Rick's contact in the DEA was at first negative but eventually expressed support for the project on the grounds that it would end criticism that the DEA was blocking research into MDMA.
Prozac. "It seems that about a third of MDMA-using Prozac users report absent or diminished response to MDMA".
Telepathy. Rick once took E at a party away from home and at about 3am closed his eyes and used the emotional clarity of the E state to review his past relationships with lovers. On returning to his hotel, he found a telephone message: an ex-lover who he had not seen for 3 years, though not one he had dwelled on, had been woken by such a powerful dream about Rick at 3am that she had felt compelled to trace him even though that meant waking people up to find where he was staying.
- 143 Letter from George Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins University, 23/11/93
- "As to your question of whether lower levels of serotonin in and of themselves can be considered "damage", I would say that in addition to low levels of serotonin, MDMA produces loss of several other markers for serotonin neurons. In particular, MDMA induces a loss of serotonin uptake sites, the serotonin metabolite (5-HIA), and tryptophan hydroxylase (the rate limiting enzyme in the synthesis of serotonin). This constellation of neurochemical deficits, in conjunction with morphological evidence of serotonin neuronal damage, strongly suggests that MDMA and related drugs are indeed neurotoxic."
- 144 Letter and manuscript from Myron Stolaroff 1/94
- Since the early sixties, Myron Stolaroff has been involved with research into developing uses for psychedelics. He has published a number of papers on psychedelics including their effects on values, personality and behaviour; creative problem solving and therapeutic effects. Now in his seventies, he is still actively involved and has just completed a book Thanatos to Eros: Thirty-five Years of Psychedelic Exploration, and enclosed his draft chapter on MDMA.
"I am personally committed to promoting proper understanding and application of psychedelic substances."
From the manuscript chapter on MDMA: ". . . psychedelics are priceless substances. But MDMA stands out as especially unique, with outstanding characteristics exclusively its own. The most fitting description that I can give is that it is an outstanding Grace."
"The aftermath of MDMA was not the same as with established psychedelics such as LSD and Mescaline, which most often leave the body quite cleansed and rejuvenated. . . If one's psyche is relatively clear, the descent is quite euphoric, and the remainder of the day is spent in a very satisfying state of contentment. However, if there is unresolved material in the unconscious that did not get dealt with completely, the drop in the action of the drug seems quite sudden, and one is left physically uncomfortable and somewhat unsettled.
"To counteract this we thought, why not supplement with another, more powerful, psychedelic substance. This turned out to be a splendid idea. I particularly liked it, because what made the beginning of my explorations [with true psychedelics such as LSD] uncomfortable was the negative karma I had accumulated, which had to be expiated before I could thoroughly enjoy the experience. Now I could dispose of this with MDMA, which occurred, I felt, automatically and very pleasantly [enabling me] to soar into fresh spaces free of my usual psychic load.
"This worked so well that I embarked on a study to prove that every good psychedelic was better if first preceded by MDMA." Mr. Stolaroff and his wife Jean confirmed that LSD, 2CB, MEM, and 2-CT-2 were enhanced by MDMA. The psychedelics were either taken in place of a supplementary dose of MDMA (i.e. about 2 hours after the initial dose) or an hour or two after a supplement of MDMA.
Some MDMA experiences are described involving themselves and others. Old resentments towards an elder brother who used to bully were resolved on one occasion; on another a singer who was run down with a raspy throat was able to relax and sing perfectly.
Though most appreciated for communication, Mr. Stolaroff found that quiet leads to an experience far more like LSD. "It became clear that once one became proficient at utilizing a substance . . . it can be directed in other useful ways."
A technique called Focusing (from a book called Focusing by Eugene Gendlin) is described as "one of the most effective means I know to contact and release hidden feelings, and particularly to relieve body stress". Having chosen a feeling to examine, the technique is to alternate experiencing the feeling without resisting, with finding an appropriate 'handle' to describe the feeling such as a word or phrase. In the example given, a woman listens to her body and 'handles' suggest themselves such as 'tired', 'unlistened to' and 'pushed around.'
Another technique Mr. Stolaroff describes is to "find a place in the body that feels good, and to focus on increasing the good feeling". Later he discovers that it doesn't matter what he is focusing on as long as it is worthwhile: holding the mind steadily focused encourages the bliss inside to grow continually. In a letter he adds, "Subsequent experience has taught me that training in holding the mind perfectly still facilitates apprehending other levels of reality with their accompanying euphoria". The chapter ends: "Becoming familiar with the full range of possibilities offered by this exceptional compound would make it hard to deny that it is one of life's remarkable graces."
See also reference 46, Using psychedelics wisely.
- 145 The Times, 14/2/94
- Under the heading "Drug culture grips heart of England", a full-page article claims that staff reporters visited several "ancient shires" and found drug use as widespread as in the cities. In villages, users order drugs to be delivered from phone boxes "almost like dialling a pizza" and pub landlords are quoted as saying they are unable to stop drug use unless they smell it. Rural Lincolnshire is now at the top of the list for drug seizures per head of population, and the only reason why inner cities usually come top of the list is "because drug squads aren't so likely to operate in rural areas". The drugs most often used were cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms, amphetamine sulphate and Ecstasy. A government survey in rural East Sussex found that 20% of 14-15 year-olds had tried an illicit drug, about the same proportion as in cities.
- 146 Attend rave organised by Club Together, 12/2/94
- Club Together is one of several private clubs that organise raves. Every month or two, a circular is sent out to members offering tickets for #10. I was told that the club was run by and for more mature ravers who were professionals, and was introduced to an architect, a computer animator, a conference organiser and a lawyer. Nearly all the 500 or so people were white, dressed as for a cocktail party and aged from about 25 to 35. The atmosphere was much like an office party with most people knowing one another. The event I attended was in a photographic studio which was more comfortable and better decorated than the usual warehouse venues, and was efficiently organised. It got going at midnight and carried on through the night.
Although I was told that 95% would be on E, it looked to us more like 20% showing obvious signs of E behaviour, with the great majority drinking beer (and a surprisingly large proportion smoking cigarettes). However, there were also quite a lot who drank alcohol and took E simultaneously. Behaviour was a blend of that associated with alcohol and E - chatting up and flirting but without aggressive behaviour with blissed out dancers and huggers completely accepted. However, the atmosphere was not conducive to create the magic group experience, nor was there any response between dancers and DJ.
- 147 Phone call to Health Development Club (+44 594 844 991), 14/2/94
- This company sells various remedies by mail order including Prozac. They tell me that under Section 13 of the Medicines Act, they are able to import prescription drugs legally from another EC country. The procedure is to send a cheque to their Welsh branch made out to their Irish branch when the drugs will be sent to you from France. Their price for 28 Prozac is #46.50.
- 148 Sunday Times 13/2/94
- Article about Prozac quotes psychologist: "Prozac makes people see reality more clearly. It is not a happy pill, but it does for people's emotions and feelings what glasses do for people with blurry vision".
- 149 Letter from Kay Thompson on The Lion Path 12/1/94
- "The sessions are a sacred ceremony of one's own higher growth and regeneration - a form of time surfing. The sessions build up and resonate with preceding and following sessions. All the powers that have been lying dormant within us, become activated and purified. By remaining open to love and trust, we can overcome limitations and receive aid to transform ourselves. . . The post-session interval then provides the opportunity to fill out and embody this higher destiny"
- 150 Ulster, from San Francisco Chronicle 26/10/94
- "At the warehouse doors, noone asks your religion. . . The raves are the last meeting ground for the children of Catholic and Protestant violence. . . We've never known anything but hatred. . . It's always the same: them over on one side, you on the other, except at raves."