Video: Ecstasy as medicine

updated 5/12/2005 7:52:59 PM ET 2005-05-12T23:52:59
TRANSCRIPT

It’s been more than 20 years since the government banned the club drug known as ecstasy.  Now, it’s on the verge of becoming mainstream. 

In December, the FAA green-lighted a little-known proposal to use ecstasy in therapy.  Now, several clinics across America hope to use ecstasy for soldiers who come back from Iraq and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  But critics of the treatment say it’s an attempt to legalize a very dangerous drug. 

Dr. Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, a group that supports ecstasy use for therapy, and Dr. Eric Braverman, the director of PATH Medical and also the author of “Edge Effect,” join Scarborough Country to discuss the physical and social impact of this proposed remedy.

SCARBOROUGH: I want to start and read a statement on ecstasy from the National Institute of Drug Abuse just to set this up.  It says: “Using ecstasy can cause serious psychological and physical damage.  Ecstasy use can cause hypothermia, muscle breakdown, seizures, stroke, kidney and cardiovascular system failure and may lead to death.”

I have just got to ask a question.  What in the world, Rick, could be positive about using ecstasy, if it causes all of these problems? 

RICK DOBLIN, MAPS FOUNDER:  Well, it doesn’t cause those problems when it‘s given in a therapeutic setting.  That’s the key distinction that we need to make. 

It’s the relationship that people have with the drugs that matters.  When it’s used in a recreational setting, it’s different than when used in a therapy setting.  MDMA was used therapeutically from the middle ‘70s to the early ‘80s.  And it leaked out of that into recreational use, and it got called ecstasy.  But, before that, it was used without problem in therapy settings.  And in the clinical settings that we’re using now, we are getting tremendous results.  It’s really helping people.  The risks that you talked about...

SCARBOROUGH:  How is it helping them? 

DOBLIN: It helps people to work through difficult emotions.  It’s the opposite of ecstasy.
For people that have been traumatized, for soldiers coming back from Iraq, it helps them to work through the pain and the suffering that they have been through that’s too difficult for them otherwise.  They are stuck.  They are stalled.  They can’t release the emotions.  MDMA helps them to open up.  And it’s lasting.  MDMA is only given a few times.  It‘s not a daily drug.  It‘s not given like Prozac or Zoloft on a daily basis for months or years.

And it’s not really MDMA.  It’s MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.  It’s the combination of the therapy and the drug that permits people to make these breakthroughs that they have been unable to make before.  And it‘s lasting.  That‘s what our long-term follow-ups are showing. 
SCARBOROUGH:  Eric Braverman, we are not talking about what happens with people that take it, then go to these raves.  But what about using it therapeutically, using it in limited clinical settings? 

DR. ERIC BRAVERMAN, PATH MEDICAL:  The drug is mislabeled.  It’s not ecstasy.  It’s misery. 

BRAVERMAN:  I have been in medicine for 30 years and I have seen kids with permanent psychosis, hallucinations, manic-depressive illness, schizophrenia-like illnesses.  There’s always the possibility that even one use can damage a brain, let alone lead to fatality, heart disease, heart attack, hepatitis, every system in the body. 

This drug is like peddling brain damage.  And it will not work effectively for long.  Sooner or later, he will get into trouble.  And what he’s seeing can be seen by other medications.  In fact, his own article in 1987 showed testicular shrinkage and side effects of all types, in dogs circling and having problems. 

DOBLIN: That’s ridiculous.  That’s absolutely ridiculous.  In fact, in the therapy settings that we’re using it in, you need to be basing your comments on data.  There’s been over 250 people that have taken MDMA in clinical research all over the world, without death, without fatalities, without any kind of these long-term neurological problems, without any really significant problems.  So, MDMA, in a clinical setting, we need to have honest drug education and focus on real risks and real benefits. 

BRAVERMAN:  They said the same thing about LSD experiments.  I worked for Dr. Pfeiffer, who served the government doing LSD experiments, who later had to retract and apologize, because side effects showed up five and 10 years later.  There is no clinical data.  Major psychiatric textbooks disagree with you.  There are thousands of articles showing side effects.  And it is a complete lie. 

The reality is, the drug experimentation of the ‘60s is the dementia of our millennium and that people who have used drugs in the past have led to more brain dysfunction, memory loss, executive function problems, and a whole host of problems medically.  And this will lead to nowhere. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, Dr. Eric Braverman.  Thank you, Rick Doblin.  If that‘s the case, if the doctor is right, then it could be the Kool-Aid acid test of the 21st Century.  We will just have to wait and see. 

'Scarborough Country' airs weeknights, 10 p.m. ET

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