'Ecstasy' For Agony

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jul 21, 2001.

  1. By Linda Marsa
    Source: New York Post

    Sue Stevens was severely depressed after her young husband, Shane, succumbed to kidney cancer in 1999. She took large doses of numbing antidepressants to get through the day.
    Then, last fall, the 32-year-old Chicago woman chose a more radical approach. She traveled to the West to see a psychologist whom she had learned was prescribing the illegal drug "ecstasy" for a handful of patients suffering from severe trauma.

    In a single session, under the influence of ecstasy - a drug that combines the effects of a psychedelic and an amphetamine - she said she was finally able to come to grips with her grief.

    "Somehow, I knew Shane was no longer hurting, which made it possible for me to let go," said Stevens, who hasn't taken any antidepressants since.

    "It was like a wire that was disconnected got reattached and jump-started the healing process. Even if this feeling was just an effect of the drug, it's what I needed to do to move forward."

    Anecdotal reports from other mental-health professionals suggest similar results from ecstasy, said Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit group in Boston that funds psychedelic research.

    "There's a whole network of 30 to 40 people around the country - some are psychiatrists, some are psychologists - who risk their licenses to use MDMA [the chemical name for ecstasy] with their patients," he said.

    Lester Grinspoon, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has studied psychedelics but is not among the therapists prescribing ecstasy to patients, said the synthetic drug can "greatly accelerate" the therapeutic process.

    "It enhances one's capacity for insight and empathy, and melts away the layers of defensiveness and anxiety that impede treatment," he said. "In one session, people can get past hang-ups that take six months of therapy to untangle."

    Other doctors, however, contend that MDMA is too dangerous to justify its use for any therapeutic purpose.

    "There's no scientific evidence that MDMA is beneficial. It's all anecdotal," said Dr. George Ricaurte, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. Giving patients even one dose of ecstasy, he believes, is unethical because of its potential to harm.

    The intense, but largely unknown, scientific debate over MDMA's possible pyschotherapeutic use has been overshadowed by the recent storm of publicity about the health risks of the drug. The news is filled with horror stories of kids overdosing on ecstasy at all-night parties, of machine-gun shootouts over ecstasy deals gone bad and of disturbing surveys that show it is the fastest-growing illegal drug in America.

    Fueling concern over ecstasy's safety has been a growing number of studies that suggest it may alter the brain, impair memory and concentration, dull one's intelligence, and cause chronic depression and anxiety. That has led Alan Leshner, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, to distribute thousands of postcards with images of brain scans labeled "Plain Brain/Brain After Ecstasy."

    Yet some credible researchers insist ecstasy may be a valuable therapeutic tool when used with professional oversight. They contend critics have exaggerated the drug's dangers, using weak science to bolster their arguments.

    "The issue has become so politicized that it's impossible to get a fair, objective hearing," said Dr. Charles Grob, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.

    Grob helped conduct government-sanctioned tests of MDMA on humans in 1995.

    There is one thing, though, on which both supporters and critics of ecstasy can agree: The recreational use of the drug is dangerous. Some people take multiple doses of ecstasy, and the drug is often adulterated with other substances to create a potentially toxic mixture. And ecstasy is often taken with other illegal drugs in crowded, overheated dance clubs, where users can become severely dehydrated. Los Angeles Times

    Source: New York Post (NY)
    Author: Linda Marsa
    Published: July 21, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc.
    Contact: letters@nypost.com
    Website: http://nypostonline.com/

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