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A few weeks ago, DailyKos superstar Meteor Blades posted a diary encouraging everyone to share their personal stories. Tell us what you're doing, he said. That diary was a reminder to me that we need to keep working for change, especially when it seems like no progress is being made, and that we need to let others know, because together we are stronger as a community than as individuals. So in response to Meteor Blades and all the other diarists here whose work I admire, here is what I'm doing. I am working on a low-cost novel treatment for PTSD & mental health disorders using medicinal MDMA - the drug known as ecstasy.

In order to understand exactly what I'm doing here, a little backstory is in order. First, I am studying to be a doctor. I am going to school in San Francisco, taking pre-requisite science coursework, and I plan to apply to graduate schools next year. The coursework is challenging, much more so than what I experienced as an undergrad in the social sciences, but it has its own rewards. Previously, I was planning on being a lawyer, and I am much more optimistic about a future in medicine or science, because that is where all the progress is being made in transforming the world. So that is my number one goal at the moment, and the primary focus of my time and energy. It's also the reason I was volunteering in a research lab where I learned about some very exciting current research into psychedelic compounds.


Now, here's what I'm doing - MEDICINAL MDMA. I have chosen the task of making MDMA available as a government approved prescription medication.  It's a very interesting topic with medical, humanitarian, and economic relevance. Recently, there's been a lot of scientific interest in the drug known as ecstasy. It's considered internationally by many researchers, including at Harvard Medical School, to be a promising treatment for mental health disorders like PTSD. The treatment involves medication + therapy. It's important to note that MDMA is not a magic bullet by itself. It is a medication that can powerfully assist psychotherapy sessions. For over five years now, scientific studies have been ongoing thanks in large part due to funding from an organization called MAPS who do a lot of very interesting work. Most importantly, the first Phase II clinical study has shown that that MDMA treatment can dramatically alleviate PTSD symptoms. The next couple years is going to be an exciting time, and I expect to see more Phase II and Phase III trials, which if successful, would lead to it's use as a medication.


"OH, MAN, I'M IMPRESSED," SAYS MARK WAGNER, a clinical psychologist on faculty at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, an expert in psychological testing and an independent evaluator conducting the before and after PTSD assessments in Mithoefer's study. "I didn't know much about the clinical use of MDMA before this," Wagner says, "But I've seen each and every one of these patients, and, just as a clinical psychologist, it is impressive to see the degree of treatment response these folks have had. There are a couple of areas in medicine, like hip replacement, where one day you are bedridden, and the next you're out playing tennis. Or with Lasik surgery, you're blind, and then you can see. Nothing in psychology is like that. But this was dramatic." THE PEACE DRUG, WASHINGTON POST

It seems to me that this is the medicine of the moment. It is a potential blockbuster mental health drug that is dearly-needed by millions who have suffered trauma, especially in recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are more likely to commit suicide than be killed in combat. It is also safe. There are side-effects, like any drug, but with proper medical supervision and planning the risk of harm can be minimized. If you're wondering whether MDMA causes brain damage, the answer is yes and no. It is true that high and repeated doses of MDMA cause brain damage. It's also true that the established therapeutic dose is low enough to be safe and not cause long-term brain changes. Given that we live in an era of soaring healthcare costs, it's important to note that this drug is practically free since the original patent has long expired. The problem is that it's currently a Schedule I drug, with no accepted medical use, and the DEA's schedules are not evidence-based, nor do they change lightly. So that's why we need movement and awareness on this issue.

Here's what I've done so far. I have made a website that is nice and clean, but it is a work in progress. I'm thinking of promoting it in public (Haight-Ashbury!), with the goals of information/awareness. Petitions and letter writing campaigns seem like good options. As for the future, I'm working on formal letters to President Obama, President Bush (since he's responsible for the PTSD mess), and potential allies in the government, and will publish them online when they're ready. Do I think this is going to be easy peasy lemon squeazy? No, I know it's going to be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. While it's not as tough as passing legislation in Congress, drug scheduling laws don't change overnight, but they will when enough people realize the government is denying the most effective PTSD treatment to vets. And while treating vets is the issue I'm leading this charge with, it's important to remember that this is just the beginning. Sergio Vieira de Mello said, “Never forget the real challenges and the real rewards are out there in the field, where people are suffering, where people need you.” There are vastly greater numbers of people out there in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been bombed, the victims of slaughter, who are suffering mental wounds that in some cases will never heal. The restoration of our nation and the uplifting of this world possible if we work together, and that's why I'm working on making MDMA not just an illegal recreational drug but a prescription medication. This is something I'm just beginning, and I'm not exactly sure what to do next. I'd be interested in hearing whatever your comments are, and whether you think this is something worth pursuing. Thanks!

More Information
The Ecstasy and the Agony
MDMA holds promise as part of a therapy that helps post-traumatic stress patients confront and extinguish their fears. But ecstasy’s recreational reputation has slowed research.

Originally posted to adaptive on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 02:37 PM PDT.

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