Sunday, February 20, 2011

Researchers: Ecstasy might not immediately rot your brain.

You've probably seen the articles by now - after all, once it hits The Huffington Post, it's all over. It turns out that Ecstasy, preferred party favor for a generation of pacifier-sucking, glowstick-waving ravers, might not be the serotonin-blasting horror that we've been led to believe.

Polite society isn't sure what to make of this. The Guardian's headline neatly sums up the dubious public reaction - "Ecstasy does not wreck the mind, study claims." Panicked straight-laced people from coast to coast envision shambling troops of body-painted X-heads, dancing to techno music and stealing their high schoolers and buying up all the available turntables and disco balls. The problem with hysterical anti-drug propaganda is that it makes people hysterical. That, and when the propaganda is found to be overblown and untrue, no one knows what to believe any more.

So, does any of this matter to those of us who have no interest in dropping X and partying all night? Should we care?

Trauma survivors certainly might care. There is a mounting pile of research showing dramatic decreases in symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder when MDMA is administered in a controlled therapy environment. A study published last summer in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported that over 80% of patients found significant relief from PTSD symptoms after a combination of therapy and ecstasy.

Research into the psychotherapeutic effects of various "recreational" drugs has been going on for years. Dapper movie star Cary Grant took more than 60 hits of LSD in the 1950s in the interest of science. The research often falls out of favor due to rhetoric, and emerges again as science prevails. Only time will tell if this is the case with MDMA research.

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