[Chapter 14][Appendix 2]
E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders
Appendix 1: Reference Section
This section is written from my notes made while researching the book. The
opinions and information are those expressed by the named sources, with the
result that some conflict. Inclusion does not imply that I have checked
that they are correct or that I have the same opinion. Where I have added
comments, these are within square brackets.
- 1 Report of US Army tests on MDMA, from Rick Doblin president of the Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in the U.S.
- In the 1950's, MDMA was one of the analogs of MDA that were given to
animals by the U.S. army at the Edgwood Arsenal, which was then
investigating drugs for use in chemical warfare. There is no evidence in
the public domain to indicate that MDMA, which was code named EA-1475
(Experimental Agent 1475), was ever given to humans or was tried as a truth
- 2 PIHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved); A Chemical Love Story (book), by Alexander and Ann Shulgin. Published by Transform Press (Berkeley USA) at $18.95. Available from Compendium Bookshop, London
Shulgin describes himself as the stepfather of MDMA if not the inventor. "I
made it in my lab [in 1965] and nibbled. It gave me a pleasant lightness of
spirit. That's all. No psychedelic effects whatsoever. . . Just a distinct
lightness of mood. And an indication to get busy and do things that needed
doing," he recounts. Shulgin gave MDMA to a psychologist on the verge of
retiring, who postponed his retirement and spent the next seven years
training several thousand people, mostly therapists, to use it. Several
methods of synthesising MDMA are given in detail.
The following is a review of PIHKAL that I wrote for the journal Social
Whether you approve or not, the widespread use of drugs that alter
consciousness has had a lasting effect on society - the sixties use of
psychedelics not only gave birth to new fashions in music and clothing, but
a change of values which resulted in today's concern with the environment
and personal development. Now it is said that football violence is being
replaced by a new culture, one where blows give way to hugs, due to the
drug Ecstasy. This book reveals the origin and motives for designing many
A giant chemical company takes on a brilliant young research chemist who
immediately invents a profitable new insecticide. The company rewards him
with his own lab and a free hand, but instead of further profitable
inventions they are embarrassed to find themselves patenting more and more
psychedelic drugs - including the infamous STP which had ravers raving
uncontrollably for days. The chemist quits just before being sacked and
sets up his own lab in a shed behind his house where he quietly carries on
synthesising more and more new mind-bending drugs - meanwhile making a
living (and no doubt earning immunity from prosecution) by working as a
consultant helping the police to convict drug dealers. This delicate
balance could be upset by his retirement, so before the authorities have a
chance to suppress his life's work he publishes every detail of how to make
hundreds of psychoactive drugs from available ingredients . . .
A far fetched plot? No, this is an autobiography of a man who, long before
the Sixties, was fascinated by the possibility of using
consciousness-changing chemicals as tools for the study of the mind and the
treatment of mental disorders. His company provides him with the equipment
complete with the means of testing the products: fighting fish whose
behaviour is supposed to alter on psychedelic drugs. But there are
problems: fish don't say when they are under the influence and, well, have
you ever seen a fish that doesn't look stoned? To ensure a clear view of
the fish, snails are brought in to keep the glass clean, but they invade
the laboratory . . . There's an easier way to find out the effect of a
drug: suck it and see.
In all, Alexander Shulgin describes the synthesis of 179 drugs and their
effects. He starts out by taking a minute dose himself which he gradually
increases until something happens, and if that is interesting without being
awful he tries it out on his wife and then on his research group. This
consists of about a dozen friends who meet about once a month for a weekend
house party, when they all take the same drug together and report on the
. . . It is now (0:00) hour of the experiment.
(0:50) Warmth in lower legs.
(1:10) Walked out to the highway for the mail.
(1:35) Warm all over. Effects developing nicely.
(1:50) Very real effect! Quite nice. No sense modality emphasised. Not yet,
(2:30) Sat outside and got the concrete bag to float above the ground for a
moment [this was a bag of Portland cement with a logo on it that showed a
bulging bicep]. Man on sack - Act of Power - but the act is not told, or it
would only be a Tale of Power. Or at best, a Tale of an Act of Power. An
Act cannot be saved, relived - only the Tale persists. The Act is past.
(2.33) How long does it take to assimilate an act? The act itself, an
augenblick [quick glance], is like a drug effect, in that to assimilate it
is to recall the wave of concepts that flooded over you. They must be
sifted, reconstructed, as best as can be done from memory. . .
Go through - don't just look through. Life is like a Tale of Power; to go
through is an Act of Power. . . I am being invaded with 'concepts' which
are coming too rapidly to write down. This is not a verbal material, ergo,
tales cannot be told. . .
(2.45) Theo came over to the lab, and for a few moments we discuss the
problems associated with vacuum pumps. It was a laborious exchange of words
when what was needed was an exchange of concepts. I knew immediately what I
wanted to impart, and was terribly impatient and not too sociable. . .
This makes fascinating reading and forms the core of the book, freely
written in the form of an autobiography. Then comes his wife's story,
delightfully written with her secret thoughts in italics, more concerned
with their relationship than drugs:
Shura was smiling, "Do I detect a bit of disappointment?"
"Oh, of course you detect disappointment. It would be nice to keep this
going for a lot longer."
"I'm glad it's been a good experience for you. Very glad."
He means it, he really is pleased. I wonder how much of the pleasure is
because he cares for me or because he believes this stuff is good and wants
it to be good for everyone. Maybe a bit of both. Doesn't matter.
Finally there are 500 pages of recipes telling precisely how to make the
drugs and what effect they have - which will disappoint any would-be DIY
drug maker as only a well equipped chemist could follow the instructions.
The fact that he has reached retiring age in one piece is testament to his
assertion that these types of drug are not physically addictive and only
temporarily alter the state of one's consciousness. He is fortunate: some
of the drugs mentioned have been available on the black market and have had
disastrous effects, even resulting in death. He may well be accused of
giving a dangerously unbalanced view by omitting to mention the known
damaging effects of the drugs.
The book is delightfully readable throughout - even in the chemical
synthesis section there are amusing asides such as that adding a certain
chemical group makes no difference to the effect of a drug and so would
enable pirate drug companies to get round patents. But the most
disappointing aspect is that a lifetime's devotion to finding new and
better psychedelics failed to produce the ultimate drug for
self-realisation or a cure for mental illness. And though the descriptions
of the drug effects are fascinating reminders of what many experienced in
the sixties, they fail to break new ground.
- 3 Ecstasy the gentle mind bender? by Nicholas Albery, The Guardian 10/88
The San Franciso psychotherapist Dr. Philip Wolfson is quoted: "If a
substance is desired by a human being, it is taboo to the psychiatric and
governmental bureaucrats." He believes in its potential for therapeutic
use: "No new clinical agent of importance has been placed in psychiatry's
hands since the introduction of haloperidol almost twenty years ago."
Albery also quotes the radical psychotherapist RD Laing as saying: "It made
me feel how all of us would like to feel anyway," and says that an
investigation into how MDMA acts toxically is being conducted by Dr. David
Nichols at Purdue University, Indiana.
- 4 Meetings at the Edge with Adam: A Man for All Seasons? by Philip Wolfson from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Vol. 18/4 1986
Wolfson introduces himself as an established psychotherapist who has been
passionately involved with people experiencing painful altered states of
consciousness for many years. He says that MDMA, when used as an adjunct to
psychotherapy, opens up new possibilities for treatment of such cases.
To demonstrate the usefulness and limitations of MDMA, he cites the example
of a man in his early fifties with a long-standing depression who saw
himself as emotionally incompetent. The man was married with an adult son
who suffered from severe paranoia, and the family spared no expense and
effort in seeking a cure. The son's paranoia brought up old, unresolved
differences between the parents, with the wife blaming her husband for
their son's condition; soon they were constantly at each other's throats.
At this point Wolfson decided to give MDMA to all three in order to lower
their defensiveness and encourage them to communicate frankly and be
sensitive to each other's feelings. This had a profound effect on the wife
and son, making them close again but, shortly afterwards, the son reacted
by distancing himself. After a second session the son felt he could see the
way out of his psychological illness, but in fact he got worse and was
hospitalised. The parents continued taking MDMA as part of ongoing
psychotherapy. There were periods full of the glow of hope, and the husband
had moments of relief from his depression, but these were interspersed by
disappointments as deeper problems between the couple surfaced. Overall,
Wolfson felt that gradual but definite progress had been made in
unravelling the problems of all three. Nevertheless, the man came to the
conclusion that the MDMA had "lied".
To explain this reaction, Wolfson asserts that MDMA can open people up and
allow them to experience breakthroughs, but that these breakthroughs are
temporary unless they are consolidated. It is the disappointment of a
temporary breakthrough that may lead to a client feeling that the drug has
Wolfson says: "The fundamental truth is that MDMA provides in its totality
unprecedented access to an experience that human beings value and may wish
to have an opportunity to repeat at a future date. The second part of this
truth is the almost uniform observation that those who have had the MDMA
experience wish to share it with others and believe it has the power to
alter lives, and even societies, positively. . . This is the completion of
the fundamental truth: There are almost no critics of the experience
itself. The stories told are of a compassionate evaluation of the self and
others with a shift to a more positive outlook and behaviour". However, he
warns of the following potential hazards: (1) Severe and potentially fatal
reactions can occur unpredictably on occasions. (2) Seizures are said to
have occurred. (3) MDMA may reduce resistance to infection. (4) MDMA causes
increase in blood pressure. (5) A variety of short-term reactions may
occur, sometimes persisting or recurring for several months, including
anxiety and insomnia. A client's judgment can be interfered with by their
heightened sense of excitement under MDMA. (6) MDMA has no established
safety record - the necessary experiments have not been made.
He says that MDMA is unique because: 1. It offers a rapid and significant
break with people's defence structures. 2. It can facilitate a shift from a
state of self-hatred to one of love of self and others. 3. It encourages
people to shift from isolation to contact and intimacy and from withholding
to giving. 4. When MDMA has given them a more positive attitude, people
find it easier to make decisions.
- 5 Ecstasy: The MDMA Story, by Bruce Eisner (book) published by Ronin Publishing Inc., PO Box 1035, Berkeley, CA 94701, USA. [new edition due out 1993]. My review of this book for International Journal on Drug Policy is reprinted here
English readers who assume this to be a book about the pills kids swallow
by the million at raves will be disappointed - raves are not even
mentioned. It is about Ecstasy use in a completely different (Californian)
culture; one where people get into their feelings. The drug is the same
chemically but the way it is used and its observed effects are barely
An Ecstasy session requires "careful planning and both physical and mental
preparation are important . . .The experience is something like a retreat.
The MDMA experience is neither trivial nor casual. It can be a
life-transforming experience. . . The first and most important question to
be answered is, 'Why do I want to take MDMA at this point in my life'."
A typical session would be one person alone with a guide (a friend who has
experienced the drug) acting as an helper or therapist. Choose a calm,
comfortable room free of distractions and disconnect the phone. Bring along
some objects of personal significance such as crystals and photos of family
members to help trigger childhood memories.
Lying on cushions on the floor with eyes blindfolded, you look inside
yourself with a sudden clarity as the drug comes on. Or talk and reveal
thoughts that you had even hidden from yourself. "One may have a noetic
perception of the world, now viewed in a completely fresh new light".
"One suggestion for using the MDMA experience for later benefit is called
'future pacing'. Here you conjure up, while in your alternative state, a
mental image of people or situations which you would like to experience in
an open and empathic way. Then you construct an image, visual, auditory,
and/or kinesthetic, of an experience of being in the MDMA state while with
those persons or in that life situation. In the days ahead, your experience
of the person or situation focused on might change as a result of this
Use in formal psychotherapy is mentioned (though this has been illegal
since 1968 in the USA), both in group and individual sessions. One effect
of the drug is to lower defensiveness so that patients express themselves
more openly and honestly, which sometimes facilitates breakthroughs. In
groups, participants feel able to express themselves without inhibitions
and have empathy for one other [as do participants at raves]. Examples of
therapeutic uses are conflict resolution between couples, particularly when
intimacy has been lost and the relationship has become estranged over the
years; and in cases involving traumas such as rape where the drug helps the
patient to regress and to relive suppressed memories.
Also mentioned is low-dosage use for "creativity-enhancement-oriented
sessions. . . There are two ways of using MDMA that may help elicit
creativity. In the first, the creative task is attempted during the MDMA
session. In the second, the MDMA session is used to generate ideas that
later may be applied to the creative task". Painting, sculpting, writing
and music are suggested for the first, while the second is suggested for
overcoming writer's block.
Another section of the book consists of accounts of experiences taken from
another book, Through the Gateway of the Heart31. Other chapters deal with
the chemistry and toxicity of the drug. Eisner says that no major toxic
effects have shown up in clinical trials of MDMA. This presumably applies
to the suggested doses of up to 150 mg.
Eisner makes the interesting observation that "MDMA is a peculiar drug in
that there is a small ratio between its threshold dose and a dose that is
too large. A larger dose than 200 mg will produce an experience that is
more like that of amphetamine - a jittery, anxiety-provoking stimulant
Finally, the book contains an excellent 50-page annotated bibliography by
Alexander Shulgin. However, that like the rest of the book dates from 1989,
and four years is a long time in this field. [Alexander Shulgin tells me
that the annotated bibliography is to be omitted from the new edition.]
Other information referred to:
High Reliability: Even without prompting as to effects, at least 90% of
those who try MDMA experience . . . a 'heart opening' and a lessening of
stress and defensiveness . . .
Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk from the Immaculate Heart
Hermitage in Big Sur, tried the drug at a conference on the medical uses of
MDMA. Steindl-Rast, who was a psychologist before he entered the monastery,
said the drug facilitates the search for the "awakened attitude" all minds
seek. "It's like climbing all day in the fog and then suddenly, briefly
seeing the mountain peak for the first time," he said. "There are no short
cuts to the awakened attitude, and it takes daily work and effort. But the
drug gives you a vision, a glimpse of what you are seeking.
- 6 Ecstasy Information, from Release, a London drug agency
According to these notes, it is not correct to call Ecstasy a designer
drug. The term was coined by Dr. Gary Henderson of the University of
California to mean 'substances where the psychoactive properties of a drug
are retained, but the molecular structure has been altered to avoid
- 7 Xochipilli: a context for Ecstasy, by Laura Fraser, from Whole Earth Review, 1992
The author criticises two journalists at a party who said that Ecstasy
causes a loss of spinal fluid and causes Parkinson's disease.
The journalists were grossly misrepresenting two reports. One concerned a
study of MDMA by Dr. George Ricaurte at Stanford University, who examined
subjects spinal fluid to determine whether there were residual effects of
MDMA. No such effects were found. The other was of drug injectors who
contracted Parkinson's disease after injecting a synthetic opiate from a
bad batch sold on the street that contained the neurotoxin MPTP. Ecstasy
was not involved in any way.
The side effects of Ecstasy were mild: perhaps the worst was a tendency to
call up ex-lovers and casual acquaintances and tell them how much you love
them. It could also induce inappropriate and unintended "emotional-bond
imprinting". Fraser advises taking some calcium and magnesium before MDMA
to prevent jaw clench and says MDMA should be avoided by those with heart
ailments; glaucoma; hypertension; aneurism or a history of strokes, hepatic
or renal disorders, diabetes or hypoglycemia.
- 8 Differences Between the Mechanism of Action of MDMA, MBDB and the Classic Hallucinogens, by David Nichols, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
In this paper it is claimed that MDMA is not a hallucinogen and that its
classification as a Class One drug, which is based on it being regarded as
a hallucinogen, is therefore incorrect. Nichols says that subjective human
trials and tests on rats show MDMA does not have psychedelic properties and
that it belongs to a new drug category that he calls "entactogens".
He synthesised a new drug called MBDB with an added chemical group that
cuts out psychedelic effects. It was similar to MDMA in effect but weaker
and therefore also belongs to the new category.
- 9 Why MDMA Should Not Have Been Made Illegal, by Marsha Rosenbaum and Rick Doblin, from the book The Drug Legalisation Debate
In this article it is argued that with many claims of people benefiting
from taking MDMA and few reports of the drug causing damage, its use should
not have been outlawed in the US. The effect of making MDMA illegal was to
curtail scientific research and to stimulate consumer demand for the drug.
The article details the way the law was applied: after nearly 2 years of
hearings a judge decided that the drug should be placed in Schedule 3,
which is for less-dangerous drugs and would have allowed trials and
research to continue. But the Drug Enforcement Agency insisted on MDMA
being put into Schedule 1 in spite of widespread objections and challenges
to the "dubious legality" of this move.
100 MDMA users were interviewed in depth between 1987 and 1989, i.e. after
it was made illegal. The article concludes that the law has made no
difference to recreational users' attitudes.
- 10 Alcohol and Drug Research, Volume 7: Neurotoxicity of MDA and MDMA
This paper argues that the dangers associated with MDA should be assumed to
apply with MDMA unless it is proved otherwise. Evidence is given of the two
drugs having a similar degree of lethality when they are tested on mice,
rats, guinea pigs, dogs and monkeys. The tests used involved the classic
test for poisons: trying larger and larger doses on groups of animals until
50% of the animals died within 24 hours. The paper also mentions that both
MDA and MDMA killed more mice when they were crowded together, "a
phenomenon long associated with amphetamine".
- 11 Ecstasy Revisited, by Bruce Eisner in Gnosis magazine, winter 1993
This article looks back on the research in the US into the neurotoxicity of
MDMA. The idea that MDMA might be neurotoxic was first raised in 1985, when
George Ricaurte and Charles Shuster at the University of Chicago performed
an experiment in which rats were intravenously given very high doses (ten
times the therapeutic dose) of MDA, a drug similar to MDMA, at four hourly
intervals over two days. Changes were noted in the nerve terminals where
serotonin interfaced with brain neurons, Eisner says. The US Drug
Enforcement Agency used this as a pretext for putting MDMA in Schedule 1,
the category for the most dangerous drug
- 12 The Background Chemistry of MDMA, by Alexander Shulgin, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
According to this paper, MDMA is less toxic than MDA but more so than
mescaline. The lethal dose is between 20 and 100 mg per kilo of body weight
depending on the species taking it. With mice, it is 5 times more toxic
given in crowded conditions than in isolation. [20mg/kg is equivalent to an
adult human taking about 12 Es.]
Shulgin says that research implies some functional role of serotonin in the
mechanism of MDMA and that there is evidence that MDA and MDMA have
different mechanisms of action. For example there is no cross-tolerance
between the two drugs.
He notes that two studies commissioned by the US government on the abuse
potential of MDMA showed that monkeys that had been trained to
self-administer cocaine tended to "reinforce themselves with MDMA",
indicating that MDMA has potential for abuse by hard-drug addicts.
But he also points out that press reports and anti-drug usage material
often [falsely] attribute to MDMA the effects and dangers of other drugs
and that reporters repeat each others' mistakes.
- 13 Ecstasy, by Miranda Sawer, from Select, July 1992
A long article about the current club scene and Ecstasy users going on to
more reliable drugs because of poor quality E. Sawer says that those who
used to take multiple Es are now turning to amphetamine instead since the
effect is much the same. She gives analyses of 7 samples which were mostly
heavily adulterated. "Fantasy" Ecstasy contained 40% LSD, 30% amphetamine
and 15% caffeine. "Passion" Ecstasy contained 60% sedative and 15% MDMA.
"Californian Sunset" Ecstasy contained 20% amphetamine and 20% sedative.
"Rhubarb and Custard" Ecstasy contained 50% barbiturate, 30% MDMA and 20%
caffeine. 3 other samples contained no active ingredient at all. She quotes
Andrew Bennett, of the Merseyside Drugs, Training and Information Centre,
as saying that Merseyside has 20,000 serious abusers, i.e. people who take
more than one E a week, and 30,000 who take one at weekends; and Mike
Goodman of the London drug agency Release: "Ecstasy should not be a Class 1
drug in the same league as heroin with severe penalties. If you treat
people like criminals, they are going to act like them"
- 14 Interview with Greg Poulter, advice team leader at Release, a London information agency for drug users, on 16/2/93
In the 1970s there was a scare in Britain about hallucinogenic amphetamines
before they had even reached the country. The Government responded by
classifying the entire chemical family as Class A drugs, before any other
country had done so. The Home Office can issue licenses for research into
MDMA. There is no pressure group lobbying to liberalise the law on MDMA, as
there has been for cannabis.
The maximum penalty in a Crown court for possession of MDMA is 7 years
and/or an unlimited fine. For supply of MDMA, the penalties in a Crown
court, where such cases are normally heard, can stretch to life
imprisonment, an unlimited fine and the seizure of all assets.
In line with Scotland's distinct legal system, the law on MDMA is applied
differently there to the rest of Britain. In Scotland, anyone found in
possession of MDMA is prosecuted, even if they only have very small
quantities. But in England and Wales, and especially in London, the trend
is towards cautioning. There is a big difference between 'possession' and
'supply' in the kind and severity of penalties imposed, but no fixed cut
off point. People found in possession of only one E have been prosecuted
for supply, on the strength of other evidence that they were dealers.
Magistrates courts normally deal with possession cases. The usual fine is
#15 to #100 for a first offence and for the lowest income groups; #25 to
#200 for two different drugs and an increase of some 25% for a second
offence. But courts vary in the penalties they impose. Country courts where
drugs cases are uncommon probably give the highest sentences; city courts
the lowest. Fines are now worked out on a Unit Fine System which is related
to the offender's disposable income. Magistrates courts don't generally
differentiate between Ecstasy and Amphetamine, even though they are in
different classes, but Crown courts do.
Prosecutions on the grounds of supply are nearly always heard in a Crown
court. As a general rule, imprisonment is the penalty for those found
guilty unless there are mitigating circumstances. For small amounts,
offenders are typically sentenced to 18 months to 2 years imprisonment; and
for medium quantities the sentence may be 3-5 years. Sentencing also
depends on the particular circumstances of the case: one person got 3 years
for 3 LSD tablets but there was evidence that he had sold a tablet of LSD
to someone who had died as a result of taking it.
The trend towards cautioning offenders is spreading throughout the country.
Poulter's advice to those who are arrested is as follows: Ask for a
solicitor. Legal assistance is free to people who have been arrested.
Police often suggest that suspects admit that what they have been found
with is a drug and offer, in exchange, to recommend a caution. However,
they may not keep their word. A local solicitor who knows the police can
help to avoid this. If police arrive with a warrant, cooperate or you will
be charged with an extra offence. But you should ask them for a copy of the
warrant and the reason why they are searching.
Police must have reasonable cause for stopping and searching a member of
the public. This would not include simply being in a place where drugs have
been on sale. They have the power to strip search. If police attempt to
strip search you ask them why they are doing it. If their grounds were not
legal, the evidence so obtained will be dismissed by the court. Never
resist a search physically. Keep calm and negotiate with the police.
Intimate search - which includes looking inside any part of your body
including the mouth and ears - is only admissible when there is reason to
suspect intent to supply class A drugs. If youare intimately searched in
the genital or anal area on grounds that are not legal, you could charge
the police with indecent assault. You cannot be compelled to give blood or
urine for testing.
Recently Ecstasy has been on sale at #8-#12 per pill. In real terms, prices
of illicit drugs have fallen steadily over the years without a fall in
quality, with the exception of Amphetamine which is now far weaker than it
was a few years ago.
Release operates a telephone help line for people accused of drug offences.
The agency receives about 21,000 calls a year, of which some 14% are
related to Ecstasy. 30% of calls come from non-users such as parents or
professionals. About half concern legal matters, and the other half concern
the use of drugs and their effects.
Poulter also told me, incorrectly, that Class A drugs cannot be prescribed
by doctors and that the maximum penalties in a magistrates court for
unlawful possession of MDMA or for supply of MDMA, are 6 months in prison
and/or a #2,000 fine. In fact, doctors may prescribe Class A drugs, but may
not prescribe Schedule I drugs, a category into which MDMA also falls,
while the maximum penalty in a magistrates court is #5,000.
- 15 22nd report of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence 1985, published by the World Health Organisation as part of its Technical Report Series
#729, para 2.28 3, 4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, [cited in full]
In mice, 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) increases locomotor
activities and produces analgesia. In dogs and monkeys the substance has a
pharmacological profile similar to that of other substances already
controlled under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. There are
contradictory reports of the hallucinogenic activity of this substance in
man. The substance is a potent serotonin-releaser in rat whole-brain
synaptosomes. Its toxicological properties have been studied extensively in
animals. The acute toxicity of this substance is about twice that of
mescaline. No pharmacokinetic data are available.
3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine has discriminative stimulus effects in
common with amphetamine but not with
2,5-dimethoxy-4-dimethylbenzeneethanamine (DOM). No data are available
concerning its clinical abuse liability, nature and magnitude of associated
public health or social problems. The substance is under national control
in Canada and the United Kingdom and its control has been proposed in the
The substance has no well-defined therapeutic use, but a number of
clinicians in the USA have claimed that it is potentially valuable as a
psychotherapeutic agent. No data are available concerning its lawful
production. Evidence of illicit trafficking in the substance has been
reported from Canada and there have been extensive seizures of the drug in
On the basis of the data outlined above, it was the consensus of the
committee that 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine met the criteria of
article 2, para 4, for the control under the Convention on Psychotropic
Substances. Since there is insufficient evidence to indicate that the
substance has therapeutic usefulness, the expert committee recommended that
it be placed in Schedule 1 of the Convention*.
It should be noted that the Expert Committee held extensive discussions
concerning therapeutic usefulness of 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
While the Expert Committee found the reports intriguing, it felt that the
studies lacked the appropriate methodological design necessary to ascertain
the reliability of the observations. There was, however, sufficient
interest expressed to recommend that investigations be encouraged to follow
up these preliminary findings. To that end, the Expert Committee urged
countries to use the provisions of article 7 of the Convention on
Psychotropic Substances to facilitate research on this interesting
*One member, Professor Paul Grof (Chairman), felt that the decision on the
recommendation should be deferred awaiting, in particular, the data on the
substance's potential therapeutic usefulness and that at this time
international control isnot warranted.
- 16 Living with Risk (book), published by the British Medical Association, 1990
This book contains statistics on and evaluations of various risks commonly
taken by people in the UK. It includes a comparative list of the risk to an
individual of dying in any one year from various causes:
Smoking 10 cigarettes a day: 1 in 200
All natural causes at age 40: 1 in 850
Violence or poisoning: 1 in 3,300
Influenza: 1 in 5,000
Accident on the road: 1 in 8,000
Playing soccer: 1 in 25,000
Accident at home: 1 in 26,000
Hit by lightning: 1 in 10,000,000
The chapter on drug use points out that deaths from illicit drug use in the
UK total just over 200 a year compared to the tens of thousands who die
annually from alcohol use and tobacco smoking.
It is also pointed out that "heatstroke is becoming a problem in long
distance running events . . . In Canada, 1% are admitted to hospital during
and after mass-participation runs [marathons]" and that parachuting and
hang gliding kill about 3 in 1,000 participants per year.
Almost every psychoactive drug has been regarded by some society as a dire
threat to public order and moral standards, while regarded as a source of
harmless pleasure by others. Almost every society has one drug whose use is
tolerated, while others are regarded with deep suspicion.
- 17 Ecstasy - The Arrival of a Consciousness-Raising Drug (book), by Arno Adelaars, published by in de Knipscher, 1991
This book is in Dutch only, but may soon be available in English. A new
edition is due out in 1993.
It is about his own experience and the history of MDMA in Holland. The
first dealer to bring 1,000 Es from the United States in 1985 couldn't get
rid of them, even to people who had tried Ecstasy. The early 'E' parties in
1989 were exclusive. People made eye contact, let themselves go out of
control and behaved in individually bizarre ways. But when taking E became
a mass phenomenon, people started behaving according to others'
expectations, and the true individuality and contact was lost. Adelaars
sees two distinct types of uses and users: extroverts and introverts; Ken
Kesey/Timothy Leary; entertainment/intellectual; party/home. His book
contains interviews with both types of users and his advice about using
Ecstasy is don't take it unless you are feeling good. He believes the
aftereffect of mellowness spreads to other people who you are in contact
with. He compares the effect of Ecstasy - feeling relaxed and loose-limbed
- to being in love or being on holiday in a tropical country.
The author writes from his own experience of the drug and his knowledge of
manufacture and distribution, having visited an MDMA 'factory'. He is also
one of the few writers with personal experience of both home and party use.
- 18 Fax from Home Office, 23/2/93
The Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Act 1990 tightened up the
penalties for infringement of the entertainment licensing laws. It
increased to a fine of #20,000 and imprisonment for up to six months, or
both, the maximum penalties magistrates can impose for certain offences
against the entertainment licensing laws in England and Wales. The fine was
previously #2,000 or three months imprisonment or both. The offences in
question concern the use of a place for entertainment involving music and
dancing without the necessary licence which places a limit on the number of
people which may be present at the entertainment. In addition, the Criminal
Justice Act 1988 (Confiscation Order) gives magistrates the power to make
confiscation orders when the profits exceed #10,000.
- 19 Manchester RIP, Kaleidoscope, BBC Radio 4, 6/2/93
Ecstasy first arrived at the Hacienda club in Manchester in 1988. For
ravers that year was a wonderful summer without media or police attention.
It was the start of the rave scene which later spread to London and rest of
Europe. The first Ecstasy club in London was Spectrum on Monday nights at
Heaven. While straight Manchester was unsuccessfully trying to put itself
on the map by bidding for the Olympic Games, a couple of bands and DJs had
actually made Manchester the fashion centre of Europe for young people and
the place where they all wanted to be. By 1991, applications to study in
Manchester had risen by 30%. But 1991 was also the year that the atmosphere
of peace changed to violence. Gangs started moving in, shooting each other
in the battle for dominance in the drugs market.
- 20 Drug seizures: Britain's growing habit from The Times, 20/1/94
In 1993, 554 Kg of Ecstasy "worth 58m" was seized by customs, double the
figure for 1992. The article was sub-headed: "Rave parties increase demand
as shipments worth #519m are seized." [Figure refers to all illicit drugs.]
- 21 A visit to Arno Adelaars, a part-time purchaser of street samples of drugs for testing by the Dutch government. Amsterdam, October 1992
The Dutch government analyses street samples of Ecstasy and other drugs so
that they can keep a check on what is being sold. The results are released
2 weeks after the sample was purchased so as to avoid helping dealers.
Adelaars says he has never bought anything that turned out to be dangerous,
and is sceptical about claims by another drug-purchasing agency that a
sample of Ecstasy turned out to be Ketamine. Recently there has been a lot
of MDEA sold as Ecstasy.
During the period January 1990 to June 1992, 156 street samples of
"Ecstasy" were tested. 83% were tablets, 10% powder and 7% capsules.
61% were found to be MDMA, 4% MDA, 4% MDEA, 6% Amphetamine mixed with
caffeine, 6% Amphetamine only, 3% caffeine only. In the remaining 16%, no
active ingredient was identified, although the tests were only set up to
detect amphetamine, methamphetamine, caffeine, cocaine, heroin, LSD, MDMA,
MDA and MDEA.
Of the MDMA samples, 75% contained between 70 and 120 milligrams, though
doses of as little as 15mg or as large as 208 mg were found.
Generally, over half the samples turn out to be good-quality MDMA, but this
has recently fallen to 39% because 18% of samples sold as Ecstasy are now
MDEA. Some MDEA is stamped EVE. Adelaars says MDEA lacks the communicative
quality of MDMA.
Adelaars has visited a clandestine production lab. Production was carried
out by two people, neither of whom was a chemist, but one of whom had
medical knowledge. The equipment consisted of an autoclave and a 14,000 rpm
mixer. The 200,000 guilder required to set up the lab was provided from
criminal sources. The first batch of MDMA took 6 weeks to make - it would
take 10 days with the right equipment. Adelaars thought manufacturing
Ecstasy was not an easy thing to do unless you had experience.
In Holland, the wholesale prices of Ecstasy are: 1 kg (10,000 doses) for
7.50 guilders each; 1000 at 10-12 guilders each; 100 at 12-17; 10 at 20-25.
Single tablets are sold at 25-35 guilders.
Tablet making is an art in itself - the right binders are needed to hold
the pill together long enough to reach the stomach but not so long that it
is shitted out undissolved.
Holland is the obvious place to produce Ecstasy because the law is lenient
and the prisons nice. In November 1991, a consignment of 1,200,000 tablets
was caught on the way to England concealed in furniture, and it was found
to be just one of a series of regular shipments that had been going on for
some time. The factory in England was raided - it had ordered enough
material for some 50 million Es - but as very little was found it was
presumed that most had been used and sold. See also above.20
Adelaars believes those with experience of other drugs have fewer problems
with E. Problems arise among young inexperienced users who can't keep their
trip under control.
- 22 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) figures, published by The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1992
The NIDA collects reports of patients attending hospital emergency
departments who are suspected of, or admit to having used illicit drugs
from across the US. The institute also collects information from coroners
and postmortems. As a result, it is able to provide nationwide figures on
drugs which present problems. Annual DAWN publications contain analyses of
reports of any drug mentioned more than 200 times a year or causing more
than 10 deaths. MDMA has never been included in the reports, as it comes
136 in the hierarchy of drugs reported as causing problems. According to
DAWN data, MDMA is not a significant drug abuse concern in the US.
The 1992 report also includes a survey of the use of illicit drugs by US
college students who are within 1-4 years of leaving high school. There
were about half as many illicit drug users in 1990 as in 1980. MDMA was
only included in the survey in 1989, 1990 and 1991 and over these three
years MDMA use among college students declined. In 1991, 0.2% had used MDMA
in the previous 30 days compared to 0.6% in 1990 and 0.3% in 1989. In 1991,
15.2% of the sample had used an illicit drug in the past 30 days, implying
that MDMA was used regularly by only 1.3% of illicit drug users.
Figures for drugs used in 1991 show that Ecstasy was used by 0.9% as
compared to 2.3% in each of the preceding two years. 29.2% had used some
illicit drug in the year; about half as many as in 1980.
- 23 Young People's Poll, by Harris Research Centre, January 1992
This poll was conducted for the BBC TV programme Reportage. It covered a
range of drugs. Interviews took place as respondents entered nightclubs.
Only regular club goers were included, i.e. those who said they attended at
least once a month. 693 people were interviewed in 11 large cities in UK,
353 male; 340 female. 251 were aged 16-18; 333 aged 19-22; 109 aged 23-25.
All social groups were included.
Overall 31% of respondents (men 35%, women 22%) said they had taken Ecstasy
(47% in London/South East; 6% in Scotland). 6% thought Ecstasy was safe to
use; 5% thought it should be legalised. 29% of 16-22 year-olds and 38% of
23-25 year-olds said they had used Ecstasy. The figure was 46% among
married people and cohabitants. 49% said they used Ecstasy frequently and
22% occasionally, and this proportion was constant across all social
groups. 33% of respondents said they had taken illegal drugs of some kind
and 67% said they had friends who took drugs [this is interpreted by some
people to mean that these respondents took drugs themselves but said
"friends" so as not to incriminate themselves]. The most popular drug was
hash (81%) followed by "LSD/speed/Amphetamine" (35%). [The fact that LSD
was lumped together with speed shows the researchers were pretty green.]
[A sociologist, Andrew Taylor, who is studying the activities of young
people told me he believes that this confirms his observation that the
majority of this age group take Ecstasy regardless of social group.]
- 24 Analgesic safety and efficacy of MDMA in modification of pain and distress of end-stage cancer, Charles Grob et al.
This is a proposal for a clinical investigation of the potential of MDMA as
an analgesic for cancer pain. It involves 24 subjects and takes 2 years to
complete. It focuses on gathering preliminary data concerning safety and
tolerance, the drug's mechanism of action and its safety.
End-stage pancreatic cancer patients have been selected as the most
suitable subjects. 24 subjects are needed, all with chronic pain as a
result of end-stage pancreatic cancer. 12 patients used as controls are
identically treated with placebos (to provide a double blind trial). All
receive 4 sessions separated by at least 2 weeks. Dosage is up to 2.3
- 25 Laing on Ecstasy by Peter Naysmith International Journal on Drug
Laing had taken MDMA at Esalen in 1984 where the drug was being used in
couple counselling before it was made illegal.
When the drug was banned Laing said: "What scientists have always been
looking for, as Arthur Koestler suggested, is a drug which is not a
tranquilliser, an upper or downer, but a stabiliser, just a help to keep
one's balance throughout the day. The Californian scientist who synthesised
MDMA in the seventies, Dr. Alexander Shulgin, thought he had found such a
drug. All I can say is that within the context of its use, among very
responsible professionals and therapists in America, all direct reports,
including my own, were positive."
"It's my opinion that government agencies, instead of slapping a total ban
on this drug should explore it like they do others . . . There's definitely
a place for it. It's a pity to see it being cut out like that." Asked to
explain why is there a need for drugs such as Ecstasy, he said: "Most of us
live within a sort of crypto-delusional structure as to our needs; we
haven't quite got it right about love and loving and what other people feel
about us . . . which is part of the popularity of this drug. It changes
your feeling. But this can also be a danger . . . Under its influence it
would be unwise to make [important] decisions there and then . . . as it
would over a bottle of whisky."
- 26 Phenomenology and Sequelae of MDMA use by Dr. Mitchell Liester, Dr. Charles Grob et al., Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 180/6 1992.
A study of the immediate, short-term and longer-term effects of MDMA on 20
psychiatrists. The 20 psychiatrists were administered MDMA and then
evaluated for side effects, insight gained, pleasure, and the intensity of
the experience, taking into account the influence of set, setting and
The psychiatrists were selected for their prior knowledge of the drug. They
all came from Southern California and had an average of six years practice.
All had used MDMA at least once. Effects noted during the session
(expressed in terms of the percentage of subjects who experienced a given
Altered time perception (speeded up or slowed down) 90%
Increased ability to interact with or be open with others 85%
Decreased defensiveness 80%
Decreased fear 65%
Decreased sense of separation or alienation from others 60%
Changes in visual perception 55%
Increased awareness of emotions 50%
Decreased aggression 50%
Speech changes 45%
Aware of previously unconscious memories 40%
Decreased obsessiveness 40%
Cognitive changes 40%
Decreased restlessness/agitation 30%
Decreased impulsivity 25%
Decreased compulsiveness 20%
Decreased anxiety 15%
Altered perception of spatial relationships 15%
Decreased desire for sleep 10%
Increased libido 10%
Afterwards one member of a couple "focused on how they were defensive with
each other" while the other "saw love underneath" actions which they had
thought implied that the other partner didn't care. There was a shift away
from materialistic values and toward interpersonal relationships.
Aftereffects lasting up to a week (observed by at least two subjects):
Decreased sleep 40%
Decreased appetite 30%
Increased sensitivity to emotions 25%
Decreased ability to perform mental or physical tasks 20%
Decreased desire to perform mental or physical tasks 20%
Increased ability to interact with or be open with others 20%
Decreased defensiveness 20%
Decreased aggression 15%
Decreased fear 15%
Cognitive changes 15%
Depressed mood 10%
Decreased obsessiveness 10%
Speech changes 10%
Increased restlessness/agitation 10%
Altered perception of time 10%
Decreased anxiety 10%
Decreased libido 10%
Effects lasting more than a week
Improved social/interpersonal functioning 50%
Changes in religious/spiritual orientation or practice 46%
Changes in values or life priorities 45%
Improved occupational functioning 40%
Increased ability to interact with or be open with others 35%
Decreased defensiveness 30%
Changes in ego boundaries 30%
Decreased desire to use alcohol 25%
Decreased fear 20%
Increased sensitivity to emotions 15%
Increased desire to use hallucinogenic substances 15%
Improved family relationships 15%
Change in career plans 15%
Decreased restlessness 10%
Decreased obsessiveness 10%
It was also found that there were no changes in the effects of the drug
with repeated use, contrary to popular belief. Over half said they believed
the drug had a "high potential for use as an adjunct to psychotherapy,
particularly in regards to its capacity to enhance empathy".
In conclusion, the drug induced an alteration in consciousness that most
subjects felt was pleasant and valuable.
The paper refers to Dowling's report on 5 deaths in which MDMA was detected
in the victims' blood, and it is pointed out that in each case there were
other potentially lethal medical factors, implying that MDMA may not have
been the cause of any of the deaths. The clinical implications of changes
in serotonin levels are unclear "inasmuch as there have been no documented
clinical cases of MDMA-induced serotonergic toxicity". Fenfluramine "has a
significantly greater degree of neurotoxicity."
- 27 Hands of Light (book), by Barbara Ann Brennan, Bantam, 1988
This book is a guide to spirit healing through the human energy field. In a
case history Brennan says, "David came to his last session looking very
different. His aura was twice as bright and much larger than usual. The
cocoon had opened. I asked what had happened to him. He said that he had
taken a drug called MDMA over the weekend. On closer inspection, I could
see that the MDMA had opened the left side of the pineal gland. The mucus
from the third eye that had been placed there partially from doing pot and
LSD was cleared away on the right side. There was still work to be done,
but the overall change in David's field was amazing. Since my observations
had always shown Psychotropic drugs to have a negative effect on the aura,
I asked Heyoan [her spirit guide] about it. He said, 'That depends on who
takes it, and what their field configuration is at the time of taking it'
Drugs . . . do not cure disease; they assist the individual to cure
- 28 Subjective reports of the Effects of MDMA in a Clinical Setting by George Greer and Requa Tolbert from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Vol. 18/4
This trial was carried out legally in California between 1980 and 1983
following recommendations of the State Medical Board and its findings are
the best clinical evidence available on the effects of MDMA. "Because it
[MDMA] had been patented in Germany in 1914 and was therefore no longer
patentable, no pharmaceutical manufacturer could be found who was
interested in sponsoring an Investigating New Drug application with the
Food and Drug Administration or in sponsoring research, " the authors say.
The primary purpose of the study was to assist the 29 subjects in achieving
their particular goals rather than to evaluate MDMA and it therefore does
not include 'double-blind' controls, independent evaluations or examination
of the physiological effects of MDMA.
Subjects were screened by questionnaire, briefed on the possible side
effects of MDMA, and warned not to take part unless they were prepared to
deal with any disturbing experience they might have as a result. Those with
hypertension, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, hypoglycemia,
seizure disorder, glaucoma and diminished liver function were not allowed
to take part. Pregnant women and people with a psychiatric history were
To ensure a secure atmosphere, the following agreements were made:
1. Everyone would remain on the premises until it was mutually agreed that
the session was over.
2. The subjects would refrain from any destructive activity.
3. There was to be no sex between therapists and subjects.
4. The subjects were to follow therapists' instructions when they took part
in a structured session.
Most sessions were held at people's homes, individually or in groups and
couples. The subjects were asked to fast for the preceding 6 hours "to
ensure rapid absorption and prevent nausea". Doses varied from 75 to 150 mg
according to subjects' body weight and the type of session and a second
dose of 50 to 75 mg was offered after about 2 hours in order to "prolong
the session and provide a more gradual return to normal consciousness".
Sometimes inner experiences on the higher doses were facilitated by
instrumental music and eyeshades, with the therapists being attentive and
responsive to requests.
About half of the subjects reported that they had minor psychological
problems before taking part in the study, including feeling dissatisfied
with themselves, being afraid of rejection and lacking self confidence.
Some also experienced mild depression, anxiety, sadness at being alone,
"normal existential despair" or difficulty in making life choices.
Benefits felt by the subjects during sessions.
All the subjects felt closer and more intimate with all others present and
many reported that they were more communicative and were more able to
receive both compliments and criticism. All the subjects experienced
positive changes in their attitudes or feelings. Three quarters of them
reported cognitive benefits such as enhanced mental perspective; insight
into personal patterns or problems; and an enhanced ability to understand
themselves and resolve issues. Half of the subjects felt warmer, fresher or
more alive or reported euphoric or loving feelings. One third of them said
that they felt more self-confident and another third felt that their
defences were lowered. One quarter said that they went through a
therapeutic emotional process during a session. One sixth of subjects said
they had had a transcendental experience and a similar fraction reported
fewer negative thoughts and feelings. Subjects also reported: feeling more
aware more "grounded" and feeling "blessed" and at peace. All of those who
tried low doses to improve their creative writing found it "quite useful",
with some reporting clear thinking or greater presence of mind.
Undesirable effects felt by the subjects during or after sessions.
Three quarters of the subjects experienced jaw tension or teeth clenching
during the session, sometimes accompanied by shaking. For a few subjects
these side effects persisted into the following day. Most felt tired
afterwards and for half of the subjects this lasted up to 2 days. One
quarter felt nauseous for between 5 and 30 minutes. One third found it hard
to sleep afterwards, but 10 per cent slept better. Subjects noticed that
they sweated, felt cold and lost their appetites during the sessions, but
did not regard these reactions as a problem.
In addition to these general side effects, some individuals had a strong
negative reaction. A 74-year-old woman who had been given an extremely high
dose of 350 mg because she had not responded to lower doses suffered most
of the unpleasant effects mentioned above during the session and for two
days afterwards. Tension in her jaw lasted even longer and she also
experienced a visual illusion. Another subject's appetite increased and
they gained weight. A third had difficulty coping with people and had
anxiety attacks which caused him to miss work for a week. He said he was
not receptive to the sensation of MDMA, though he stressed that the session
itself was not the cause of anxiety: "Rather, I think it served to open up
some tightly controlled emotions that spilled out in a frightening way." A
year later he said: "It probably was a good thing. It speeded up processes
that needed to happen". Side effects reported by individual subjects during
sessions included: jittery vision, lip swelling, shakiness, numb hands and
face, headache and fainting - this last effect occurred when a subject
thought about a difficult relationship.
Half the subjects reported undesirable emotional symptoms. 15 per cent felt
anxiety or nervousness during the session while 7.5 per cent felt mildly
depressed next day. One subject felt paranoid for up to 3 minutes during
the session and another felt lonely and sad. Others felt: more emotional,
more vulnerable, had a racing mind, felt waves of "emotional crud" or
confused about a relationship or indulged in "negative self-talk".
All but one of the subjects set goals for what they wanted to achieve in
the sessions before they started. Half felt that these were completely
realised, and another quarter felt they were partly realised. This group
included subjects who wanted to understand themselves better and, of these,
one third were fully satisfied but half made no progress. Of those seeking
a mystical experience, three quarters were satisfied. Subjects looking for
personal or spiritual growth, self exploration, fun and enjoyment, or
closeness with their sexual partners all achieved their aims.
All of those who aimed to change their personalities or resolve particular
inner conflicts or experience a different state of consciousness or
increase their awareness of their feelings or become less afraid of
rejection, felt they had achieved some degree of success.
After the session most subjects felt in a better mood and this typically
lasted for a week. One third of them felt more calm and relaxed, while some
felt more energetic.
80 per cent of subjects reported positive attitude changes, and for some
this lasted for at least two years [the researchers last contact with the
subjects was two years after the trials]. Of this 80 per cent, half said
they had more self-esteem; half said they were more able to accept negative
experiences and were more patient and half said the sessions had changed
their beliefs in various positive ways, including seeing death as a change
rather than an ending and therefore feeling less afraid of it. Other
benefits claimed by subjects ranged from a greater acceptance of others to
an appreciation of being alive and feeling they could be more warm and
Nearly all the subjects reported positive, mostly long-lasting, changes in
their relationships. This included those whose partners did not take part
in the sessions. Two couples who had problems in their relationships before
the trials, resolved significant conflicts under MDMA. Negative changes
were experienced by the man mentioned earlier who had difficulty coping
with people, and some subjects whose relationships were already in decline
reported no improvement: one woman felt "more guilt around men for a while"
and proceeded from a separation with her husband to a divorce. Many
subjects reported that their feelings were stronger after sessions and some
said that they now avoid superficial social meetings such as cocktail
parties. Conflicts were also resolved with non-partners and a variety of
other improvements including self esteem and empathy with others were
Half the subjects reported positive changes at work for a week or so after
sessions, such as: feeling less tense and driven, having more fun, having
energy to spare and getting along better with others. 20 per cent of
subjects reported new personal interests, from hobbies to creative writing
and spiritual growth. Some of them said MDMA-like states occurred during
meditation and one man who used to meditate before he took part in the
study said that taking MDMA had improved his meditation.
Half the subjects said they used drugs less (including alcohol and
caffeine) but ten per cent said they used more. Those who used less drugs,
turned away from drugs per se: they did not swap one drug in favour of
another. However one woman said she would take only MDMA in future "because
she learnt from it".
Half the subjects changed some of their 'life goals' after sessions, and
all of these implied the change was positive. Most involved a shift away
from materialism and towards spirituality or wellbeing.
Half the subjects found they were released from attitudes that prevented
them from actualizing their potential. Half of these said they had gained
lasting insight into their psychological problems; three felt less guilty
about enjoying themselves and two became less "self-limiting". One said he
had got rid of "a load of rubbish he had been carrying around"; another
felt less anxiety and another felt less self-conscious.
In the discussion, the authors conclude that MDMA may "predispose people to
a recurrence of previous psychological disabilities". They also note that
people "who want MDMA to cure their problems" make poor subjects, while
those who want to use it to learn about themselves are most suitable.
Their main conclusion is that "the single best use of MDMA is to facilitate
more direct communication between people involved in a significant
emotional relationship". They also recommended MDMA as an adjunct to
insight-orientated psychotherapy, and for promoting self-understanding and
spiritual and personal growth.
- 29 MDMA Reconsidered, by Robert Leverant, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
This paper reports views on MDMA expressed at a conference for informed lay
users of the drug held by the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in May
1986. Conference discussion topics included how MDMA compares with
hallucinogens and whether these drugs should be available for therapeutic
use and, if so, under what conditions.
While extremely useful for psychotherapy, MDMA is deceptive for the
spiritual therapy whose ends are complete freedom and autonomy as
delineated by Buddhism, Hinduism and other mystic traditions. This
necessitates the death of the mind. . . Unlike the stronger psychedelics,
MDMA does not encourage glimpsing this last development of Love's
unfolding. . .
Perhaps MDMA's greatest potential in therapy is nonverbal. [It could aid
body therapies that utilize] the attention, the breath, sound, and hand
pressure to open up and remove blocks that prevent contact with the life
force within [the body] and hinder the =E9lan vital from flowing.
- 30 Visit to Dr. John Henry at the National Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital, London, 11/12/92
The unit offers a 24-hour telephone enquiry service to doctors throughout
the UK who are presented with symptoms that they cannot clearly identify.
All telephone enquirers are asked to send blood and urine samples for
testing, which is usually carried out using one of three types of
chromatography. Most samples are taken from live patients, but some are
taken during a post mortem. Some drugs are easier to detect through blood
and urine samples than others. Cannabis "can be detected 5 weeks after a
single reefer"; LSD is very hard to detect.
Recently, a large proportion of samples of Ecstasy sent in for testing have
been found to contain MDEA instead of MDMA. Dr. Henry thinks MDEA is less
toxic than MDMA because it produces less jaw clench.
Asked what advance symptoms people who have taken MDMA should look out for
as signs of the onset of overheating, Dr. Henry said that excessive
sweating, staggering, thirst and exhaustion were the main symptoms. He said
that overheating was unlikely to occur if enough water was drunk. Dr. Henry
said that he believes that MDMA stimulates opiods, a neurotransmitter that
acts as an internal anaesthetic. Opiods go into action when people bruise
themselves badly playing football. Dr. Henry compares dancing at a rave
with running a marathon - it involves four hours of exhausting exercise.
Neurotransmitters such as 5HT and opiods can be stimulated either by
chemicals such as MDMA or by feelings of excitement. Dr. Henry says that
this could explain why people who go to raves without taking drugs pick up
on the same mood: the environment may cause them to produce their own
neurotransmitters and this affects their mood.
Asked about the dangers of Paracetamol relative to those of MDMA, Dr. Henry
said that Paracetamol causes over 200 deaths a year, but is very safe in
normal doses. Overdosing affects the liver, and can cause death at doses of
between 15 and 200 tablets. He said that MDMA is broken down by the liver
into MDA and metabolites, which are excreted by the kidneys into the urine.
I asked Dr. Henry what evidence there was of a link between liver damage
and Ecstasy use, mentioning that liver damage associated with Ecstasy use
has not been reported in the USA and suggesting that cases in Britain might
be the result of parallel use of alcohol or other drugs. Dr. Henry said
that he has no doubt that MDMA causes hepatitis because some patients have
exhibited the symptoms of hepatitis after each of several ingestions of
I also asked about kidney failure (or 'acute renal failure' as reported in
the medical journals) associated with Ecstasy use. Dr. Henry said that he
believes this is the result of muscular breakdown overloading the kidneys
with myoglobin. Muscular breakdown can also be caused by intense bouts of
Dr. Henry explained the mechanism of heatstroke. Dissolute Intravascular
Coagulation (DIC) - blood clotting in the arteries - occurs at 42-43 degrees
C (c.108 degrees F) and tiny blood clots stick to the artery walls. This is
harmless in itself, as the blood clots are too small to cause a blockage,
but the process can use up all the clotting agent, with the result that the
blood will pour out of any of the tiny haemorrhages which occur throughout
the cardiovascular system as part of the normal process of breakdown and
repair. Such internal bleeding can be fatal. Internal bleeding in the
brain, combined with high, pulsating blood pressure can cause strokes.
Out of all the millions of brain cells only 10,000 hold the chemical
serotonin which is affected by MDMA. Serotonin levels have a marked effect
on mood and a statistically significant proportion of suicide victims have
been found to have depleted serotonin. Antidepressants of the SSRI type
such as Prozac (Fluoxetine) inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin.
I asked Dr. Sheila Dorling, a lab researcher at the National Poisons Unit,
what had been found in samples of E besides MDMA and MDEA. She said some
MDA had been found plus various available drugs such as paracetamol and
codeine; other samples only contained amphetamine. None contained LSD. The
poisons unit does not analyse many Ecstasy pills.
- 31 Through the Gateway of the Heart (book) published by Four Trees Publications, San Francisco 1985
This book is a collection of some 60 subjective accounts of positive
experiences by users and "guidelines for the sacramental use of
empathogenic substances". The accounts are divided into men's, women's and
Typically, the accounts are by well educated people in their thirties who
are 'into their feelings' and 'seeking awareness'. But there is also the
story of a 45 year-old man who was deeply in pain from arthritis entitled:
"Now I see pain as an ally, not as an enemy" and the account of a 33
year-old woman who had been raped 8 years previously. She took 65mg of
MDMA, followed two hours later by 300 =B5g of LSD. The suppressed horror of
the rape scene came back so vividly that she mistook the person she was
with for the rapist, which, she says, helped her to get over the rape. She
vomited a great deal then and later, as though getting rid of her disgust
at the incident.
The guidelines section is compiled from the collective experience of about
twenty or thirty therapists who have used MDMA in their work. Suggestions
include that participants should agree to ban sexual contact (even between
those who are already lovers) and that 'power objects' such as crystals or
photos of relevant people be brought to sessions.
A serene and comfortable room is suggested and "a fire in the fireplace
serves as a reminder of the alchemical fires of inner purification". Lower
doses of MDMA could be taken outdoors. The slower baroque music of Bach or
Vivaldi became favourites with therapists. People guiding others through an
MDMA experience should conduct themselves with integrity and sensitivity
and avoid being caught up in verbal exchanges, as "most people are able to
do their own best therapy in these states".
It is suggested that practices such as making affirmations, yoga, "guided
imagery" and "shamanic journey work" can aid the therapeutic process
triggered by MDMA.
The guidelines present two models for group sessions. In the first, people
stay separate during the session, but share experiences before and
afterwards. They listen to music on earphones and communicate only with the
In the second, users communicate during the session in a ritual fashion.
These sessions are usually residential and some are held at night.
Typically, the group will assemble on a Friday evening, when they share
their intentions for the trip. The session will start on Saturday morning;
the group will spend Saturday night together and get together on Sunday
morning for a final sharing of their experiences. All participants have to
agree to keep all the proceedings confidential.
Sometimes MDMA will be combined with either LSD, psychedelic mushrooms,
Ketamine or 2CB by some or all of the participants. Most therapists say it
is necessary for participants to have previous experience of taking the
relevant drug on their own. A typical session lasts 40 minutes, starting
with inner exploration accompanied by music, andproceeding to people
giving monologues or singing into a conch shell.
Other rituals that may be drawn up include: each participant finding their
own "power spot" before the session; offering prayers to the 4 directions;
group "rebirthing"; breathing activities or movement disciplines such as
Tai Chi. Rituals worked best on low doses.
- 32 A researcher reports from the rave by Russell Newcombe, Druglink, January 1992
Many take 2 tablets, optimal dose for maximum psychoactive effect at usual
strength; a substantial minority take between 3 and 10 while a few 'more
sensitive or smaller people' only half. . .
Many claim that regular raving and/or use of Ecstasy has improved their
general mental state and their relationships with others. . .
Reports on people who have tried E in other situations often indicate
somewhat different experiences, including more unpleasant aftereffects. It
could be that increases in oxygen, endorphins and other substances in the
body caused by vigorous activity interact with MDMA to produce experiences
different from when the body is relaxed.
- 33 The Use of Ecstasy and Dance Drugs at Rave Parties and Clubs: Some Problems and Solutions, by Dr. Russell Newcombe, paper presented at a symposium on Ecstasy, Leeds, November 1992
Newcombe says the use of E, 'acid' and 'speed' has spread dramatically -
and into most social groups - over the last 5 years, largely because of
their popularity as dance drugs on the rave scene, the dominant subculture
of the 1990s. About 2 million people are estimated to have taken dance
drugs at raves including at least 750,000 who have taken MDMA. The aim is
to partake in an altered state of group consciousness by dancing for long
periods on E. The risks involved in using E are exacerbated at raves by the
nature of the drug dealing that takes place, e.g. imposter drugs being
sold, the setting, which can cause heatstroke, the response of the
authorities, where clubs are closed leading to more illegal raves, and mass
media coverage (implying drug scares promote drug use).
Reports of deaths and psychological disturbances related to Ecstasy use are
becoming more common, although there is little evidence that taking Ecstasy
is any more risky than alternative leisure activities.
Dr. Newcombe argues that the authorities should take a pragmatic policy
towards the rave scene, which focuses on reducing the threat to public
order and public health. At the local level, this implies setting up
multi-agency groups to develop a model of good practice for rave events.
He says that four matters require urgent attention:
1. The development of an agreed policy towards rave nightclubs and parties
2. The regulation of security staff
3. The reduction of organised drug supply and
4. The development of healthcare services for ravers, particularly
risk-reduction information and on-site outreach work.
The paper gives comparative figures - drawn from a 1992 Home Office
bulletin - of the number of seizures and convictions involving dance drugs
in the UK in 1981 and in 1991.
number of seizures quantity of seizures number of convictions
1981 1991 1981 1991 1981 1991
(d -- thousand doses)
amphetamine 1,117 6,821 18kg 421kg 1,074 3,532
LSD 384 1,636 n/a 170d 345 1,200
MDMA 0 1,735 0 365d 0 559
Newcombe estimates that over 100,000 young adults attend raves every
weekend. A national survey of 24,000 secondary school children in 1991
found record levels of drug use. Among 15-16 year-olds, 10% had used
cannabis; 7% LSD; 7% amphetamine and 4% MDMA (Balding 1992).48 Drug use is
higher with older groups.
Dr. Newcombe suggests that the rave can be seen as a religious ceremony
with the mixing desk as the altar and the DJs as priests. The DJs mix
records in response to the dancers to build up to a high. This peak
orgasmic 'trance dance' atmosphere is called 'kicking', 'mental' or
The raver's main aim is to dance and other activities such as conversation
and sexual behaviour are correspondingly reduced. Raving can be seen as
worshipping the god of altered consciousness. There is a virtual absence of
aggressive or disorderly behaviour at raves, partly due to very low
consumption of alcohol and partly due to drug use.
House music has developed into various styles: Techno music is favoured by
those who like maximum chemical stimulation. Ambient music is more peaceful
but just as powerful.
Relatively few harmful effects have been established as resulting from MDMA
use, compared to other popular drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, prescribed
drugs, Paracetamol and solvents, even taking into account the wider use of
these. Statistically, the risk of death is no greater than that involved in
other leisure pursuits.
Drug dealing at raves
Security staff cannot legally strip-search customers, so dealers can easily
smuggle drugs in their underwear. Women are sometimes used to carry drugs
in as they are less likely to be carefully searched because most security
staff are men. A woman can carry several hundred Es in her vagina.
There are two types of dealing organisations: 'mutual societies' which are
groups who distribute to friends without making a profit; and organised
gangs. The latter employ specialists: "smugglers" who get the drugs into
the rave; "carriers" who hold drugs and money; "snarlers" who are the
salesmen; "lookouts" who watch out for police; and "minders" who provide
physical protection. Sometimes security staff are involved by offering
protection to gangs for a percentage ("taxing"). This protection includes
giving warnings and cutting out competition. It is gangs who are most
likely to sell bad quality drugs, Dr. Newcombe says, and he suggests that
the police should focus on these and ignore the mutual societies.
Safety and security problems
Minor problems such as bruised feet and fainting result from overcrowding;
bad management creates problems such as locked fire exits, slippery floors,
broken glass and poor ventilation.
However, illegal raves have a far greater potential for disaster due to:
poor fire access, factors such as the absence of lighting apart from
strobes, lethal substances being sold as drugs. Crushing due to panic from
an emergency, police raid or a fire could cause a major disaster in an
The response of police and local authorities
Because the authorities close down clubs where drugs are used, customers
are driven to other venues which are less experienced in handling ravers or
to illegal events. This puts ravers at a higher risk.
Police raids on large events could trigger a Hillsborough type disaster,
The financial cost of a trial of 12 people who held an illegal rave in
Warrington in 1990 was over #250,000. The average cost of policing a large
illegal rave is #10-20,000.
Suggestions for new policies
Dr. Newcombe's main suggestion is to develop guidelines for authorities.
"It would be unrealistic to expect any strategy to reduce substantially the
use of drugs at raves," he says. Authorities should not close clubs on the
grounds of drug use; instead they should cooperate with the management to
reduce problems. Security staff should be regulated (this is done by some
authorities). Police should focus their attention on drug-dealing gangs.
Information should be provided on the content of the latest drug seizures.
- 34 Recreational MDMA use in Sydney: a profile of Ecstasy users and their experiences with the drug, by Nadia Solowij et al., in the British Journal of Addiction, 1992
100 Ecstasy users responded to a survey distributed through a 'snowball'
peer network in 1991. The authors found that Ecstasy was mainly used for
fun at dance parties and social gatherings and its perceived effects were a
'positive mood state' and feelings of intimacy and closeness to others.
Secondary effects included: acting as a stimulant, giving insights and
enhancing perception and sensuality. Side effects and residual effects were
not consistent but no worse than for amphetamines and psychedelics. 80% of
users agreed that Ecstasy was fun to use; 13% were neutral and 7%
disagreed. 28% reported that they had had problems with taking E. Of those
who had taken Ecstasy between one and three times, 75% described it as
pleasant and enjoyable. 58% would recommend it to others.
The authors conclude that Ecstasy is not conducive to regular and frequent
use because of tolerance to its positive effects while its negative effects
increased. There had been few problems associated with Ecstasy use, but
caution should be observed until the level of risk the drug poses to humans
- 35 Fit for anything, by Sarah Champion, The Guardian, 12/4/93
A feature article about fitness culture and raving. Sheila Henderson, a
researcher at Lifeline, the Manchester drug agency, is quoted as saying
that young women who want to keep fit and look good can either go to the
gym or go to a rave as the two have similar effects. However, while the gym
is agony, raving is fun and as a result many young women are becoming
- 36 Nutrients for blocking phenethylamine damage, by Dr. Brian Leibovitz, in MAPS newsletter, Spring 1993
Studies in the last few years have established that phenethylamines such as
MDMA can undergo 'redox cycling', a process that liberates copious
quantities of oxygen free radicals. Excessive amounts overwhelm the system
and damage ensues. "Phenethylamines are stored in highest concentrations in
the brain and nervous system. Not surprisingly, these tissues are at the
greatest risk for being harmed by free radicals (and associated oxidants)
formed during the redox cycling of phenethylamines. Moderate intakes appear
to be handled well. Excessive quantities, however, may cause oxidative
damage. It would therefore be prudent for those taking large amounts of
MDMA to take antioxidant supplements as well. These include vitamin C which
is water soluble, and vitamin E which is fat soluble. The suggested
preventative dose is 2-4 gms vitamin C and 1,000 IU vitamin E. Also
recommended are S-Carotene (5mg); Bioflavonoids (2gm); L-Carnitine (1gm);
N-Acetylcysteine (2gm) and Selenium (250 ug). Leibovitz recommends 3 times
these doses for treatment.
- 37 The Phenomenology of Ecstasy Use, by Teresa O'Dwyer, Senior Registrar of Adult Psychiatry at St Thomas' Hospital, Morpeth, November 92
This paper is an account of a study of users' experiences on Ecstasy and
the patterns and circumstances of their use undertaken by the Leeds
Addiction Unit between January and September 1992. 33 subjects aged between
16 and 27 - mostly male - were referred by the LAU and given a
questionnaire, part of which they completed themselves and part of which
was filled in by researchers.
70% of respondents used Ecstasy on weekends only. Half had tried it only
once. 31% had never taken more than one E at a time, but 12% had used over
7. During the onset of the drug, the apprehension felt by inexperienced
users sometimes developed into panic. Many said it was essential to feel
very hot to get the full effect of the drug. To this end, a group of
friends once drove around in a car with the heater on.
All respondents described an increase in social interaction under MDMA, an
increased ability to approach and relate to strangers, and an enhanced
ability to express affection. The drug also seemed to produce an attitude
of recklessness where users had little concern about the consequences of
what they were doing, although only two had had accidents.
Thoughts about sex when on E were not always matched by real desire.
Establishing a 'meaningful relationship' was felt to be an essential part
of foreplay. Some found sex while on Ecstasy disappointing while for others
it was enhanced.
The name 'Ecstasy' was regarded as appropriate by many respondents. Their
comments on the mood induced by the drug included "I cried for joy", "It's
the best feeling you could ever have", "Like I've just been woken from a
dream to really experience life". Some felt privileged to have had the E
experience, and one respondent expressed this by saying "We have a secret
that no-one else has".
A depressed mood is reported by most users as the after effect of taking E
and this sometimes lasted for a couple of days. Paranoia was reported by
85%. "For many, this began as an awareness of beingadmired by others.
Gradually as the weeks passed, this admiring regard changed to critical
scrutiny and ridicule. Increased sensitivity to comments and a tendency to
interpret situations in a threatening way was described by some," O'Dwyer
says. Most people experienced a hangover lasting from 12 to 24 hours, but
for some this lasted for up to a week.
The thoughts most frequently reported on E relate to music, dancing and
affection for companions. 60% felt E had changed the way they looked at
their life. Over half 'felt that while under the influence of Ecstasy they
could see a new significance in current and past events'. Over half
reported losing personal interests including sport and drinking, but a
third said they gained new interests, such as music and clothes. Thinking
could become focused but was also sometimes distracted: "The most
elaborate, complicated solutions are arrived at only to find that the
initial problem is now forgotten," O'Dwyer said.
76% of respondents had lost weight averaging one stone through taking E.
All frequent users reported that they became tolerant to Ecstasy. To
maintain the effect, they had to increase the dose, but this also increased
the side effects of nausea, cramp, depression and paranoia. Some took a
break from using the drug for a few weeks for this reason.
58% of respondents said they had stopped using Ecstasy. The most common
reasons given were that it was no longer providing enough pleasure; it had
caused problems due to the associated lifestyle of all-night raving or it
caused paranoia or concerns about health. 30% reported social problems such
as losing their job or the break-up of a relationship following using E.
Most felt that the quality of the drug had deteriorated.
- 38 Entry in Micromedex, vol. 75, a hospital database printout from the National Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital, London
This entry says that evidence that MDMA is neurotoxic is controversial.
Behavioural alterations have been observed in rats given high doses, but
the rats' behaviour has returned to normal after 4 weeks.
It reports two cases of lead poisoning resulting from Ecstasy use, which
are put down to toxic by-products of MDMA manufacture. Lead acetate is a
component of one synthesis procedure.
Urinary excretion of unchanged MDMA and its metabolites is complete within
24 hours. 65% of the dose is excreted unchanged in the urine and 7% as MDA.
Release of dopamine in rats is greatest with MDA, less with MDMA and least
with MDEA. Dopamine release may relate to amphetamine-like side effects.
- 39 Drugs and Magic, edited by George Andrews, published by Panther, 1975
Andrews mentions that the reindeer hunters of the Middle Anadyr, Siberia,
used Fly Agaric mushrooms and when there was a shortage of the mushrooms
would drink cupfuls of each other's urine without inhibition to prolong the
- 40 A visit to Lifeline, a non-statutory drug agency in Manchester, 3 August 1992
Lifeline is 21 years old and has 35 full time employees. All its funding
comes from the government and most of its work consists of counselling
opiate users. But when the rave scene started in about 1990, senior staff
became interested in Ecstasy, and Lifeline now has five staff working on
projects related to the drug.
Ian Wardle, the agency's acting director, guesses that a million Es are
taken every week. He says the latest fashion is high doses of LSD and
strong grass: until recently an LSD dose was 50-80 ug but the new 'high'
dose is about 150 ug. [The normal dose in the sixties was said to be 250
Mark Gilman, a Lifeline researcher looking at the way groups of football
supporters in Manchester have converted from alcohol to Ecstasy, tells me
that football supporters used to meet in a pub after the game to place bulk
orders. He says they would have stayed with E but for the quality falling.
The way they bought the tablets, such as meeting the dealer in a motorway
service station, gave them no chance to test the quality.
Lifeline workers say that the following prices are the norm in Manchester:
LSD #3 each or #1 each by the hundred. Ecstasy #15 each or 10 for
#120; #8 each by the hundred; #3-#5 by the thousand. As with LSD,
the price of Ecstasy has remained the same over the years, defying
inflation. Likewise, Amphetamine Sulphate sells at #10/gm. a price that
has remained the same for years. The bulk price has gone down: it is now
#100/oz but the amphetamine is also more diluted.
The typical "weekend drug budget" for a working class northerner is 1 gm
amphetamine plus 2 Es. Multiple E use - or "stacking" - occurs, but few
people take more than 3 Es, and the maximum is 6. There has recently been a
switch away from Ecstasy and towards LSD for health reasons, since E is
believed to be toxic. Another reason for choosing acid is that the dose is
so small that it is not possible to adulterate it. Lab tests to analyse
drugs cost about #60 per hour, which is usually long enough for about 3
Gilman says that club owners are becoming more responsible and looking
after clients who get into trouble, such as "spinners" - dancers that go
out of control. These tend to be asthmatics.
There is a big demand for information from Ecstasy users. Gilman is often
faced with questions such as "Why do I feel fucking weird after E but not
after speed?" He tried to make a "Raver's guide to neurology" using 'pint
pot' analogies, but it proved too difficult to combine easy-to-understand
information with accuracy.
Dr. John Merrill, a consultant with the Regional Drug Dependence Service at
Prestwich Hospital, says toxicity associated with MDMA is caused by
overheating. This causes minute blood clots to form which can cause a
stroke and internal bleeding. Body heat is increased by activity, so MDMA
is probably not toxic when the user remains still. If someone is
overheating, first aid should include cooling the body.
Amphetamine and Ecstasy delay male ejaculation in sex, but Ecstasy is
reputed to enhance sexual pleasure after a trip. Many traditional working
class men go out to raves without their partners, and although the women
don't like this their compensation is good sex after the men come down.
Dr. Merrill says that the hot sweaty environment found at raves, combined
with fatigue and loss of appetite is conducive to the transmission of
MDEA is also now available in Manchester. Wardle believes it may have
killed several people.
- 41 Women, sexuality and Ecstasy Use - The Final Report 1993, by Sheila Henderson, published by Lifeline, 101 Oldham St Manchester M4 1LW at #15+#1.50 postage.
From October 1991 to October 1993, Sheila Henderson conducted research into
young women, sex and drugs in the 1990's popular culture for Lifeline in
association with the North West Regional Drugs Training Unit and the Centre
for Research on the Social Aspects of Health at Manchester University. The
project is funded by the North West Regional Health Authority. The report
includes The Main Study with sections on Nature and extent of drug use,
Gender and drug use, Sexuality, Drugs and sexuality, Young women' cultural
reference points. In addition, the report includes Luvdup and DeElited
below (reference 41) and the Ecstasy Study (reference 182).
Henderson looks at the gender dimensions of recreational drug use and
especially attitudes to and experiences of sex and sexuality. She is trying
to identify the "cultural reference points" - from magazines to music - of
young women who take drugs recreationally and focuses on "the rave
phenomenon that is flooding popular culture".
Unlike previous work on illicit drugs, this study includes the possible
benefits of drug use such as the pleasure and fun that may be had under the
influence of drugs. The initial findings are based on 6 in-depth
interviews, 47 questionnaires and 15 background in-depth interviews etc.
The fashion among female Ecstasy users at the time was skimpy lycra as well
as styles such as rubber, PVC and leather borrowed from the gay scene.
Madonna was a strong influence in popularising music forms and was an
example of a woman borrowing the fashion of the gay scene. Even
negatively-biased media reports have been good publicity for Ecstasy,
Sex is not one of the foremost pleasures offered by Ecstasy. The motivation
for raving is more likely to be sensations of the mind, body and soul. The
pleasure of dancing with expression and empathy pushes sex into the
background. Henderson says that the attraction of raves for women derives
from being in a pleasurable group setting, from which the pressure towards
and emphasis on sex from men has been removed, in contrast to alcohol-based
night life. Interviews indicated that sex is the last thing women have in
mind when going to a rave.
The sexual safety of raves is an attraction for girls, compared to
alcohol-based clubs, which are seen as cattle markets. Girls sometimes
enjoy kissing at raves because it feels good but is 'safe', i.e. is not
going to involve sex.
People at raves are more tolerant of a display of homosexual affection.
Most women said they had no casual sex on the night of a rave and others
said less than when they used to go to alcohol-based clubs. A few women
said that after an E trip was an ideal time to have "long, slow sex" along
with some hash.
Women seemed more prepared to take risks over taking drugs than over having
sex. After their first E, they were likely to take it frequently.
According to Henderson, one reason why women are not into sex at raves is
that men on Ecstasy have less interest in sex and do not expect sex. Most
men have the opposite to an erection: a shrinking penis. One girl reported
being with other girls walking through a dangerous part of the city when
they were approached by a gang of men. They were scared until they realised
the men were on E, "then heaved a sigh of relief."
Drugs are an intrinsic part of rave culture. Most interviewees couldn't
imagine going to a rave without taking at least one of the dance drugs.
These included cannabis, magic mushrooms, LSD and amphetamine besides
Ecstasy. Ecstasy was the drug of choice, though at only #2-#3 LSD was also
One said: "When you're on E it's like you're dancing on the notes, and you
just feel so up there it's like heaven. And you just feel so good, you love
everybody, you look around and you think 'Oh you're all wonderful! DJ,
you're wonderful!' If you get a good song on, you get vibes going through
your body like rushes; it's fantastic. I've never felt anything like it!"
Asked to rate the best experiences in her life, the same girl replied
"First E, music and dancing, then sex."
Drugs were the primary reason given for involvement in the rave scene by
only 6%. Another 6% were involved in the culture without taking drugs other
than cannabis. 75% had used cannabis before getting involved, but only 2%
had previously tried Ecstasy. 90% of a sample of women had been through
periods of weekly use, frequently following their first experience.
Early in the study, alcohol drinkers were looked down on and referred to as
"beer monsters". However, towards the end drinking alcohol was often
combined with Ecstasy, in spite of worse hangovers.
Belonging to a wide family and feeling secure is another important
attraction of raving. "The first time I took E, I was with this bloke and I
just looked at him and I thought 'Oh I can't, don't wanna be with him any
more' and that was it. 'Cos there were so many other people and I just felt
so confident and you could tell them what you want and be/do anything."
However, relationships also form on E as told by a 17 year-old girl: "The
emotional impact of E is more of a problem than the physical [one] in my
experience. It's frightening how close you become to someone you do Es
with, but it's an exaggeration of what you already feel for them". Others
describe strong feelings for someone met at a rave, who they do not find to
be attractive when seen again elsewhere.
'Policing'. According to Henderson, an important factor determining extent
of drug use was that individuals tended to monitor themselves and their
peer group. By this she implied looking after and advising one another when
to modify drug use.
Menstruation. A quarter of the women who used Ecstasy weekly for over six
months reported lighter or less frequent periods and sometimes no periods
at all for several months. There is no reason to suspect this is due to a
direct effect of the drug, but is likely to be the result of indirect
effects - suppressed appetite, sweating and all night exercise.
- 42 Luvdup and DeElited, by Sheila Henderson, researcher for Lifeline, a non-statutory drug agency in Manchester. A paper given at South Bank Polytechnic in May 1992
This paper discusses women and drugs. Information is based on individual
and group interviews with 109 young women and 35 men.
Henderson says Ecstasy users are distinct from opiate users in several
ways: for example, they take the drug in public, not private. They do not
regard junkies as antiheroes.
Women on the rave scene are even less informed about drugs than men. They
are also less likely to be body-searched on their way into clubs. Although
in some ways women behave in a more liberated way in the rave scene, it is
hard for them to become DJs, the pivotal figures in the rave scene, and
they still use their appearance to get into clubs.
More liberated behaviour includes being less likely to be closely tied to a
boyfriend. Instead women will come with a group of friends, often without
any men. The atmosphere of the rave inspires confidence and independence,
for instance it is common for women to mix outside their own group of
friends. This has provided a way for young women to rise above being a
visual/sexual object. Dealing in E has also provided status for some girls.
Outside the rave scene, girls described as 'ravers' are often regarded as
sexually available, mainly because of their dress, but within the rave they
are not hassled except by men on alcohol. Girls don't feel threatened by
men who approach them at raves and therefore are free to respond. "I used
to go to indie clubs which are alcohol orientated . . . there was a
definite pressure to cop off with people at this type of club. At house
clubs it's much more just getting to know people," Henderson quotes one as
saying. The general consensus is that "you don't go to a rave to cop
[copulate]". This is based on men not getting erections on Ecstasy.
Women generally feel far less sexual pressure at raves. They can be
massaged by a strange man on the dance floor without it being a threatening
prelude to a sexual advance. Flirting is not socially acceptable at raves
and is not responded to. Even men encountered on the street are not
perceived as a threat, if the women discover that they are on Ecstasy.
However, women do not appear to feel less sexy on E and sometimes initiate
Sexual divisions are blurred at raves and displays of affection are
accepted. Women are free to hug each other and gays and lesbians are
- 43 The Adam Experience, a guide for first-time users, by Starfire, 1985
A seven page pamphlet published anonymously. It gives the following advice:
Plan the trip to be free of expectations, duties, tasks or interruptions.
Saturday morning is suggested for those who work normal hours. Put aside
the whole day and do not drive - it is said this is probably unnecessary
but allows for strong reactions. Allow Sunday off too and regard the
weekend as a retreat. It is best to take MDMA with someone who has taken it
themselves and "above all, is loved and trusted by you". Emotional and
psychic bonding can result, so be choosy. Prepare yourself by fasting if
this feels comfortable, otherwise avoid solid foods for the preceding 4
hours. Get good sleep the night before. The better you feel, the better the
Doses should be proportional to your weight: 125 mg is ideal for
150-180lbs. A booster 2hrs after ingesting the drug will prolong the
plateau for upwards of 6 hours, but this is not really recommended on your
first trip as the effect is usually very powerful anyway. The booster dose
should be 1/3 of the initial dose.
Take MDMA as if it were a sacrament. Meditate on the fact that you are
about to experience something special. During the first half hour it has no
effect, so usethis time positively for intimate talk about your hopes and
expectations. Focus on shelving or letting go of mundane concerns and
With an empty stomach you will feel a definite rush, experienced as a clear
certainty of your own perfectness and connectedness.
Focus on surrendering to the experience. Let go. Laugh, cry or hug your
partner or yourself. Let it be easy and share what you are feeling with
your partner, because that's what the experience is all about - sharing,
You will notice minor, harmless effects: dilation of the pupils; increase
in pulse; sometimes jaw clenching and eye wiggle and a marked loss of
appetite which may last 24 hours. Don't worry if these do not occur.
The plateau phase gives you feelings of peace, calm and certainty and lasts
from 1 to 6 hours. Use this time to experiment, touch and feel. Looking
into your partner's eyes is a profound experience.
If appropriate, you may express your feelings with your partner sexually.
The drug is not an aphrodisiac, but it does eliminate barriers. It can aid
bonding between people. Sexual experience only occurs when it is
appropriate on a heart level for both of you. There may be no desire for
sex even with a lover. Know that whatever you choose to create will be a
perfect and appropriate choice.
Ecstasy does not normally give 'stoned' feelings, distortions or
disorientation. There is no delusion: everything experienced will be just
as clear afterwards. Therefore MDMA is a learning tool of immense power.
When they use E creatively people change: they get calmer, happier and less
tense; more willing to be honest, laugh and to love themselves.
During the plateau phase, it is possible to communicate from a much deeper
place. Make use of this: say what you feel. You will find it is OK not to
censure yourself. This experience of unconditional communication is
transformative at a very deep level. Feel this. Learn this. Talk about it,
especially everything you couldn't talk about normally. And let your
partner know of your acceptance of his or her thoughts and feelings as
well. Suggest saying to each other from time to time: What are we learning?
Try to fix in your mind the perfect simplicity of what you are learning.
This will be available for you the next day and from then on.
You may not be aware of it, but your body is working harder. Look after
yourself, drink plenty of water
Difficult trips may result from the release of unexpected emotions.
Sometimes the whole trip will be a reliving of unexpressed negative
feelings. This may be painful but it can be profoundly valuable. An
understanding, patient and loving partner is needed, but there is no such
thing as a bad trip on Ecstasy. There is often a release of negativity
followed by relief and joy, although this may not follow until your next
A unique effect of Ecstasy is its afterglow, which may occur from 6 hours
to 24 hours after taking the drug. This is a cuddly sort of space and a
good time to talk about the experience. Consciously work with your partner
to maintain the sense of perfect love created on the trip. It is easy to do
during the afterglow, and as this is an in-between state it is a chance to
learn how to incorporate the experience into every day life.
A second trip should not be taken for several weeks to allow you time to
absorb the experience. Discuss and plan the structure of your next trip to
build on what you have learnt.
Do not use Ecstasy if you are pregnant or lactating.
- 44 MDMA and Human Sexual Function, by John Buffum and Charles Moser, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
This paper gives the findings of a survey carried out by distributing an
anonymous questionnaire around the San Francisco area in 1985-6. Of 300
distributed, 76 were filled out and returned (25%).
70% of users had engaged in sexual activity while on MDMA. Of these, 88% of
the women and 74% of the men said that the sensuality of the sexual
experience was enhanced. They indulged in less, but the same type of,
sexual activities on MDMA, with the exception of more 'heavypetting'. 81%
of users said that the sensuality of the experience was enhanced and
several commented that MDMA was a sensual, not a sexual, drug. Half the men
said it was more difficult to have an erection and 62% said they had
difficulty achieving orgasm, but, among women, as many found it easier to
have an orgasm on MDMA as found it harder. 76% of users said MDMA had not
caused health or emotional problems. Complaints included urinary tract
infections, tiredness, colds, headaches and mild depression next day.
While 85% of users said MDMA had no effect on their sexual desires, the
rest felt like doing things, such as having group sex, that implied being
free of inhibitions. No increase in users' willingness to initiate sexual
activity was reported, but they became slightly more receptive. A third of
users thought MDMA had helped them overcome inhibitions, making comments
like "cleared pelvic blocks," "lessening of resistance," "better sensual
communication" and "more relaxed". All the women and 87% of the men thought
MDMA increased emotional closeness, and two thirds said this did not depend
on the dose.
The researchers conclude that MDMA is not an aphrodisiac, but enhances the
sensual aspects of sex. They note that, with half the men and a third of
the women having felt more receptive to sex on MDMA, "it is curious that a
drug which can increase emotional closeness, enhance receptivity to being
sexual and would be chosen as a sexual enhancer, does not increase the
desire to initiate sex".
- 45 A survey of MDMA use in London, by Adam Winstock, a senior house officer in respiratory medicine at the Hammersmith Hospital Royal Postgraduate Medical School (unpublished)
From October 1989 to February 1990, Winstock conducted a survey of Ecstasy
use in London. Out of 250 forms distributed, 89 were returned and analysed.
64% of respondents were male and the average age was 23. The youngest
respondent was 17 and the oldest 31. Nearly all were single.
Frequency of use:=09
less than 3 per week 2.2%
2 per week 14.1%
1 per week 18%
more than 1/week 28%
less than 1 per month 36%
52% of respondents had used Ecstasy more than 20 times; 5.6% had taken it
more than 100 times and 27% had used it less than 10 times.
62% of respondents - including many of the heavy users - had stopped using
the drug for some periods of time.
75% took it on Fridays and/or Saturdays only; a mere 2% reported midweek
usage. Only 19% said they would take more of it if it were cheaper while
59% said they would definitely not take more if it cost less. 65% said the
effect of the drug was variable.
59% noticed the build up of tolerance, but none experienced withdrawal
symptoms. For 4.5 per cent of respondents, MDMA was the first illicit drug
they had tried. Over 75% had experience of cannabis, amyl nitrate,
amphetamine sulphate, cocaine and LSD. In combination with MDMA, 79% of
respondents had taken cannabis, 57% alcohol and 51% cocaine.
The most pronounced effect noted by users was sexual arousal (89%), and
increased sexual activity (67%). [These findings are in marked contrast
with the results of other studies which show MDMA suppresses sexual arousal
and activity41, 42, 33, 44]. Other reported effects were unremarkable. 17%
reported having had a 'bad E', usually meaning the pill had no psychoactive
- 46 Using Psychedelics Wisely by Myron Stolaroff in Gnosis winter 1993
This issue of Gnosis is devoted to 'Psychedelics and The Path' - various
articles discussing the spiritual value of psychedelic experiences.
The author says he speaks from several years of research involving
psychedelics with some 350 subjects. He believes that "The great value of
these materials is that they give us access to our repressed and forgotten
material, . . to the archetypes of humanity, to an enormous range of levels
of thought, and to the wellspring of creativity and mystical experience
that Jung called the collective unconscious." He argues that for Westerners
whose lives are intrinsically bound up with making a living, the use of
psychedelics is a practical alternative to thelong-term commitment
required by Eastern masters.
See reference 144 for Myron Stolaroff's latest work.
- 47 Phone call to Somerset House: population of Great Britain in various age groups 1991
- 48 Young People in 1992, by Schools Health Education Unit, at Exeter University
Questionnaires were completed by over 20,000 pupils aged 11 to 14 in 132
schools in England in 1992. Results showed that, among 14 year-olds, 4.4%
of boys and 4.1% of girls had tried Ecstasy.
- 49 The Normalisation of Recreational Drug Use Amongst Young People in North West England by Fiona Measham, Russell Newcombe & Howard Parker, accepted by British Journal of Sociology December 1993
This paper presents findings relating to a first cohort of teenagers in the
study. The sample was designed to be representative of gender, social class
and geographical area. 70% were age 14 and 30% age 15; 54% were boys; 88%
white; 70% Christian; 84% had fathers in paid work and 68% had mothers in
Illicit drug use has risen to record levels among this sample. 59% had been
offered drugs; 36% had tried an illicit drug; 32% had tried cannabis; 14%
poppers; 13% LSD; 12% solvents; 10% magic mushrooms; 10% amphetamine; 6%
Ecstasy and 1% other drugs. 20% had used a drug within the preceding month
and 33% had done so within the preceding year. Girls were more likely to
have been offered and to have tried a drug, in contrast to previous surveys
that showed more boys had tried illicit drugs tan girls.
Drug use is generally related to alcohol use; those who drink more also
have above average consumption of other drugs. However, those who use MDMA
drink less alcohol than users of the more popular drugs above. 45% of
respondents had had sexual experiences. Of these, 25% had been drinking
before their last sexual experience.
Of those who had tried MDMA, nearly all had also tried cannabis, 80% had
tried LSD, 76% amphetamine, 69% psilocybin mushrooms and 60% nitrites. But
only 4% had tried cocaine and 7% heroin.
- 50 The Independent, August 92
"Soccer hooliganism fell last year to its lowest level for five years. Home
office figures showed the number of fans arrested and ejected from grounds
in 1991-2 dropped to 8,556 while attendances rose to 20,487,192"
- 51 Toxicity and deaths from MDMA from The Lancet by John Henry et al. August 1992
A report of toxicity and fatalities related to MDMA use picked up through a
search of enquirers to the National Poisons Information Service in London
and encountered directly by doctors at the National Poisons Unit at Guy's
Hospital, London during 1990 and 1991.
There was a striking increase in the number of calls to the NPIS related to
Ecstasy use. What was being sold as E usually contained MDMA but MDA and
amphetamine were also found; mixtures were uncommon. Henry et al. say that
co-ingeston of MDA with MDMA cannot be excluded by analysis of biological
samples and that the pattern of toxicity did not seem to be a result of
overdose. One analytically documented overdose showing plasma MDMA
7.72fmg/l - allegedly 42 tablets - resulted only in a "hangover" with
tachycardia and hypertension.
Reports from the USA suggested MDMA was only mildly toxic. The main cause
of death was cardiac arrhythmias; rhabdomyolysis and disseminated
intravascular coagulation (DIC). Most cases the authors were consulted
about had mild symptoms. There was a clear pattern of toxicity in the most
severe cases. Death was probably due to heatstroke "in which severe
hypothermia was accompanied by DIC". There was no evidence of drug impurity
being responsible for toxicity. All fatalities occurred after the user had
been at a crowded party or club. Sustained physical activity, high ambient
temp, inadequate fluid replacement could all reduce heat loss and the
direct effect of the drug may upset the thermoregulatory mechanism.
The authors conclude that MDMA is capable of causing severe toxicity and
that the pattern of acute toxicity witnessed in the series of cases studied
may be due mainly to the circumstances in which it is misused.
- 52 Numbers of Ecstasy-related deaths between January 1988 and July 1992, held by the National Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital on 8 March 1993
The deaths include those reported directly to the NPU by doctors seeking
advice and those picked up by the unit from press reports. The list is not
comprehensive. In particular, as knowledge of symptoms related to
Ecstasy-use spreads among the medical community, doctors make fewer queries
to the NPU. Ecstasy-related deaths are held to be confirmed if any amount
of the drug is found in the patient's blood or urine during treatment or in
a postmortem. In all the deaths picked up by the NPU, the level of MDMA
present was very low. Unconfirmed deaths are those in which the patient or
others have reported recent drug use verbally but no blood or urine sample
has been taken.
From January 1988 to July 1992, there were 14 confirmed deaths, of which 13
resulted from overheating and one from asthma, and 4 unconfirmed deaths,
including one from liver failure and one stroke.
Of these, 2 confirmed deaths occurred in 1988; 2 confirmed deaths and one
unconfirmed death occurred in 1989; 7 confirmed deaths and one unconfirmed
death occurred in 1991; and 2 confirmed and two unconfirmed deaths occurred
In 1992 there was also one confirmed death related to MDA and one confirmed
death related to MDEA.
- 53 A report of five deaths associated with the use of MDEA and MDMA, by Dr. G. Dowling, Journal of the American Medical Association, 1987
Three of the subjects had known medical problems before taking the drug,
while one was killed by an electric shock apparently after having climbed a
pylon. Two had preexisting heart conditions and one had asthma. MDMA was
thought not to have been the primary cause of death in four of these cases,
although it is suggested that people with cardiac diseases may be
predisposed to sudden death by taking MDMA. The fifth death was not
explained by other medical factors, but there was no evidence that it was
due to taking MDMA.
- 54 Conversation with Dr. Les King, team leader of the drugs intelligence laboratory at the Forensic Science Laboratory at Aldermaston, part of the Forensic Science Service, a Government agency, 14/12/92
The drugs intelligence laboratory analyses suspected drugs sent by the
police, that have been seized from people arrested on suspicion of being in
the possession of controlled drugs. Dr. King points out that samples sent
to the lab are not necessarily representative of what is being sold on the
streets. No statistical analysis of samples is done at Aldermaston, but Dr.
King related his impression of the overall pattern of findings, based on
personal experience. The lab is not usually told what drug to look for and
therefore runs a series of tests to see whether any controlled drug is
Impurities are not looked for. But the typical weight of a tablet sent to
the lab is from 200 to 600 mg, so non-psychoactive filler is nearly always
used. Dr. King has not come across or heard of poisonous substances present
in samples of Ecstasy.
Nearly all samples are in the form of capsules and tablets. The lab
consistently finds that about 90% contain an active ingredient, while the
rest are fake.
When tablets contain MDMA, MDA and MDEA, there is not normally any other
drug present. Typically, tablets or capsules contain about 100 mg MDMA or
60-70 mg MDA. Doses vary by 10-20% above or below this amount according to
the 'brand' of tablet or capsule, but each brand is fairly consistent from
one pill to the next. Recently, a lot of MDEA has been seen but not enough
to establish a figure for a typical dose.
The trend in 1991 and 1992 was an increase in MDA but this has peaked and
MDMA, MDA and MDEA are now found in roughly equal proportions. MDEA is
still on the increase.
There has been a tendency over the years towards dilution of doses - a
typical Ecstasy tablet today probably contains some 10-20% less MDMA than
it would have contained a few years ago.
Each brand of Ecstasy isaround for 3 to 6 months. Dr. King says this short
brand lifespan may be due to fake lookalikes giving the brand a bad name.
Tablets composed of amphetamine-based concoctions may be sold as Ecstasy,
when MDMA is in short supply. However, these are also sold under other
In the past year there has been a trend towards "amphetamine cocktails".
One contained amphetamine and LSD, complete with ground-up paper
(presumably the 'blotter' LSD is usually supplied on). Another, believed to
be sold under the name "banana split", contained amphetamine, cocaine and
LSD. Another recent cocktail is amphetamine and Tiletamine. Tiletamine is a
vetinerary anaesthetic similar to Ketamine and is manufactured in England
for export only. A few kilos were stolen but the source has now been cut
A reagent, known as Marquis, consists of sulphuric acid and formaldehyde.
It turns orange when mixed with amphetamines and shows a black/purple
colour when combined with MDA, MDMA and MDEA. However, it also turns black
with various prescription drugs and even paper, so cannot be reliably used
to test drug samples. [Someone doing such tests "day in day out" may build
up enough experience to distinguish between the colour changes in Marquis
when it is combined with MDA, MDMA and MDEA - various shades of brown and
orange - but inexperienced users could not hope to do so.] Marquis does
however serve as a fairly reliable test for opiates, which show purple.
- 55 Medicine Now, 9/3/92, BBC Radio 4
Alan Matthews, former editor of International Journal on Drug Policy, spoke
on this radio programme. He said that Ecstasy
allows people to examine areas that would normally result in pain or
distress with a sense of detachment. It does all this without any loss of
control or contact with reality. . . For these reasons it is used as an
adjunct to psychotherapy, this gives us some insights into its enormous
popularity at the moment . . . almost a spiritual experience. It drops the
kind of emotional barriers that we all have built into our lives to cope
with society and relationships and life in general. It seems to lower those
barriers so that people feel more outgoing. In a sense it dissolves the
individual into a wider group experience. If you've taken the drug in a
club with a thousand other people who are also on the same level, it really
does give a very powerful group experience.
Matthews also said that Ecstasy may cause minor psychological problems.
Figures on deaths due to Ecstasy were never easy to unravel. Ecstasy may
have been used in combination with other drugs; or there may be problems
related to the setting - a very hot, overcrowded club with no drinking
water may lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion or heatstroke. Taking
Ecstasy in combination with another drug and being in such a club could
lead to a serious situation. But taking Ecstasy is not the worst thing
people can do. "The worst thing they could do actually is go out and drink
alcohol and dance for eight hours; that would definitely kill them."
- 56 Phone conversation with Dr. Russell Newcombe, lecturer in social policy and social work at Manchester University, 19/2/93
Dr. Newcombe had read a couple of articles about people who have died of
heatstroke where mention has been made that the victims used to get high
temperatures as children. This could be a clue as to why some people are
vulnerable to overheating.
Dr. Newcombe took part in a survey of clubs playing rave music in the North
West in 1992 and estimates that there were about 30,000 people attending at
weekends. He estimates that the proportion of people using E varied from
50% to 90% depending on the club.
- 57 Effects of MDMA on Autonomic Thermoregulatory Responses of the Rat, by Christopher Gordon et al., 1990
Rats were observed at ambient temperatures of 10 degrees , 20 degrees and 30
degrees C. Measurements were made of their metabolic rate, evaporative water
loss [equivalent to sweating, but rats lick their fur instead],
hyperthermia, hypothermia, motor activity, skin temperature, heart rate and
'lethality'. Each rat was measured after being administered plain saline and
also after 30mg/kg MDMA in saline. The following results occurred when the
rats were given MDMA but not when they were given plain saline: (1) The rats
lost water through evaporation far more rapidly at 30 degrees ; (2) They
increased their metabolic rate and maintained a higher ambient temperature
instead of attempting to reduce their temperature; (3) They maintained the
same activity instead of reducing it when the temperature rose; (4) They
showed a sharp rise in body temperature instead of a fall in temperature at
30 degrees and a fall instead of rise in temperature at 10 degrees and (5)
They increased their heart rates by varying amounts at 30 degrees . At the
high temperature, the rats' core body temperature increased rapidly before
they died. Rats' tail temperature did not increase. [Raising tail
temperature is their normal way of getting rid of heat.] The cause of death
was not examined but appeared consistent with overheating.
The mechanism of the effect was not studied but the changes in body
temperature were presumed to be affected by the level of serotonin present
in parts of the brain, which is altered by MDMA.
I spoke to Dr. Gordon on the phone and learned that he is a specialist in
temperature control mechanisms. MDMA is one of the most effective compounds
he has tried for making animals lose control of their body temperature.
They actually seemed to prefer hot ambient temperatures when they were
already too hot, although this had not yet been tested. Although MDMA
inhibits heat loss in rats through their tails, they do "drool all over the
place" trying to keep cool.
Dr. Gordon has made a long chamber 1 foot in diameter with one end kept hot
and the other cool. Animals can be put inside so they can choose whatever
ambient temperature they prefer.
- 58 Notes from meeting with Dr. John Merrill of NW Regional Health Authority
Dr. Merrill answers some of the most frequently raised queries about Ecstasy:
Allergic reactions: none are known.
Asthma: There is no pharmacological reason why asthma should be made any
worse by E.
Diabetes: There is no known effect on blood sugar, but if you take E you
are likely to be more energetic. If you are diabetic, you should adjust
your sugar intake or insulin dose to allow for increased physical activity.
Epilepsy: E can cause epileptic fits if taken in overdose. If you suffer
from epilepsy and take E you are more likely to have fits.
Liver problems: Recently several cases of jaundice have been reported in
those who take E. Many of these have been very serious, leading to
irreversible liver failure, liver transplantation or death. Its not clear
why this happens. It may be that E is only toxic to the liver after many
doses over many months. Or the liver failures could be due to toxic by
products in poorly manufactured E.
Pregnancy: All drugs are potentially toxic to a developing foetus, and the
younger it is the more dangerous they are. There are good reasons to
believe that E may cause congenital abnormalities. It could cause
miscarriage later in pregnancy. If you are pregnant, don't even consider
taking E. [Experiments with animals show no damage.108]
Dr. Merrill added in conversation that people with hay fever and eczema who
take E may also face higher risks.
- 59 MDMA - The Dark Side of Ecstasy, by Gregory Hayner and Howard McKinney, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
This paper concerns toxic effects of MDMA on illicit users who attended the
Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in 1986.
The authors note that both the doses taken and user's reactions were
variable. Analysis of samples showed doses ranging from 16 to 165 mg. Acute
reactions were rare and were usually confined to sensitive people taking
high doses, particularly when they repeated the dose within a short period.
Overdoses had unpredictable results: some effects lasted up to 2 weeks.
Psychosis, including paranoia and hallucinations, usually resulted from
very high dosages.
The paper includes two case reports:
1. A heroin addict who was adequately sedated had hallucinations and
paranoia and was violent after a large dose of MDMA.
2. A normal 33 year-old woman who worked for a publisher took a large dose
- estimated at 50 to 100mg - with 4 friends. The trip was normal, with the
woman still remembering it as the best time of her life. But one month
later she took a normal dose from the same batch and within 20 minutes
experienced feelings of dread and had visual hallucinations of the sky
turning black and a devastated landscape spiralling in on her "like a ton
of bricks". She lost consciousness and was taken to hospital where she had
to be restrained for several hours. After 3 days she was regarded as
normal, but stayed off work for a month. She was depressed, had bouts of
crying and was not her normal self for 6 months. Laboratory analysis showed
the batch of MDMA to be 95% pure and no other substances showed up in her
The authors conclude that this unexplained case is disturbing, as the woman
nearly died in conditions that are normally regarded as safe.
- 60 British Medical Journal vol. 305 August 1992 letters in reply to Henry's article
These letters variously reported: a case of acute hepatitis associated with
repeated use of E, a case of jaundice associated with use of MDMA; and 3
cases of people suffering from severe chest pain after taking Ecstasy with
- 61 Use of MDMA to relieve symptoms in terminal cancer patients; phase one protocol, by Dr. Charles Grob. (Fax received 17/11/92)
This is a safety and tolerance study designed to determine the
psychological and analgesic threshold level for MDMA. Six subjects in the
health care industry will be chosen for these trials. They will take part
in 3 experimental sessions separated by two to four weeks.
Each session will consist of oral administration of one capsule, which may
be either 0.15mg/kg MDMA, 0.75mg/kg MDMA or a placebo. Grob predicts that
0.75 mg/kg will be the threshold dose.
Tests will be carried out on subjects' blood, psychological state,
experience of physical pain and on neuropsychological effects.
- 62 Designer Drug Confusion: a focus on MDMA, by Jerome Beck and Patricia Morgan, from Journal of Drug Education, 16/3/86
Beck and Morgan give a Cook's tour of the effects and clinical value of MDMA.
They quote Wolfson: "MDMA provides a positive alternative to the dark and
negative experiences of people experiencing psychotic states," Grinspoon:
"MDMA appears to have some of the advantages of LSD-type drugs without most
of the corresponding disadvantages," Siegel: "MDMA has been promoted as a
cure for everything from personal depression to alienation to cocaine
addiction. . . It's got a lot of notoriety, but the clinical claims made
for its efficacy are totally unsupported at this time," and Greer: "Because
every therapist I know who has given MDMA to a patient has found it to be
of significant value, I am convinced that it can be shown scientifically to
They say that continuous use of booster doses after the initial dose to
prolong the high produces great fatigue the following day. Regarding deaths
ascribed to MDMA, "later investigation revealed that the role played by the
drug, if it was even involved, was questionable in most cases." But Beck
and Morgan say that the potentially toxic interaction between MDMA and
alcohol merits further investigation. "As with other stimulants,
individuals under the influence of MDMA are often capable of ingesting
large amounts of alcohol."
A delayed anxiety disorder has been observed in a few individuals. This
problem typically occurs among novice users of MDMA, and the manifestations
range from a mild anxiety to a full-blown disorder such as a panic attack
with hyperventilation and tachycardia, phobic disorders, parathesias, or
other anxiety states. Usually the drug was taken in a nonprofessional
setting for quasi-therapeutic reasons.
On the basis of interviews with such clients, it can be inferred that
through taking MDMA, much of their repressed anxiety, hostility, guilt, or
other so-called negative feelings were released into their conscious minds.
. . After the release of this material, they are undefended and conscious
of what emotional and psychological work needs to be done. These initial
findings underscore a growing number of unsuccessful attempts at 'self
therapy' by individuals who run the risk of exacerbating their emotional
problems with unsupervised episodes.
They conclude that MDMA's unique effect is desired by many people and
interest will continue to grow. MDMA could have a much greater long-term
impact on our society than all of the so-called designer drugs combined.
- 63 Risk assessment and the FDA, by Rick Doblin, 1988.
A lecture on the history and current status of neurotoxicological research
into the effects of MDMA. Doblin is president of the Multidisciplinary
Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Doblin asked whether changes observed in animals given MDMA were permanent,
produced behaviour changes and occurred at doses equivalent to those taken
Experiments on monkeys showed that nerve endings were damaged two weeks
afterwards but were partially repaired in 10 weeks. Serotonin levels were
partially recovered over a period of months, while one study on rats showed
total recovery after one year.
He noted that researchers failed to identify distinguishing characteristics
between untreated primates and those whose serotonin had been reduced by
90% and that no cases of MDA toxicity in humans had been noticed even
though MDA is twice as toxic as MDMA and was popular in the sixties.
Neurotoxic effects on primates given MDMA are only observable at about
twice the human dose.
Tests of the mental health of MDMA users showed that their IQ levels were
well above average, even though they had consumed an average of 13,000 mg -
100 times more than the therapeutic dose of 125 mg.
- 64 Markers of Neuronal Injury and Degeneration, by Miller and O'Callaghan.
Damage to the brain occurred with both mice injected with MDMA and those
injected with fenfluramine, although not in the hippocampus or cortex, this
study found. The result is significant in relation to O'Callaghan's work on
rats as it shows that mice and rats are affected differently, implying that
species is relevant to MDMA poisoning.
- 65 Fenfluramine Hydrochloride, from Martindale Pharmacopeia
The potential for abuse is considered to be virtually nonexistent. However,
single oral doses of 80-500 mg were "used to elicit a psychotomimetic state
consisting of euphoria, relaxation and inane laughter, often accompanied by
perceptual alterations including visual hallucinations. . ." More frequent
and vivid dreams were reported in 13 of the 20 people studied.
A study of 53 cases of fenfluramine poisoning through overdose showed that
the most common symptoms were mydriasis, tachycardia and facial flushing.
Nine patients died "following cardiac and respiratory arrest. Death
occurred 1 to 4 hours after ingestion." (1979 German reference).
Fenfluramine should not be given to patients with glaucoma or a history of
drug abuse or alcoholism. Patients with mental depression should be treated
carefully; "there may be mood changes during fenfluramine treatment, and
abrupt cessation can cause severe depression." Avoid use with epileptic
patients. Excretion is via the urine "in the form of the unchanged drug and
The drug is used as a short-term treatment for moderate to severe obesity.
The dose is initially 20 mg 2-3 times daily, increasing after the first
week to a usual maximum of 120 mg daily. The drug is sold in the UK as
- 66 The Neurotoxicity of MDMA and Related Compounds, by Dr. Molliver, in The Neuropharmacology of Serotonin, published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1990
A paper on studies comparing the action of MDMA with fenfluramine. It was
found that the action of both drugs on serotonin (5HT) levels was virtually
the same. After administration, the levels dropped and recovered with both
drugs on similar time scales.
- 67 Fluoxetine, from Martindale Pharmacopeia
Fluoxetine is an antidepressant which selectively inhibits the re-uptake of
serotonin. It has been shown to be superior to placebo in relieving
depression. The dose is 20-80 mg daily. Its proprietary name is Prozac.
There are several other SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor)
- 68 A Trip into the Unknown, by Alison Abbott and David Concar, in New Scientist, 29/8/92
The authors estimate half a million E's will be taken "this weekend alone".
"It is hard to build up a convincing case against the drug when you can't
say exactly how dangerous it is or what the consequences of long-term
effects are," they say. They make the following points: Britain has no long
term research programme; the consensus is that ecstasy's hallucinogenic
properties render it wholly unsuitable as a medical drug; figures released
in August 1992 from the National Poisons Unit at Guy's Hospital showed that
the drug had killed 7 people since 1990; pathologists are sure of the
cause: heatstroke; Dr. John Henry of the NPU told them that everyone who
takes Ecstasy is a potential victim, but is most worried by contamination
of MDMA with heroin and ketamine.
MDMA works by blocking the return of 5HT [serotonin] to neurons by
occupying its binding sites on the transporter protein. Once inside the
neuron MDMA cannot be stored so leaks out again. As a result, the levels of
5HT in the synapses rise sharply in the short term, and 5HT signalling
between neurons is amplified. The 'high' eventually fades when neurons
become drained of their stored 5HT. Antidepressants like fluoxetine are
thought to work by boosting levels of 5HT in the same way as Ecstasy. Most
of the amphetamine-like effects are probably caused by increased levels of
noradrenaline. The observed rise in body temperature in rats in hot
environments may be caused by increased levels of 5HT in the part of the
brain that regulates temperature known as the hypothalamus. This may render
the hypothalamus unable to respond appropriately to overheating caused by
Research on rats shows the drug causes the nerve fibres or axons, through
which 5HT neurons communicate with the rest of the brain, to break and
swell. "On top of that, Ecstasy appears to block the activity of an enzyme
called tryptophan hydroxylase, which neurons need to synthesise 5HT," the
"It could be years before the health risks of chronic abuse of ecstasy show
up in the statistics," they conclude.
- 69 The MDMA Neurotoxicity Controversy: Implications for Clinical Research, by Dr. Charles Grob
Grob says that investigations to establish neurotoxicity often contain
flaws in methodology as well as in interpretation. Damage presumed to be
caused by MDMA is surprisingly limited and is confounded by associated
variables. Authorised use of MDMA in Switzerland is "without reports of
adverse neuropsychiatric sequelae".
Cases of compulsive self-administration are very rare. MDMA is unique among
recreational drugs in that there appears to be a disinclination to take it
repeatedly. "We believe that a thorough yet dispassionate review of the
existing data suggests that experimental use of MDMA in humans can be
justified, " Grob says. But this should only take place in controlled
- 70 Ecstasy Revisited, by Bruce Eisner, Gnosis Magazine, winter 1993
As soon as MDMA was made illegal, it began to be adulterated, Eisner says.
This was due to criminals replacing users and idealists in the manufacture
and distribution of the drug.
Eisner makes the following point: "The same experiment that Shuster and
Ricaurte did with MDMA and MDA - giving huge and frequent doses to rats -
was also performed with a prescription drug, fenfluramine, used in treating
eating disorders. No adverse effects have ever been observed from its use,
and people who took it frequently many years ago have no observed brain
damage or other problems. Fenfluramine is still prescribed, even though
MDMA was quickly banned."
"With millions of people having taken MDMA over a 20-year period, some more
than several hundred times, there has never been a reported case of
MDMA-caused brain damage. Not one single case," he adds.
He quotes Shulgin as predicting that new compounds will inevitably be
invented: "teased out of other drugs such as MDMA," which would have still
greater specificity in triggering human emotions such as the fear of death,
awareness and suppression of anger, and feelings of guilt.
- 71 Assessing Neurotoxicity of Drugs of Abuse, by Dr. James O'Callaghan, NIDA monograph 1993
Dr. O'Callaghan was contracted to do some research to establish a method of
assessing neurotoxicity - this was a $750,000 project over 3 years. He says
that the term neurotoxicity has no precise meaning, but he is taking it to
imply that physical damage has been done to the brain which affects its
He found that, with rats, "even when we increased the methamphetamine
dosage to as much as 150mg/kg, twice daily for two days, we failed to see
marked increases in Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP) at time points
ranging from 2 to 9 days post dosing". Though "as little as a single
administration of 20mg/kg to the rat results in long-lasting decreases in
5HT levels" he found that 30mg/kg MDMA twice daily for 7 days did not cause
an increase in GFAP in the cortex, striatum and hippocampus although there
was a decrease in 5HT. ". . . MDMA dosage regimen sufficient to produce a
large and long-lasting decrease in 5HT was not sufficient to induce an
astrocyte reaction characteristic of neural injury". When he increased the
dose to 75-150 mg twice daily for two days, MDMA "produced a dose-dependent
increase in the levels of GFAP in cortex and striatum at 2 days post
"Evidence for MDMA-induced neural damage . . . was not necessarily linked
to . . . decreases in levels of 5HT".
O'Callaghan established Reactive Gliosis, a more direct and reliable method
of testing for neurotoxicity. He also found that a method called silver
staining produced reliable results.
[The relevant conclusion is that previous work on MDMA gave false results
by assuming that damage was caused by a decrease in 5HT or serotonin.
Extremely large doses, equivalent to someone taking 50 Es twice daily, did
- 72 fax from Rick Doblin, president of MAPS, 21/9/92
Doblin doubts that there is any neurotoxicity due to MDMA at normal doses.
When primates were given oral doses of 2.5 mg/kg once every 2 weeks for 4
months (total of 8 doses) there was no evidence of neurotoxicity. But a
single dose of 5 mg/kg did cause some slight reduction in the serotonin
levels in two parts of the brain, the thalamus and the hypothalamus. So, it
is possible that MDMA may be causing some toxicity in people who use
especially high doses. Still, whether that toxicity is bad is not at all
certain. In primates with 90% reductions in serotonin caused by massive
amounts of MDMA (5 mg/kg injected every 12 hours for 4 days) there are no
observable long term negative consequences. Still, damage may be too subtle
to observe in primates.
- 73 Neurotoxicity of MDMA and related compounds: anatomic studies, Molliver et al. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1990
Axon degeneration is seen in fine 5HT axons (but not beaded axons or raphe
cell bodies) within 48 hours after MDMA administration. Within six to eight
hours, there is persistent serotonergic reinnervation of the frontal cortex
along a fronto-occipital gradient in a simulating perinatal development of
5-HT innervation. Although the sprouting axons are anatomically similar to
the damaged axons, it remains unknown whether a normal pattern of
innervation is re-established.
- 74 Ecstasy: towards an understanding of the biochemical basis of the actions of MDMA, by Marcus Rattray, from Essays in Biochemistry, vol. 26 1991
Rattray reviews some of the complex biochemical actions of MDMA and
discusses how these may relate to the psychopharmacological and neurotoxic
effects of the drug.
After a single dose, 5HT depletion is rapid and remains low for 6-18 hours,
recovering within 24 hours. This coincides with observed effects of MDMA.
It is therefore likely that psychotropic effects can be ascribed to the
post- and pre-synaptic effects of released 5HT.
Studies using brain slices pre-loaded with 5HT have shown that micro-molar
concentrations of MDMA induce 5HT release. It has been proposed that the
MDMA taken up by nerve terminals causes the displacement of 5HT from
cytoplasmic binding sites, leading to 5HT efflux through the synaptoic
membrane 5HT transporter. . . . this is taken as evidence that the
neurotransmitter released is derived from cytoplasmic stores rather than
from the 5HT stored in synaptic vesicles.
Drugs such as fluoxetine known to block 5HT uptake into nerve terminals are
found to inhibit the release of 5HT induced by MDMA.
Current evidence suggests that the primary action of MDMA is on the nerve
terminals of neurons that synthesize and release the amine neurotransmitter
serotonin or 5HT.
Answering the question: is MDMA toxic to man? Rattray says:
In all the studies that have found neuro-degeneration in animals, several
large doses were administered over a very short time period, so it is
difficult to extrapolate to humans. The route of drug administration (oral
in humans) is a significant factor [ref. to Ricaurte 1989]. Nevertheless,
it is likely that levels of consumption in man can produce brain
concentrations that approach toxic doses. At the present time there are no
reports of MDMA-induced neuro-degeneration in humans.
- 75 Letter from Jeremy Millar, Department of social work, Aberdeen University, 20/11/92
Millar reports on a young man, diagnosed as schizophrenic, who has been
using Ecstasy for 3 years along with amphetamines and LSD. He prefers
Ecstasy, and while on Ecstasy his behaviour and thought processes improve
as witnessed by himself, his parents and his social worker. He can also
- 76 MDMA - Non-medical Use and Intoxication, by Ronald Siegel, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
This is a survey of a representative sample of drug users who had used MDMA
at least twice in the previous year alongside other drugs. 44 such drug
users answered a questionnaire. Siegel found that 90% of hard drug users
who had tried MDMA did not want to repeat the experience - most found
little or no effect and the rest did not enjoy it - and that samples
contained about 20% less MDMA than was claimed by dealers, but none
contained active impurities.
- 77 Lifeline, Ecstasy, and the world, by Mark Gilman
Mark Gilman, a researcher with Lifeline, a non-statutory drug agency in
Manchester, gives the agency's official view of Ecstasy: that it is neither
all good nor all bad.
The dangers were:
1. Not getting a real MDMA tablet.
2. Taking too much too often. This may cause damage, but it is also
dangerous to take depressant drugs to 'turn off' the unwelcome anxiety
states that accompany taking 'too much [Ecstasy] too often'.
3. Risk of heatstroke.
Young people using E have their eyes opened to the world of illegal drugs
and lose respect for the law. Makes young people into criminals. In this
sense, E is to the nineties what LSD was to the sixties; the difference is
that now many other drugs are available too.
Gilman concludes: "I suspect the environmentalist/green movement will
benefit from the boom in E just as the sixties counter culture grew
alongside LSD use. I also suspect that we will begin to see the popularity
drugs grow and grow - a new psychedelic dawn? What is clear is that a lot
of people's world views have been changed by their Ecstasy experiences.
Comparisons with the sixties are in order here."
- 78 No more junkie heroes? by Mark Gilman, from Druglink May 1992
Gilman says that the up and coming users of illicit drugs regard them as an
adjunct to fun rather than the organising force of their lifestyle. There
are many more of them than in previous generations and they use
amphetamines, cannabis, LSD, Ecstasy and, sometimes, cocaine. They do not
inject and are not dependent on their chosen drug. The most pressing policy
task is to keep this group as far apart from opiate users as possible. This
should be relatively easy as many of the younger drug users hold strong
anti-injecting and anti-opiate views and refer to junkies in highly
derogatory terms such as 'old and smelly'.
- 79 Ecstasy and Recreational Drug Use in Wirral by C Toddhunter, Liverpool University
Between March and June 1992, 95 drug users participated in this survey. Of
the 57 who had used Ecstasy, 52 were interviewed. The following conclusions
First time E users tend not to be new to drug taking. Only 1 out of 52
respondents used E before they had tried any other drug and only 3% of
respondents had used E prior to the age of 16/17.
Nearly 95% had a history of drug use which included LSD, cannabis and
amphetamine prior to taking Ecstasy. Most of them commonly used more than
one drug. 96% used E in conjunction with other drugs at raves. Use of
Ecstasy took place almost exclusively at raves or where House Music was
A strong anti-heroin culture was found among Ecstasy users.
There was a tendency for most of those interviewed to regulate and limit
their drug use to avoid problems. A small minority who made little attempt
to control their use faced serious problems as a result, including
paranoia, weight loss and diminished mental activity. Most of these people
took Ecstasy, LSD and amphetamine.
Ecstasy had fallen in price: it cost #9-#15 at the time of the survey.
Whereas some respondents had a history of Ecstasy use but had drifted away
from the drug, the total number of users had not fallen.
Among Ecstasy users, there is a strong rejection of conventional night life
culture including even moderate alcohol consumption. Alcohol is perceived
to be a bigger AIDS risk, as rave culture is less concerned with sexual
gratification. Instead, gratification comes from the intensity of the music
Ecstasy users are very keen to obtain factual knowledge about drug use in
their own terms, as opposed to what they perceive as misinformation by the
"A minority of young people in Wirral shows a firm attachment to Ecstasy
use. It is as acceptable and conventional to them as drinking alcohol is
for the wider population," Toddhunter says.
- 80 Hansard 17/1/1992. Written answers by John Patten, then Minister of State at the Home Office
The number of deaths attributed to MDMA or MDA was one in 1988; three in
1989; one in 1990; and two in 1981 A note says that 1991 figures are up to
September only and "deaths of this nature result in an inquest and thus
delays of registration of up to one year may occur". Thus 1991 figures were
- 81 Phone call to Mr R Allen, at the Home Office Statistics Dept., 1/3/93
The Home Office does not have recent statistics on drug-related deaths; the
latest it holds are those reported in Hansard80. Allen says that the Home
Office's only knowledge of deaths that have occurred in the past two years
is from newspaper reports. [These are of course unreliable]. He said: "The
truth is between 10 and 20 deaths so far are 90% suspected to be due to
Ecstasy - but don't quote this as a Home Office figure. These are people
who have either died from overheating or from a rare extreme reaction, just
as some people have been known to have died from a bee sting."
However, an attempt is now under way to produce figures more on the lines
of DAWN, the US system of monitoring drug-related deaths.22 "We have people
going through wads of death certificates," Allen said. However, figures are
unlikely to be ready before the end of 1993.
- 82 Deaths reported by the mass media related to raving and/or dance drugs, 1989 to 1993, from Rave Research Bureau, 25 Halkyn Avenue, Liverpool L17 2AH
This is a 3-page list of media-reported deaths related to use of dance
drugs, giving victims' sex, age, area of residence, the drugs they had
taken, the number of such drugs, the place of use and the date of death.
The source of information is given for each victim.
30 deaths are listed, of which 16 are attributed solely to MDMA and one to
MDEA, while MDMA is mentioned as a possible contributory factor in a
further 5. Of the deaths attributed solely to MDMA, two were said to be due
to liver and/or kidney failure while another was due to heart failure. No
other possible contributory causes of death were given. With the exception
of two cases, no details aregiven of whether MDMA was found in post
- 83 Licensed to Thrill, in New Scientist, 29/8/92
An article on safety at fairgrounds. There are 10,000 rides in Britain
catering for 500 million passengers a year. The chance of death or serious
injury was 6 in 100 million. Someone taking 100 rides a year would run a
risk of death by accident on a ride of 4 in 10 million, which is more than
being hit by lightning but less than dying of cold. They would be seven
times more likely to die driving to the fairground than while actually
- 84 Skiing dangers, The Sunday Times, 24/1/93
Among nearly five million skiers in Switzerland last year, 11 people were
killed and 3% were injured.
- 85 Rave- and Ecstasy-related admissions in West Lothian 1991-1992; a review by Dr. P. Freeland submitted for publication to The Annals of Emergency Admission
Dr. Freeland's review examines the frequency and nature of presentations to
West Lothian hospitals in 1991 and 1992 following the ingestion of drugs in
the context of rave parties, by means of retrospective analysis of case
He found a total of seven cases; six having said they took Ecstasy and at
least two having taken other drugs in combination with Ecstasy. Six were
aged between 18 and 21 and the seventh was 27. Five were male. The
invariable clinical finding was tachycardia - a racing heart. Complaints on
admission included "buzzing sensations", anxiety and collapse.
One patient admitted taking Ecstasy, Temazepam, cannabis and a
cocaine-related drug in combination on the evening of admission to
hospital. He had a high temperature (39.5 degrees C) and developed acute renal
failure and coagulopathy - kidney failure and blood clotting. He recovered
and was discharged after 18 days.
Another had taken Ecstasy, amphetamine and cannabis and complained of
palpitations and a "buzzing sensation". He was discharged the next day.
In addition, one patient had severe muscle spasms: this patient did not
admit to taking any drug, but amphetamine was found in his blood (MDMA was
not looked for).
The other patients, including all those who admitted to taking Ecstasy,
discharged themselves. There were no fatalities.
The minimum hospitalisation rate is calculated to be 23 per 100,000 rave
attendances, based on venue capacities.
"Although the study aimed to look particularly at MDMA, the high prevalence
of multiple drug use and the absence of specific toxicological results on
these cases make it impossible to pass any judgement on MDMA per se," Dr.
- 86 The Psychological and Physiological Effects of MDMA on Normal Volunteers, by Joseph Downing, from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 18/4 1986
This study examined the effects of MDMA on 21 healthy volunteers, including
13 men and 8 women, between the ages of 20 and 58. Their average age was
39. The volunteers had all previously used MDMA, an average of 8 times. All
thought they had benefited from it and had recommended its use to others.
Doses were chosen by subjects and ranged from 0.8 to 1.9 mg/kg of subjects'
body weight, averaging 165 mg. There were no added doses.
Downing notes that oral doses administered in therapy are less than 1 per
cent of the LD50 (the dose that kills 50 per cent of rats or mice given the
drug), implying a high margin of safety.
80% of the subjects experienced jaw clenching, 60% headaches, and 60%
eyelid twitches. None objected to these effects.
Blood pressure and pulse rate increased in all subjects. The peak was
between half and one hour after taking the drug. Peak blood pressure was
over 100 mg mercury, with one subject's blood pressure reaching "200/100"
and their pulse increasing from 72 to 148 within 30 minutes, and subsiding
to 128. Most subjects' blood pressure had dropped to below the level it was
at before they took the MDMA after 6 hours. Some subjects' blood pressure
was still below this level after 24 hours. This did not depend on dosage.
Blood analysis yielded no significant results.
Subjects were examined before ingestion; in the second and the fourth hours
after taking the drug and 24 hours after.Subjects' state of consciousness,
measured by alertness and lucidity, was not impaired at any time. There was
no evidence of confused thinking at any point. All reported their attention
focused on the here and now.
Subjects' short-term memory was unchanged, but half the subjects had
difficulty multiplying numbers, apparently because of difficulty in
focusing on the task. Nearly half the subjects' judgement was impaired,
implying that decision-making should be postponed or decisions should be
re-evaluated after taking MDMA.
All subjects had dilated pupils and reflex to light was maintained.
Nastygmus was present in nearly half the subjects, usually ceasing within 2
hours but lasting 24 hours in 2 cases. Half the subjects had jaw clench,
which ended within 4 hours except with one subject who had it mildly after
Finger-to-nose testing was impaired in 2 subjects. Gait and coordination
were affected in a third subject, suggesting driving could be dangerous.
All the subjects' appetites were depressed over 24 hours.
Downing concludes that under the conditions tested, "MDMA has remarkably
consistent and predictable psychological effects that are transient and
free of clinically-apparent major toxicity".
- 87 Phone conversation with Mike Evans, at the Home Office 25/2/93
The Home Office can and does issue licences for research using MDMA,
including trials on humans. Licenses are not issued for medical use, and in
fact this is proscribed due to the drug being classified under Schedule 1,
the category for drugs which are considered to have no medical use.
- 88 Statistics of Drug Seizures, up to the end of 1991 from Home Office Statistical Bulletin, published by the Government Statistical Service, September 1992
There were 1,700 seizures of MDMA in 1991, compared to 400 in 1990 and 770
in 1989. Only two police forces (both in Scotland) did not report seizures
and in 30 per cent of police forces MDMA was the most frequently seized
class A drug. The Metropolitan Police in London and the Merseyside,
Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Strathclyde police forces each reported more
than 50 seizures. The number of doses seized was just over 365,000 compared
with about 44,000 in 1990. 1991 saw a substantial increase in the use of
cautioning as a penalty for drug offences of all kinds. As in 1990, more
drug offenders were cautioned than fined, which was previously the most
common penalty. Between 1981 and 1991, the proportion of drug offenders
receiving cautions increased from 1% to 45% and the proportion receiving
fines fell from 65% to 30%. The proportion given prison sentences (with
immediate effect) fell from an average of 15% between 1984 and 1987 to 7%
in 1991. The likelihood of a stiffer penalty rose with the age of the
offender: in 1991 80 per cent of males aged under 17 were cautioned, but
only 25 per cent of males aged 30 or over. About half of unlawful
possession offences resulted in a caution, with one third of such offences
resulting in a fine, while between 30 and 40 per cent of most types of
trafficking offences resulted in a prison sentence.
- 89 Interview with Detective Chief Superintendent Derek Todd, Drugs Coordinator with the No 9 Regional Crime Squad, at Spring Gardens, London, 16/2/93
On April 1 1993, Todd was promoted to assistant coordinator of the new
South East Regional Crime Squad, an amalgamation of the No 9 Squad with the
No 5 and No 6 Squads, with special responsibility for drugs.
Todd says he believes the way to control drug use is by reducing demand,
rather than supply. If there is a demand, it will be supplied somehow. The
answer is to try to prevent use. Instead of taking people to court who are
caught with drugs for their own use, he would prefer to be able to force
such offenders to attend counselling sessions aimed at educating them about
the dangers of drug use. Compulsory attendance of such sessions would
continue until tests showed that offenders were drug free. When I suggested
that if counselling reflected the truth it would inform users that MDMA is
no more harmful than alcohol, Todd agreed that alcohol was bad but said
that two wrongs don't make a right. He accepts that young people will take
drugs whatever is done by the authorities, but says that if no action is
taken we will end up with a society where drug taking is normal. "I will
fight to prevent that," he said passionately.
Todd believes that the reason that Ecstasy is so popular and has reached
parts of the population that no other drugs have reached, is that it has
been marketed better than other drugs.
Asked about his attitude to harm reduction policies, Todd replied that he
is in favour of harm reduction in principle, provided it is first
emphasised that taking the drug is against the law. He showed me a leaflet
that emphasised the need to look after oneself when taking drugs, rather
than the illegality of the drugs. Advice on what to do in relation to one
drug may be harmful if applied to another drug, and this could occur
because people were often sold a different drug to the one they thought
they were buying. Harm reduction policies should directly promote healthy
practices, and not encourage people to think they can safely use drugs
which may cause casualties.
Todd said that he believes ideas about liberalisation are never thought
through. Any changes in the law on drugs have to be international and
simultaneous, or problems are created. For instance, Holland allows legal
manufacture of MDEA and the growing of cannabis and these drugs are
exported to England. The British police have been successful in finding
MDMA factories in the UK, but this has only resulted in manufacturers
One clandestine factory was found in a garden shed in a garden centre open
to the public. The operators had no qualifications but had been taught by
chemists; they had instructions for making MDMA pinned up on the wall. They
produced batches of about 20 kgs. Each batch took 24-36 hours to make and
was then left to dry. Todd says that the ideal time to raid is when one
batch is drying and another is being made, otherwise it may be that either
no manufacture can be proven, or that there is none of the illicit product
on the premises. The main way of catching manufacturers is through
informers; but sometimes suppliers of equipment and chemicals will notify
the police who then follow their deliveries.
Asked about penalties for Ecstasy use, Todd said that he "didn't advocate
prison for popping an E". However, MDMA is a Class A drug and is in that
category because it is regarded as dangerous. This view is upheld by
respected experts such as Dr. John Henry. People have died as a result of
taking the drug, and so others must be protected. In fact people caught
with Ecstasy are often cautioned, but this is largely because the testing
labs are 'snowed under' (or under-funded). In December 1992, the
Metropolitan Police lab had a long waiting time for drug tests: if the
charge was supplying drugs, the wait was 47 days; if only 'in possession',
50% of samples were tested within 71 days and the rest took up to 92 days.
This made it preferable for the police to get an admission from a suspect
that the substance found was an illegal drug and then to give a caution.
Todd says that suppliers are generally not Mafia or Kray Brother types.
Over the past four years there has been a trend towards the "standard
British criminal", who 20 to 30 years ago would have done an armed robbery,
turning to drug dealing or any other scam.
- 90 Phone conversation with Arno Adelaars, an Amsterdam-based part-time purchaser of street samples of drugs for testing by the Dutch Government, 25/2/93
Adelaars says the Netherlands Institute for Alcohol and Drugs in Utrecht
produced a report in February 1993 recommending that MDMA be reclassified
as a soft drug, but that this recommendation is likely to be ignored by the
- 91 Interview with Detective Chief Superintendent Tony White, head of the drugs and money laundering branch of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which is under the control of the Home Office. At Spring Gardens, London 19/2/93
The drugs and money laundering branch of the NCIS collects and disseminates
information for both the police and customs. White spends a large part of
his time abroad coordinating activities with the police and customs
officers of other Governments.
Over the past year there has been a 60% increase in the number of seizures
without any increase in the number of doses seized (144,000), implying that
the police were picking up dealers nearer the consumer end of the
White gave me a copy of a chart from the winter 1992/3 edition of Drugs
Arena, a glossy magazine published by the NCIS that is distributed
exclusively to drug law enforcement officers. The chart showed seizures of
MDMA, MDA and MDEA since 1990. He says that periods in which there were few
seizures of MDMA saw increased seizures of LSD, indicating that LSD and
MDMA were alternative drugs used by the same group of people.
I asked whether police policy varied according to the dangers of the
particular drug, and what the policy towards Ecstasy was. White, who
emphasised that he could not speak for the police, replied that policy for
action against drugs was largely "political" in the sense that enforcement
efforts against drugs had to be weighed against other interests such as
education, health and community relations. Many drugs were associated with
particular ethnic groups and the police had to weigh up the damage that
might be caused to their relationships with these groups against the
desirability of preventing use of such drugs. However, there are no such
problems with Ecstasy, so police action is unfettered. The police response
to particular drugs does not depend so much on the precise dangers of the
drug in question as on the perceived public concern about the drug.
Commander John O'Connor of the Metropolitan Police says in a recent report
that the policy of arresting dealers has largely failed, and suggests going
for the users instead. White gave some support to this idea by saying that
dealers would find no market if there was no demand.
Asked for his predictions of future trends in Ecstasy supply and use, White
said that British developments would depend on what happened in Holland. I
asked what the effect on British Ecstasy users would be if the Dutch
tightened up enforcement of their laws relating to MDMA. He replied that,
in the short term, there would be a further rise in amphetamines being sold
as Ecstasy and in the use of LSD and in the longer term, more manufacturing
of MDMA in Britain. I asked whether that would be a good thing, and he
replied that there was no easy solution: "It's like a war," he said.
However, there was now effective international control of precursor
chemicals. He also told me that anyone convicted of supply has all their
assets confiscated unless they can prove other sources of income.
White says he believes it is a myth that Ecstasy users are a separate group
from those who use addictive drugs. He says that once a market for any drug
is established, users will switch to any other drug including addictive and
dangerous ones. He also believes that dealers mix addictive drugs in with
MDMA in order to get clients hooked. The best advice, he says, is "just
don't do it".
Factories are set up in Britain and in Holland, typically by middle-aged
English criminals who have been to prison several times for such offences
as armed robbery. Dutchmen are also involved.
White says police action is misunderstood when it comes to stopping raves,
as the use of drugs is a very minor motive. The reasons are, in order of
priority, (1) Public safety. (2) Public order. (3) Public Nuisance. (4) Use
of drugs. He believes that very little drug dealing goes on at raves,
because Ecstasy "takes about 4 hours to have its full effect" and so users
take it before they arrive at the rave. [In fact MDMA, MDA and MDEA reach
their full effect within about an hour.]
- 92 Media Seminar held on 17th November in London 1992 as part of European Drug Prevention Week
The seminar was presented to "a thousand opinion formers to promote a
coordinated long-term drug prevention campaign for Europe". [I asked to
attend but was refused.]
The host was Emma Freud who stated that the object was to use the media to
form attitudes in young people. She said the media has portrayed Ecstasy in
a way that has created a wave of interest, and that there may be an
argument for suppressing information. Nick Ross replied that the media does
censure a great deal, but in the case of Ecstasy "It was all the rave, and
the rage, before we knew about it". He added that politicians must not look
to the media to manipulate society. Janet Street-Porter was then asked if
she agreed, and replied: "Yes, I certainly don't think it's the role of the
BBC to put across PR messages on behalf of the government. I think it is
the job of Nick and myself to illuminate people"
The final words were an appeal from a bishop: "If the government says that
Ecstasy is always dangerous, if the church says that it is sinful and
doctors say that in many cases it is fatal, then we might change the
- 93 'Ecstasy and intracerebral haemorrhage, by JP Harries and R De Silva, in The Scottish Medical Journal, October 1992
This paper reports on four cases of intracerebral haemorrhage related to
the use of amphetamine or Ecstasy that presented to the Institute of
Neurological Sciences at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow over a
ten week period in 1992. None of the patients were given blood or urine
tests to confirm the presence of a drug or identify the type of drug taken.
One patient, a 20 year-old man, died after a stroke, having had his soft
drink spiked with Ecstasy in a pub at lunchtime. Doctors discovered a large
frontal haematoma - or blood clot - in his brain when they gave him a CT
scan and a left frontal angioma. They operated, but the patient was
declared brain dead the following day.
A previously healthy 30-year-old woman who was brought to the unit
suffering from a sudden attack of headache, dysphasia - a speech disorder -
and hemiparesis (paralysis) affecting the right half of her body, informed
doctors that she had taken a mixture of Ecstasy and amphetamine at a party
just prior to the onset of her symptoms.
An anonymous phone caller informed doctors that a 22-year-old woman, who
was brought to the unit after having an epileptic fit following a sudden
onset of severe headache, urinary incontinence and agitation, had taken
amphetamine sulphate just prior to the onset of her symptoms.
A sixteen year-old boy was admitted to the unit, who had a mild right
hemiparesis with an expressive dysphasia and blood pressure of 130/70. He
had been drinking cider with his friends and his drink had also been spiked
with Ecstasy, the paper says.
They conclude: "The close timing of our four cases makes us suspicious that
impurities in a batch of drugs may have been a major factor in the
concentration of cases in Glasgow over such a short period."
- 94 Interview with Rick Doblin, president of the Multi-disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in High Times, December 1992.
Doblin talks about the way MDMA was outlawed in the US.
When the Drug Enforcement Agency tried to get the World Health Organisation
to place MDMA in the international drug treaties, a very fortuitous thing
happened. The person appointed chairman of WHO's Expert Committee was Dr.
Paul Grof, brother of Stanislav Grof, the LSD researcher. [Through him] I
was able to send information about MDMA to Paul Grof. Though the committee
did make MDMA illegal, they did so over the objections of the chairman,
with the objections being formally noted in the committee's recommendation.
Even more importantly, the committee explicitly encouraged the signatory
nations to the international drug control treaty to facilitate research
into MDMA, which they called a most interesting substance.
- 95 The Swiss Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy. President: Dr. Med. Juraj Styk, Birmannsgasse 39, 4055 Basel, Switzerland
The society's address is that of the president's consulting room. There are
some 30 members but only four are licensed to practise with MDMA and LSD.
- 96 Listening to the Heart of Things (book), by Dr. Samuel Widmer, a Swiss psychotherapist who uses MDMA with some clients, subtitled The Awakening of Love, published by Nachtschatten 1989
This book is in German but may soon be available in English, too. It covers
the work of Dr. Widmer up to 1989 using LSD and MDMA in psychotherapy.
The book has three sections: (1) The unwanted psychotherapy. (2) Beyond
duality - the awakening of love. (3) Psycholytic psychotherapy.
[Some case histories from this book are summarised in chapter 9.]
- 97 Dancing and rave drugs, by Russell Newcombe, 1991
Newcombe suggests that clubs are safer than raves because of fire and other
health precautions, and argues that police and local authorities should not
therefore try to close clubs where drugs are used. Drugs are often taken
before entering. "It would be no exaggeration to say that raving is now one
of the main reasons for living for a huge group of socially diverse people
aged between 15 and 35 years," he says.
- 98 Can drugs enhance Psychotherapy? by Grinspoon and Bakalar, from American Journal of Psychotherapy, 1986
The authors say that compared to LSD, MDMA is "a relatively mild,
short-acting drug that is said to give a heightened capacity for
introspection and intimacy along with temporary freedom from anxiety and
depression, and without distracting changes in perception, body image, and
the sense of self". These effects should be of interest to Freudian,
Rogerian and existential humanist therapists, they argue.
MDMA strengthened the therapeutic alliance by inviting self-disclosure and
enhancing trust. Psychiatrists suggested it was also helpful for marital
counselling and diagnostic interviews. Patients in MDMA-assisted therapy
reported that they were released from defensive anxiety and felt more
emotionally open, which made it possible for them to get in touch with
feelings and thoughts which were not ordinarily available to them. It was
easier to receive criticisms and compliments. A patient said that the major
difference in psychotherapy that included taking MDMA was "being safe.
Nothing could threaten me". A patient who found she was more in touch with
her feelings and could express herself more easily 18 months after her last
MDMA session is cited as evidence that MDMA has lasting benefits.
The authors say MDMA may also help in working through loss or trauma,
supported by the following anecdote. A patient said that after a session
where she had grieved the loss of her boyfriend, she was surprised at
feeling pleased with herself for having grieved so deeply.
Many MDMA patients claimed lasting improvements in their capacity for
communication, such as getting on better with marriage partners. Increased
self-esteem was also lasting.
The authors conclude that many pre-industrial cultures use certain
psychedelic plants to enhance a procedure that resembles psychotherapy.
MDMA was a far more suitable psychotherapeutic aid to substitute for this
than the true psychedelics tried in the sixties.
- 99 Ecstasy: the clinical, pharmacological and neurotoxicological effects of the drug MDMA (book), edited by Stephen Peroutka, published by Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990
This is the classic serious work on MDMA but costs about #100.
The book includes essays by a range of experts in the field: The History of
MDMA by Shulgin; Therapeutic Use by Greer; Testing Psychotherapeutic Use by
Bakalar and Grinspoon; Recreational Use by Peroutka; Toxicity by Dowling.
There are 13 chapters in all.
MDMA is unique among recreational drugs in that taking larger or more
frequent doses reduces the pleasant effects and increases the bad effects.
It is also unique in that the effects change with successive doses, the
first being the most pleasant while further uses produce more uncomfortable
side effects. [This view is challenged in a more recent report.26]
"MDMA seems to decrease the fear response to a perceived threat to a
patient's emotional integrity, leading to a corrective emotional experience
that probably diminishes the pathological effects of previous traumatic
experiences," Greer says. Double-blind comparisons are not feasible in
clinical settings because the MDMA state is easily perceived by both the
patient and the therapist. Suggested therapeutic uses include family
relationships and drug addiction.
The effect of MDMA was seen as secondary by the therapists: the drug
assisted rather than caused the desired outcome. The goal of developing a
more compassionate attitude towards oneself and others was easily achieved
in MDMA-assisted therapy. Of paramount importance was the quality of the
relationship between the client and therapist: enabling the client to feel
safe to open up fully was seen as more important than the dose of MDMA
taken. It was considered essential that the therapists tell the client that
the client's MDMA trip had been helpful to them, in order to reassure the
client. For therapists, "The experience of fearless communication and
spontaneous forgiveness, or letting go of resentments, was particularly
important in understanding how MDMA can be used effectively."
The screening of prospective clients is very important. Those with heart
problems; those using psychoactive medication; epileptics; hyperthyroids;
diabetics; hypoglycemics; hypersensitive people and those with liver
disease or other risks of morbidity should be excluded. Although the drug
was considered useful for those with psychiatric problems, therapists
worked only with relatively well-adjusted people. They excluded those who
aroused uneasiness on interview. Patients were warned about the possible
adverse side effects, and this resulted in several opting out.
The therapists preferred to work as 'sitters' or assistants to patients who
were exploring themselves rather than to become involved in a long term
therapeutic relationship. Patients could ask for anything they wanted
during sessions. [Agreements given under Greer.28]
Discussing unwelcome effects of MDMA, therapists mentioned the pain of
unfinished grief or trauma associated with forgotten memories or repressed
feelings, which often resulted in depression and/or anxiety. This was
usually experienced as difficult but useful, and seldom lasted more than a
few days. They had not heard of long-term problems resulting from such
Since the outcome of MDMA sessions cannot be predicted, patients were
warned to be prepared to experience anything that might arise during or
after their session. They had to have a conscious desire to be open to the
most painful experience of their past so as to be able to work through it.
"You are consciously taking a medicine to open yourself to whatever
teachings you may need at this time. Neither you nor we know what these
teachings are or how they may occur. We will provide a safe place for your
explorations and be available to assist you with any difficulties, but all
that you learn that is real comes from yourself or from the Divine that is
within you - not from us or the medicine itself," one therapist would say.
Preparation was seen as important. It was felt to be useful for clients to
have clear expectations, which made it easier for them to let go. Clients
were advised not to take alcohol and other drugs for the preceding few
days, as this is thought to reduce the effect of MDMA, and to eat no food
for the preceding few hours.
Patients were asked whether they wanted a low, medium or high dose. For
men, this was 100 to 150; for women 75 to 125 - women were thought to be
more sensitive to the drug, perhaps due to their lower body weight. Higher
doses were advised for those focusing on themselves; lower doses for
couples wanting to communicate with each other. The therapists' main role
was to provide for physical needs and to offer interpretations as required.
Dr. Greer advises clients to relate their experience afterwards, rather
than have their therapist record the trip in process. If a monologue
occurred, he suggested the use of a tape recorder to focus attention
inward, rather than towards the therapist. After the drug wore off,
patients usually sat up and talked about what had happened. Therapists did
not routinely offer to interpret clients' experiences, but tried to
facilitate a smooth transition back to normal.
About 90% of the clients had powerful and generally positive and useful
experiences under MDMA. A third of these had had one session; another
third, two and the rest, three or more.
The book also includes a report of a survey of Ecstasy use among students
at Stanford University. 39% of students had used MDMA. 100 completed a
questionnaire while under the influence. The results were unsurprising: 90%
reported increased closeness with others.
Also included is a report of Ecstasy-related deaths involving heart failure
and asthma that have been investigated in the US.
- 100 The Biology of Human Information Processing by Enoch Callaway from Journal of Psychoactive Drugs Vol. 18/4 1986
The paper starts with the premise that humanity's most pressing problem is
to understand the human mind; to date, progress has been disappointing; and
psychoactive drugs hold most promise. The most important use of
psychoactive drugs, and MDMA in particular, is to help understand the human
mind. No laboratory way of assessing love exists.
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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 Hoffman 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
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
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
The addition of 2CB allows users to retain and develop their insights. It
can be taken with, before or after the E. 80mg 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
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 125mg
followed by 80mg 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
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
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 300ug. 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
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
Dr. Smith also believes the dose is important, and that body weight must be
taken into account, 2mg per Kg being about right. [He used to use 3mg/Kg
plus a booster of 1mg/Kg. The 'normal' therapeutic dose is 2.5mg/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
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 50mg MDMA, or better still, 6-8mg 2CB (he weighs about 50Kg).
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
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
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
Exhaustion depends on the dose and also the amount of emotional work done.
To reduce fatigue he avoids secondary doses, gives 20mg 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 70mg, 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
- 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
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
- 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
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."
- 151 Sunday Times 9/1/94
"The American experience is that the profits from drugs are so immense, and
the demand so enormous, that prohibition makes matters much worse.
"It makes drugs artificially expensive, thus forcing their consumers to
commit even more crime to pay for them. Legalising drugs is in every sense
a terrible admission of failure, yet it remains the only possible strategy
for making a dent in the crime statistics. In neither Britain nor
California will the mainstream politicians admit it"
- 152 Letter from Dr. John Henry of the National Poisons Unit, 13/12/93
Reply to my request for a list of contaminants in tablets and capsules sold
as 'Ecstasy', referring to an article in Time Out saying that "Ecstasy"
contained heroin, crushed glass and rat poison:
"I know of the following drugs (some of which represent 'active'
ingredients, others being constituent of reformulated tablets):
"We are not so interested in the non-pharmacological constituents, but have
heard of fishbowl preservative tablets, camden tablets etc. being sold.
These are not particularly dangerous."
- 153 X at the Crossroads by Dr. J Newmeyer of Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, San Francisco, June 1993
"At present MDMA enjoys the greatest growth potential among all illicit
drugs. I believe that MDMA will either gain de facto tolerance, or
'marijuana-like acceptance' to the larger society or will undergo a hostile
'LSD-like' rejection. The next 24 months will be decisive . . ."
Factors favouring acceptance:
1. Declining salience of the 'drug abuse problem'. Since 1985, the
proportion of Americans citing drug abuse as the number one problem has
declined steadily. This means that it would be difficult to open up another
front in the war on drugs. To wage war on MDMA will require that public
outrage be whipped up once again, . . . that people not of the 'criminal
type' be jailed.
2. Low incidence of adverse reactions. Millions of uses result in only a
handful of serious problems being reported. The dearth of MDMA horror
stories leaves opponents without the ammunition needed for a campaign of
3. Articulate proponents. Unlike users of heroin or 'crack', many MDMA
users are from the educated middle class who go on to obtain high
qualifications and influential jobs. They will provide strong opposition to
4. Harm prevention campaigns. These will further reduce the number of
mishaps, and thus the number of horror stories.
Factors favouring rejection:
1. Tendency for more use by people who are less educated and have more
personal problems. This is likely to produce more adverse reactions, thus
lowering the reputation of the drug.
2. Increased use in rave setting in more likely to produce adverse
reactions. Use late at night among strangers in harsh surroundings is the
opposite to the 'ideal setting' recommended by cognoscenti: well rested,
during daytime in a calm environment with a few trusted friends.
3. Media coverage distorting problem. A few spectacular mishaps out of
millions can mis-educate the public into believing the drug is more
dangerous than, say, alcohol.
4. Puritanism. Deeply embedded cultural hostility to pleasure and idleness
may be aroused by the behaviour of MDMA users.
Newmeyer concludes that he is certain that by June 1995 there will be a
striking swing in public attitude oneway of the other.
- 154 The Pursuit of Ecstasy - the MDMA Experience by Gerome Beck and Marsha Rosenbaum published Feb 1994 by State University of New York Press at $14.95
This 240 page book is a comprehensive look at the drug as seen by two
sociologists who started their project less than two years after
prohibition. Their style is authoritative and academic but easy reading,
covering very much the same aspects as this book. I would recommend it as a
present to a parent, teacher or anyone who may consider this book is biased
by my own enthusiasm.
The main differences are in that they cover American usage more thoroughly
(and even went to interview people involved in the Dallas scene), but have
less on the British and European current usage. The other difference is
that the book was already 10 months out of date when it appeared, time
which I saved by publishing it myself.
They start out with three personal accounts, each representing a different
type of user and how their experiences vary according to their expectations
and beliefs. Most of the rest of the book is based on 100 interviews with
Particular points worthy of note include:
Attitudes. One is that the drug 'does things to you', so that the effects
noticed are those of the drug itself. The other is that the drug allows the
user free expression, so the effects reflect aspects of the user's
personality that are normally suppressed.
Group experience. Some New Agers relate the MDMA experience to 'morphic
resonance', a term coined by Rupert Sheldrake, as though the E allows them
to tap into a field of cumulative collective experience. The forerunners of
Raves were Grateful Dead concerts that have been going ever since 1965, and
where a large number of people take drugs and feel a group-mind experience.
Acceptability. Ecstasy was used and accepted by straight people who saw it
as 'safe' or 'not a drug', particularly before it was prohibited. Several
examples of this are given, from the Dallas hedonists (who were well-off
young professionals) to New Agers who see the E state as real, not a stoned
Truth serum: "I believe it lowers your sense of fear and you fall in love
with yourself. When you do that, you're more willing to take risks, and one
of the risks is telling the truth". It enables one to speak the truth, but
does not prevent one from lying.
Sex. Prostitutes found MDMA helpful in creating a better atmosphere with
clients, and a topless dancer was able to accept and feel less abused by
gross behaviour, and to earn more tips as a result. Some people became open
to new kinds of sexual experiences.
Creativity. One person described MDMA as an artistic 'flavour enhancer' and
would use frequent small amounts to help study. A writer described how
Ecstasy allowed him to engross himself more in the content, and to allow
his description to flow more spontaneously.
Lasting effects. It was easy to integrate experience into everyday life.
The most frequently reported spiritual effect was a profound feeling of
connectedness with all of nature and mankind. It made marriage break ups
easier. A psychotherapist believed MDMA helped him to know himself better,
and therefore be more open with clients.
Bad effects. Recreational users seem to have hangovers, while therapeutic
users would value the 'afterglow'. Users who tried more than 200 mg
reported less good effects.
Addiction. Does not occur in long term. Although many users have binged,
the after effects put people off and frequent users find they need a break
to regain effects.
Toxicity. Fenfluramine has been approved for daily use although, at only
1.25 times normal dose, it produces a similar type of damage to MDMA
p.176 has a table comparing usage of various other drugs by a sample of 100
E users. In order of popularity, they are: Marijuana 96%, Cocaine 84%,
Psilocybin 82%, LSD 81%, Speed pills 66%, Mescaline 57%, Methamphetamine
48%, MDA 31% 2CB 24% and MDEA (Eve) 21%. The number who had quit usage was
also given, and showed that only 9% had given up MDMA while a higher
proportion had given up everyother drug: 15% Marijuana, 29% psilocybin,
44% Cocaine, 50% methamphetamine and 73% speed pills.
Another table asked users to say how much they liked various drugs on a
scale from 1 to 5. Taking means, the most liked in order were MDMA,
Psilocybin, Mescaline, 'other opiates', Caffeine, Marijuana, LSD and
Alcohol while Methamphetamine, Speed pills Tobacco and Cocaine scored much
Conclusion says the benefits experienced from Ecstasy can be seen as a
measure of how stressful and isolating our society is.
- 155 An analysis of the potential for HIV transmission among stimulant-using ravers by Drs Hilary Klee and Julie Morris, Manchester Metropolitan University, June 1993
The study aimed to discover whether increased sensuality and social
interaction due to drugs taken at raves may lead to greater sexual activity
and spread of HIV. To assess this, two studies were undertaken in the North
The results of the first study relating to amphetamine users were: Those
attending raves made no more casual sexual contacts than non-ravers.
Amphetamine (including Ecstasy) users were less likely to have sexual
intercourse, and were more positive towards condom use. Their risk of
infection with HIV was therefore less.
The second study concerned injecting polydrug users. Of these, 10% were
regular Ecstasy users; two-thirds of who were under 25 applying equally to
men and women. Ecstasy users were more likely to also use frequent and high
doses of cannabis and amphetamine. Ecstasy users had more friends and were
less likely to inject alone. Ecstasy users had greater interest in sex and
had more sex with more partners. Although their attitude to condom use was
similar to non-users, increased sexual activity also put them at greater
risk of HIV infection.
- 156 Chronic MDMA use: Effects on Mood and Neuropsychological Function? by George Ricaurte et al. in American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 18/3, 1992
The object of this study was to see whether MDMA use may produce long-term
psychological effects. Nine individuals were studied with extensive MDMA
use (twice a month for 5 years).
None of the 9 reported current psychiatric problems although 7 reported
previous periods in their lives when they suffered from anxiety or
depression. Most had family histories of alcohol or other substance abuse.
All sometimes also used other substances, although MDMA was there drug of
"Mental status examinations did not reveal any clinical impairments in
cognitive function, nor did neurological exams reveal any focal neurologic
"Performance in the Wechsler Memory Scale was subtly impaired in several
subjects" - but the amount of impairment did not correlate with the amount
of MDMA used. All but the heaviest user of MDMA showed at least mild
impairment in at least one neuropsychological function. However, none
showed affective or anxiety disorder or depression.
A note of caution adds that the sample was too small to draw definite
conclusions from, but the overall result was that heavy MDMA users probably
had slightly worse short-term memories, but were not depressed nor did they
show any other problems that might effect their lives.
- 157 Serotonin Neurotoxicity after MDMA: A Controlled Study in Humans by George Ricaurte et al. 1994 Neuropsychopharmacology in press.
Whether or not MDMA is neurotoxic in humans has not been established,
though it is known to cause damage to brain serotonin neurons in
30 MDMA users and 28 controls matched for weight, height, education and
other drug use were admitted to a controlled inpatient setting after at
least 2 weeks abstinence. On average, they had taken 170mg doses of MDMA
weekly on 95 occasions over 5 years. As there is no method for detecting
serotonergic neurotoxicity in the living human brain, an indirect method
was used consisting of measuring the concentration of 5-HIAA in spinal
fluid. Previous studies in monkeys had established a relationship between
serotonergic neurotoxicity and concentration of 5-HIAA in spinal fluid.
Assessments were also made of pain endurance since serotonin has been
associated with pain. In addition, personality assessments were made and
compared with the control group.
Results showed that MDMA users had lower levels of 5-HIAA, implying their
serotonin levels were lower. However, there was no significant correlation
between 5-HIAA levels and number of uses of MDMA; nor duration or frequency
of use, nor time since last MDMA exposure. It is suggested that trials are
made among users of fenfluramine, which is "taken by more people and more
frequently than MDMA, and is highly toxic to 5-HT neurons in non-human
primates" produces similar results.
There was no difference in pain endurance between MDMA users and controls.
Personality measurements showed statistically significant differences
between MDMA users and controls: MDMA users were assessed as "less
impulsive, more harm-avoidant, and have decreased indirect hostility". This
was unexpected, since it had been previously assumed that lower serotonin
levels corresponded to increased impulsive aggressive behaviour.
Alternative explanations for these findings were discussed and dismissed as
1. The finding that spinal 5-HIAA levels were lower in MDMA users, and
therefore by implication also brain serotonin "may reflect MDMA
neurotoxicity" in users. The supposed toxicity was greater in women, which
may have been due to them having higher concentrations through being
smaller or using the drug more frequently.
2. The findings that MDMA users were less impulsive, more harm-avoidant,
and have decreased indirect hostility supports the notion that these
personality characteristics are modulated by serotonin.
- 158 Survey among therapists with experience of MDMA-assisted therapy by Dr. Debby Harlow (unpublished).
Shortly before MDMA was made illegal, Dr. Harlow conducted a survey among
17 therapists who were using the drug to assist in their work. Therapists
were asked to assess the effect of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy in a
series of questions.
The effect of MDMA in treatment of various disorders. Therapists were asked
to score on a 7-point scale from "severely worsen" to "improve greatly":
Overall psychological value. Based on their knowledge and experience,
therapists were asked to assess the general psychological value of MDMA
from no value to immense value. One replied "moderate value"; 8 "great
value" and 7 "immense value".
General psychotherapeutic value. Therapists were asked to assess the
general psychotherapeutic value of MDMA in clients they had observed from
very positive to very negative; 16 replied "very positive" and one
Qualities and behaviours during session. Therapists were asked to what
extent certain qualities and behaviours were modified during an
MDMA-assisted session as compared to a non-MDMA session:
Qualities and behaviours long term. Therapists were asked to what extent
certain qualities and behaviours were modified six months or longer after
an MDMA-assisted session as compared to a non-MDMA session:
- 159 Raves threaten jobs in drinks trade, article in The Times, Oct 1993
"Jobs in traditional leisure industries are being jeopardised by the huge
growth in 'raves', which have mushroomed into a #2 billion-a-year industry,
according to new research. . .
More than one million young people attend raves per week, spending an
average of #35 at each event. The parties tend to be alcohol-free but there
is usually a heavy consumption of drugs. Raves have grown in popularity
while the number of young people going to pubs has fallen by 11%. . .
To put this phenomenon in perspective, this figure is around the same size
as the books or newspaper market and at least a quarter of the spirits
market. . .
The #2 billion figure might underestimate the threat, as the survey covered
only licensed raves. . .
They pose a significant threat to spending for sectors such as the licensed
drinks retailers and drinks companies"
- 160 Dutch drug makers surrender bucketfuls of Eve from Reuters, 29/7/93
The drug was officially banned on July 27, but a 3-day grace period was
granted to allow customers of a 'dial-a-drug' service to hand in their
purchases. . . Producers had exploited a legal loophole by advertising
- 161 Meeting with Dr. Jerry Beck and Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, 3/11/93
Dr. Beck has submitted a grant application proposal for a study of the use
of MDMA, LSD and other psychedelics. It will consist of 200 in-depth
interviews with users to find out patterns of use and associated problems.
He looks out for newspaper items on drug use and has an impressive
collection of clippings. However, he has not managed to find reports of
'rave deaths' in spite of widespread use at parties and clubs in the
States. Later, we were joined by Dr. Rosenbaum who had some definite views
about the benefits and limitations of the use of MDMA. On referring to my
questionnaire, she believed that the longer people had used MDMA the more
likely they were to say that it had not changed them, implying that the
changes people feel are based on their initial enthusiasm and are short
lived. She was doubtful about the E state being one of openness and honesty
- the first time someone takes the drug they may "spill the beans", but
experienced users can keep secrets, avoid hurting others and even lie. In
couple therapy, her experience is that MDMA is more useful for making a
split than for resolving problems. The best use, she believes, is in
conflict resolution. Besides couples, this particularly applies to siblings
who always carry "a lot of shit" from childhood. The trouble with using
MDMA to solve problems is that it is too enjoyable - when having a good
time, why concentrate on problems?
From Jerry's files: The last Pharmchem report was in 1985 (it has since
ceased to test drugs sent in) and the results for drugs described as MDMA
were: 52% MDMA; 19% MDA, MDEA or similar; 24% another drug and 5% no active
- 162 Killer paracetamol, Sunday Times 14/11/93
More than 500 deaths a year are associated with the drug, and as many as
40,000 people suffer serious overdoses. In a study of 54,000 emergency
cases, 167 were due to paracetamol poisoning compared with 129 due to
heroin overdoses. A study in Leeds last year found that the cost of
treating 316 paracetamol overdose patients cost #750,000.
- 163 The Complete Book of Ecstacy by U.P. Yourspigs from Synthesis Books, PO Box 610341, Birmingham, Al. 35261, USA
This is a 36-page book devoted to the manufacture of MDMA (and MDEA). Four
methods are given: chlorosafrole, bromasafrole, piperonyl acetone and
sodium cyanoborohydride, piperonyl acetone and aluminium amalgamate. An
accompanying letter says: "I am working on a second edition which will
include more methods with greater detail. Methods that are well suited to
the clandestine chemist." An illicit manufacturer, who had not seen the
book before, told me that it was not as complete as implied and not as good
as Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture [ref 189]. However, there were
some details and alternative routes that may come in useful.
- 164 The Independent May 1993 and 3/3/94; The Guardian 14/5/94
In March 1994 The Independent published a series of articles about illicit
drug use, all non-alarmist. Emphasised was that the trade is worth some
billions of pounds a year, that a third or more crime is drug-related, that
current users they tend to be middle class and do not fit the junkie image,
that enforcement policies do not work and that change is necessary.
The leading article was headed "Let's crack the drug economy". It claims
that the present policy is responsible for increasing violent crime without
reducing drug usage. It is bound to continue to fail. The answer is
decriminalisation. Cannabis should be treated in the same way as alcohol.
There is no logical argument for discriminating between the two. Opiate
addicts should be registered and supplied at low price. No mention is made
of hallucinogens and Ecstasy.
In May 1993, the leading article argues for illegal drugs to be licensed.
"The parallel with the prohibition of alcohol in the US in the twenties and
thirties is exact. Slavery apart, no greater mistake was ever made in
America's social history. . . If cigarettes were declared illegal, the
story would be the same: soaring prices, pushers at street corners, addicts
stealing to feed their habit and so on." Commander John Grieve, head of
criminal intelligence at the Metropolitan Police called on the government
to examine whether the supply and use of illegal drugs could be licensed.
"This newspaper, along with The Economist and other publications, has long
advocated the progressive legalisation of drugs."
The Guardian on 14/5/94 quoted Commander John Grieve as saying that
licensing for illegal drugs including Ecstasy should be explored, perhaps
on the basis of licensed cafes in Amsterdam. "Either we go to war with
drugs dealers across the globe, or we have to come up with new options."
About half the members of a working group of senior drugs detectives
supported this view.
- 165 Letter from Clive 14/2/94
Clive is a part-time dealer in California who attends public events where E
is used. Raves in SF started in 1991 and were additional to existing E
users. Among cocaine users, use of E is a well-known way to get off coke as
it seems to satisfy many of the urges to party in a coke kind of way. Then
there's underground psychotherapists, plain ordinary recreational drug
users, bonding couples who will "keep a small supply to torque the intimacy
now and then." 'Rave' has a juvenile/media sound compared to the more usual
'House Party'. Other ecstatic trance-dance parties under the 'underground
dance scene' heading includes the no-obvious-alcohol-or-drugs 'barefoot
boogie', 'dance spirit' and 'dance jam' to Grateful Dead concerts; parties
where people play worldbeat, Turkish trance, drumming, and 'urban-primitive
trance dance experiences' where they play Gabrielle Roth's recordings
designed to accompany her workshops such as 'Initiation', 'Bones', and
At these functions, besides the weekend influx of suburban kids who don't
much identify with this culture, there is 1) The street faction, well
connected with drugs in general, familiar with being on the
threatened/criminalised edge of society and being up all night, mixing with
the 2) Computer people/Nerds who have the money and great desire for X, but
are often not connected nor comfortable with the illegality vibe or
sketchiness of those they have to deal with. "These types really love me".
Every now and then people say the scene is dying, but the house parties are
still happening, still going, and don't seem to be changing much. One
institution in the rave scene is the Full Moon Party which has been going
on monthly since the beginning of it all 3 years ago and continues strong.
It never has flyers, its always free and usually at a beach. This event is
in many ways the soul of the scene as it was imported from England, and
retains the DJs who are among the most popular.
After a dry fall and spotty summer, supply of good X is now plentiful and
of good quality, and the parties are well fuelled.
"I went into the chill room to discuss something with a friend. Gradually I
noticed a girl, semi-prone beside me, was moving her hand up my leg. She
was also being massaged by someone else. She had shorts. I immediately went
for her legs, and it gradually turned into a nonverbal multi-peopled
sensual groping, squeezing, massaging, hugging kind of thing. Nearly all
strangers to me. I thought (not too much) isn't it great to feel free to do
something like this. This is the therapeutic aspect of these events which
needs to be more fully recognised as such. Medicines and therapy for the
ills begot by egoic barriers and repressive social conventions. This sort
of spontaneous, sensuous body contact is, in my mind, the sign of a good X
party. In Marin we call them puppy piles. I've seen flyers with special
rooms set aside for this aspect of the X experience called 'feely feely'
rooms or 'petting zoo'. I've also heard it called 'snake slithering'.
Whether or not a special room is put aside, ambient or chill rooms serve
the same purpose."
- 166 The Nature of the MDMA Experience by Ralph Metzner and Sophia Adamson in ReVision, Spring 1988
Psychedelics are nonspecific psychic amplifiers; i.e. the focus of the
experience depends on the set and setting. In addition, MDMA produces
predictable feelings including empathy, openness, peace and caring. With
the right intention, individuals are able to use the MDMA state to resolve
long-standing intrapsychic conflicts or interpersonal problems in
relationships. "One therapist has estimated that in 5 hours of an Adam
session, clients could activate and process psychic material that would
normally require five months of weekly therapy sessions."
The state can be described as one of release from emotional identification
patterns. This provides a preview or taste of the possibilities that exist
for greater emotional openness, and the ability to deal with issues that
are normally avoided due to anxiety. Psychotherapists using MDMA frequently
gain insight into their clients' problems.
MDMA therapy may access memories blocked out by repression such as in Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the result of traumatic experiences such
as rape and the result of war and torture. No other form of therapy is so
The fundamental experience is an opening of the heart centre. A meditation
teacher described the state as dissolving barriers between body, mind, and
spirit - "one senses the presence of spirit infusing the body. . ."
The name 'Adam' for MDMA is related to the innocent man as in the Garden of
Eden - "being returned to the natural state of innocence before guilt,
shame and unworthiness arose."
Various practices may be greatly facilitated and the effects amplified
including meditation, yoga, guided imagery, psychosynthesis, shamanic
journey work and rebirthing. This is best done on low doses (50-100mg) or
towards the latter half of a session. The detached yet compassionate
attitude required for meditation is easy to attain, providing the
foundation for deeper states - even though it may be difficult to hold a
Massage benefits can be amplified using low doses. For the masseur, the
drug helps tune in to the client; while the recipient's ultra relaxed state
allows for much greater appreciation.
Group work. Two basic approaches. Each individual silently explores
inwardly, sharing only with guides, though both before and afterwards there
is considerable sharing. Guided imagery may sometimes be used. The other is
to share during the session in a ritual fashion. The group may sit in a
circle or lie with heads to the centre in star pattern. All are silent and
attentive except the one with the 'talking stick' who talks or sings from
the heart. "The combination of channelling powerful inner experiences and
the contemplative attention of the group is a powerful force." Members may
be silent during their turn, simply sharing a meditation. Confidentiality
and no sexual behaviour is agreed.
Other group rituals have been adapted from shamanic tribal cultures. These
include finding a 'power spot' and meditating there is silence; putting
ritual objects in the middle of a circle and 'charging' them; offering
prayers to the nature spirits, ancestors and allies. Group rebirthing and
tai chi may also be incorporated. All these are best done on low doses by
people used to MDMA; otherwise they may have difficulty following
- 167 Interview with illicit manufacturers of MDMA, 2/94
Three people who were psychedelic explorers themselves and enthusiastic
about MDMA in particular decided to try to manufacture some. They spent
about 3 years planning - reading up syntheses; finding equipment and buying
materials. None had any previous laboratory experience apart from school
chemistry, nor had they any connections with others making illicit drugs.
Obtaining equipment without arousing suspicion was difficult. They found
that laboratory suppliers would not sell anything more complex than a
thermometer for cash over the counter, and asked them to open an account.
This was tricky, as it required bank and trade references which would
identify them, and they also found banks unwilling to open a new business
account without details of who they were and the precise nature of their
intended business. They were well aware that suppliers of equipment and
precursors are asked to inform the police of any suspicious purchases.
They then looked for existing companies who had accounts with suppliers,
and tried to make contacts so that orders could be placed and passed on to
them. Approaching these people was risky in itself in case any should
inform the police or blackmail them, and there was always the risk that
suppliers would notify the police that these customers were ordering
precursors for the first time. In addition, these 'middle men' would double
the price. However, they found some pieces of equipment in theatre prop
shops and even car boot sales. As syntheses were based on laboratory rather
than production techniques, nearly all the equipment was glassware. This
meant there were a lot of breakages which sometimes held up production for
ages while replacements were sought.
Methods of manufacture were worked out from studying everything they could
get hold of including chemistry textbooks; PIHKAL by Alexander Shulgin
[reference 2]; Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture  and some
patents from the Patent Office. They say that none of these were complete
on their own and that every new description added valuable new information.
Precursor materials were just as hard to get. Even solvents were not
available without question, and some ingredients required a poisons
license. In the end, they had to make many of the precursors themselves.
Key precursors, such as safrole, had to be bought from black market sources
at very high prices. Indian suppliers were the most likely to accept cash
and ask no questions. In the end they managed to obtain or make everything
they needed within Britain. In all they spent some #4,000.
Having obtained the equipment required, they looked for a suitable site to
set up their factory. It had to have water, gas supply and ventilation
besides being somewhere discreet where neighbours would not notice them
bringing in equipment and materials, nor be alarmed by odd smells and
sounds. Eventually they set up in a basement flat, with the plan to get the
batch over and done with as quickly as possible.
At this stage it was all theory, so the first thing to do was to try out
the various syntheses. This turned out to be much harder than expected -
even following instructions to the letter, some reactions simply did not
happen while others were so violent they that broke the apparatus. Recipes,
including Shulgin's, appeared to have small but vital steps missing. It was
only by reading several different instructions that they managed to
overcome all problems, and they found that nearly every extra description
of a synthesis contained more clues.
Over a period of two months continuous work they made two small trial
batches to test the method before starting production. As enthusiasts
rather than just in it for the money, they decided to go for the best
quality by recrystallizing the end product to produce pure, white crystals.
The process to manufacture one kilo of MDMA took about 2 weeks continuous
work for three people because of the lack of ideal equipment - some
processes could only be done in 50 gram batches and they had no fume
cupboard. They used about 75 litres of solvents which they were unable to
recondense, so all this was boiled off producing vast amounts of vapour.
The fumes tended to be heavier than air and would fill up the basement, as
they only had one small extractor fan - even that was a cause of worry as
the fumes could be smelled miles away. At many points in the production
there were toxic fumes, some highly poisonous, and many spillages. They
worked in terrible conditions leaving them coughing and ill due to inhaling
the fumes which caused giddiness and made their eyes smart, while working
long hours and getting tired meant that accidents were frequent. They were
worried about explosions which could be sparked off by motors such as on
their vacuum pump. Sometimes they had to evacuate the basement and the
fumes could be seen drifting out of windows. Once some ether exploded, and
they rushed out into the garden where they tried to wash off poisonous
chemicals with a hose pipe. They survived but one believes he damaged his
Selling was far more difficult than they expected. They wanted to find a
single dealer to take all their product so as to avoid too many people
knowing what they were doing, but only knew small time dealers. Eventually
they found dealers who would buy by the ounce, but they were not prepared
to pay a premium for their extra good quality product over the usual trade
price of #40 per gram. They were afraid that dealers who could afford to
buy in kilos would be connected to criminal sources, and that may mean
being swindled or threatened with guns.
Although they sold the kilo without being caught, it was much harder than
anticipated and involved far higher risks, with a worryingly large number
of people into their secret. Although one of them found the danger
exhilarating, it was sheer hell for the other and overall they concluded
that it was not worthwhile.
They learned that they could overcome virtually any problem and produce a
pure product, but such small scale production is not worthwhile. They
reckon the risks would actually be lower on a larger scale because they
would be able to pay someone else to obtain the equipment and materials and
so reduce the number of people involved, also they would be able to pay for
safer premises and better equipment. And they would be able to afford
- 169 Manufacturers of MDMA in Switzerland
Chemische Forschung & Entwicklung, Im Latten Acker 5
8200 Schaffhausen, Switzerland tel. 053 25 72 72
- 170 Ecstasy by Nadia Solowij in Current Opinion in Psychiatry 6/3 1993
Review of papers to 1993. Makes the point that most fatalities in England
were not among first time users, so it is likely that death was due to the
conditions of use rather than individual susceptibility as has been
suggested by Henry in Toxicity and Deaths from MDMA and Larner in a letter
to The Lancet. In Australia the use of E at raves has been widespread
without any reported problems. This may be due to variations in purity,
ventilation, reporting or simply extent of use.
Direct attribution to MDMA in reported cases of psychiatric disturbance due
to Ecstasy is questionable due to additional factors such as other drugs
and previous vulnerability to psychiatric disturbance. However, two cases
in Italy and one in South Africa imply that no other factors were involved.
There may be particularly susceptible individuals.
"Large doses (acute or cumulative), history of psychiatric disturbance and
preexisting disease appear to increase the likelihood of adverse effects."
- 171 Police to stop raves in The Guardian 25/2/94
Headline front page feature in early editions. "Police have launched an
intelligence drive against New Age travellers and organisers of rave
parties. . . Some forces have decided that 'raves will not happen, legal or
otherwise.'" They aim to log 8,000 such people on computer including their
nick names and vehicle numbers, and to deploy undercover police to mix with
them. "Spiral Tribe, one of the largest groups organising rave parties, is
the subject of particular attention." Police may ask fire safety officers
to declare legal raves unsafe as an excuse to stop them. Another tactic
being considered by police is obtaining blanket countryside injunctions
against public events.
An organisation called The Advance Party is campaigning against provisions
in the Criminal Justice Bill to extend laws against rave parties.
- 172 Ecstasy and Eve, leaflet by Lifeline
In spring 1993 thirteen tablets and capsules of Ecstasy were analysed for
Lifeline. None contained more than tiny amount of MDMA. 4 were MDEA: Power
packs, Triple Xs, Adam & Eves and White burgers/Saucers; 3 were MDA:
'Snowballs', 'MDMA Clear Caps' and 'White Caps'; 2 were decongestants:
'Love Hearts' and 'Splits'; 1 was antihistamine: 'White Cally' and 3 were
Amphetamine and caffeine mixtures: 'California Sunrise', 'Green Burgers'
and 'Red Devils'. The dosage of MDEA varied from 0.18 to 57 mg and MDA
varied from 0.4 to 177.5 mg (Snowballs).
- 173 MDA and Snowballs, leaflet by Lifeline
Warning that 'Snowballs' were not MDMA but such strong MDA (177 mg). Most
was sold as 'E'. MDA is twice as toxic as MDMA and effects women's
genito-urinary tract. These were so strong (three would be close to the
fatal dose) that many people overdosed on even one, especially women and
smaller people. Overdose symptoms were extreme jaw clench, unable to move,
feeling weighed down, having LSD-like trip, waves of paranoia, feeling
overwhelmed. The drug is described as more speedy and coming on with more
of a rush than MDMA.
- 174 Letter from Sheila Henderson, 26/2/94
The atmosphere [ie women feeling sexually safe and thereby more liberated
at raves] has changed considerably. There are various reasons for this:
alcohol has made a comeback, both used with and as an alternative to other
drugs; the small chance of getting MDMA when buying 'E'; the wide range of
drugs now available and mixtures consumed and other changes including the
- 175 Visit to The Fridge, a gay club in Brixton, 26/2/94
I was invited by a dealer who called herself Samantha to come on a tour of
the gay clubs in London. With blond wig and false eyelashes, she could have
been a transvestite, but assured me she was a woman. She has been selling E
in gay clubs for about six months and has done very well, due, she
believes, to giving a good deal. Having started by buying a few E's at a
time from other dealers and selling in the same clubs, she has just reached
the stage where she can buy in thousands (at #4.50 each rather than
hundreds at #7.50 or handfuls at #10, and she also has two assistant
'runners' to cover other clubs. She always sells at #15. Although so well
established and experienced, Samantha thought E was always mixture of LSD
and other drugs.
Samantha explained that clubs need to have E easily available to develop a
good atmosphere, so clubs have to allow dealers to operate and even
encourage them. However, they also have to make a pretence at stopping drug
dealing so their security staff would occasionally pounce on one who was
new or they didn't like and throw him out having confiscated his money and
E - which they discreetly sell back to the favoured dealers providing a
bonus for the staff. Asked if dealers were ever arrested, she said that
only happened if one got big enough to challenge established main dealers,
who, she believed, who would set them up perhaps in cooperation with
security and police, who would provide an undercover buyer. Asked if she
had to pay off security to operate, she said she never had but other
dealers had said they did. There were always a number of dealers in each
club who knew each other and were supportive, helping each other out. Each
had his own clients and sold on reputation. She was certainly welcomed and
we were ushered in as honoured guests without queuing.
Nowadays Samantha doesn't mix business with pleasure; i.e. she finishes
selling before taking E herself and dancing. This is a lesson learned the
hard way: once she simply lost her entire stock but was having too much of
a good time to care. On another occasion she stuffed a plastic bag full of
E down between her breasts while dancing and sweated so profusely that the
bag filled up and dissolved the pills into an unsaleable mush. To salvage
it she added a bit of acid and speed (to make up for it being sweaty),
bought some capsules of a proprietary brand medicine and replaced the
contents with the mixture, then sold them as a 'new E just in'. They were
so popular that she had people coming up to her for weeks afterwards asking
The music at The Fridge was more pop than rave and the atmosphere was
friendly, with perhaps a majority on E, though quite a lot were drinking
beer and probably using other drugs too. The vibe was gentle but retained
the sexual feelings of the gay pick-up scene - not the kind of atmosphere
where the E magic takes over and people feel as one tribe. A lot of men
took their tops off to show off their well built bodies, and one told me
that he would often meet the same men as he saw in the gym earlier. Myself
and my partner didn't feel awkward even though we were older and
'straight'. In fact, there were a lot of women there, and though some were
gay others came because they liked to be able to have fun without predative
men around. There was no chill out space, though there was a dark room
upstairs for groping and sex - used by men who were looking for a sex
partner but had decided to cut their losses, according to Samantha.
Afterwards we were invited to go onto Trade at Turnmills, open from 3.30 am
until 11 am on Sundays. This she described as a chill out with techno
music. The other main gay venue at present is Heaven on Saturday nights,
and Turnmills on Sunday nights where they play light techno from 10.30 pm
till 5 am Mondays.
- 176 Mapping Toxicant-Induced Nervous System Damage with a Cupric Silver Stain: A Quantitative Analysis of Neural Degeneration Induced by MDMA by Karl Jensen et al. 1993 in Assessing Neurotoxicity of Drugs of Abuse, NIDA monograph 136:133-149
This paper demonstrates the value of the cupric silver staining technique
in determining the location and extent of brain damage caused by high doses
of MDMA, and suggests that damage is not restricted to serotonergic
neurons. It also suggests that the use of fluoxetine ('Prozac') reduces
Rats were given 4 doses of MDMA at 12-hourly intervals. Doses varied from
25 to 150 mg/kg. The brains were then frozen, sectioned, silver stained and
examined. The staining showed up where damage was caused, which was to
particular parts of the brain.
Fluoxetine at 5 mg/kg did not produce staining on its own When given 30
minutes before MDMA, fluoxetine reduced by about half the volume of tissue
stained "and dramatically reduced the intensity of staining throughout the
Another substance, MK-801 at 1 mg/kg, "virtually eliminated evidence of
MDMA-induced silver staining".
Interpretation is to some extent subjective, and the authors are developing
an automated process for objectively determining the intensity and volume
- 177 Metabolic and Thermoregulatory Responses of the Rat maintained in acrylic or wire screen cages: Implications for Pharmacological Studies by Christopher Gordon in press Physiology and Behaviour 1994
Laboratory rats are normally kept in either plastic or metal cages. The two
types differ greatly in the way rats are able to dissipate heat. With all
other factors identical when given MDMA, Aluminium floors enabled rats to
regulate their core temperature when they were unable to do so on acrylic
floors. This is explained by conductive heat transfer between rat and
This paper may imply that past research results on MDMA toxicity (and other
trials) depends on the type of cages used.
- 178 Metabolism of 'ecstasy' by CYP2D6) by Tucker et al. published in abstract form in Br. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 36:144P, 1993
This paper suggests that about 8% of Caucasians are genetically deficient
in a particular enzyme which helps metabolize MDMA, and that such
individuals may be particularly sensitive to its effects and "at increased
risk of acute toxicity". However, these same people "may be less
susceptible to the chronic neurological effects of the drug".
[I asked two senior American researchers for their opinions on the paper.
One commented "I think he has a point". The other said "It is a nice study
in terms of showing a pathway of MDMA metabolism that can be applied to the
human condition. Unfortunately, we cannot predict whether 'poor
metabolizers' will be more (or less) susceptible to acute toxic (i.e.
predominantly hyperthermia) much less the chronic neurological effects
('neurotoxicity'), because we do not yet know which metabolites are
responsible for the acute and/or neurochemical (neurological) effects of
the compound. Tucker et al. allude to this in the final paragraph. The data
do show, however, that genetic differences in metabolism or MDMA may be
responsible for differences in the response to the drug (toxic or
- 179 National Audit of Drug Misuse in Britain by the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence 1992
Various statistics and regional surveys.
Graph shows that among school children in West Yorkshire, while solvents
are most popular among younger kids, by the age of 17 Ecstasy comes second
to cannabis closely followed by LSD.
Seizures by customs 1987-91. Number of doses of MDMA same as LSD by 1991.
Increase in use of various drugs between 1990 and 1992 shows Ecstasy 650%,
cocaine 200%, amphetamines 150%, hallucinogens 120% while heroin is
Seizures by police 1987-91. In 1991, number of seizures of MDMA similar to
LSD at 1500, but number of doses 274,000 MDMA compared to 83,000 LSD.
- 180 Ecstasy' ingestion: a case report of severe complications in J. Royal Soc. Medicine April 1993
A man consumed MDMA and Amphetamine. Though both were below toxic levels in
blood, the combined level of .3 mg/kg was above toxic threshold of .2
"The treatment of MDMA-related morbidity should be early and aggressive and
includes: gastric lavage, chlorpromazine, adrenergic blockade, intravenous
fluids and passive cooling". An afternote says "The National Poisons
Information Service now advocates the early use of dantrolene in the
management of severe complications following Ecstasy. Chlorpromazine may
lower the convulsive threshold and is no longer advised."
- 181 Young People in 1992 by John Balding, University of Exeter
Questions were asked to a representative sample of over 20,000 11-15 year olds.
Asked which drugs were "always unsafe", 14-15 year olds put Ecstasy in
fourth place after Solvents, Heroin and Cocaine.
Asked which drugs they had ever been offered, Ecstasy came second only to
cannabis (above solvents) among 13-14 and 14-15 year olds. Ecstasy came
third just below solvents among 11-12 year olds. The highest figure was 15%
among 14-15 year old girls.
Asked which drugs they had ever taken, Ecstasy came fifth at 4.2% below
cannabis, solvents, natural and synthetic hallucinogens (Mushrooms and
Asked if they know anyone who takes particular drugs, Ecstasy came second
to cannabis in all age groups, above solvents and amphetamines.
- 182 The Ecstasy Study by Lifeline, 1993 published as part of Sheila Henderson's Final Report [see reference 41]
98 Ecstasy users between 16 and 31 in the Manchester area completed a
questionnaire between August 92 and January 93. 93% had first tried Ecstasy
in a rave setting. 87% of users paid between #10 and #15 per dose. Women
composed 65%: more took half doses than men and they were more likely to
try Ecstasy at a younger age.
Asked about frequency of enjoyment, 52% replied most times, 25% said every
time and 18% said not as much as they used to. While the same proportion of
men to women replied most times, more men than women said they enjoyed it
every time. Half took one tablet per night; a quarter took 1-2 and 18% took
Asked what they liked about Ecstasy, two thirds replied in terms of
'happiness, joy, elation or euthoria' followed by 'energy', 'dancing',
'relaxation/release', 'group feeling', 'confidence' and 'escape'.
Asked about worst effects just after use, 37% were physical and 40%
psychological. During use, 17% said physical and 21% psychological.
Asked about use of other drugs, 61% smoked tobacco daily, 52% drank alcohol
weekly (16% daily), 40% smoked cannabis frequently, 40% amphetamine weekly.
In addition, occasional use of other drugs included: 52% LSD, 9% cocaine,
4% magic mushrooms, 3% heroin or other opiates, 3% amyl nitrate and 3%
ketamine. 94% of those who first tried Ecstasy at age 18-19 years still
take it; 76% also smoke tobacco and 42% smoke cannabis daily. Of these, a
third take E a few times each month and a third weekly. Though tobacco,
cannabis and cocaine were more popular among women than men, more men than
women used magic mushrooms and ketamine (also male were the only two who
Asked about the future use of Ecstasy, 56% said it was here to stay in
their own lives, while 70% said it was here to stay for young people
- 183 Turn on, Log in, Reach out, leaflet advertising SFRAVES
Leaflet offers a subscription service to a database on Internet covering
raves which includes a weekly event list, "a comprehensive guide to clubs
"Simply send a message to the Internet address:
firstname.lastname@example.org and within a day or so you will
receive a welcome message and all other SFRaves communications." Users can
also take part in URave, "a round the clock, real time on line
international virtual rave."
- 184 Reinforcing Subjective Effects of MDMA May be Separable from its Neurotoxic Actions by McCann and Ricaurte, J. Clinical Psychopharmacology 6/1993
Subjective trials show that the psychoactive effects of MDMA are not
affected by taking fluoxetine first. Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors block
MDMA neurotoxicity. Since fluoxetine is a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor,
this implies that the desired effect of MDMA may be enjoyed without its
Three were experienced MDMA users who took 20mg fluoxetine 40-60 minutes
before large doses of MDMA, 300-450 mg including booster doses. The sense
of euphoria and closeness was unaffected. There was a greater sense of
calmness but less increase in energy. Side effects normally felt such as
jaw clench were less than normal, though nausea was worse. Two found it
easier to sleep afterwards. Next-day fatigue was considerably less than
normal, even for the one who found sleep as difficult as usual.
The fourth was a woman who had been taking 20mg fluoxetine for the previous
10 days. It was her first MDMA experience and her description of it was
typical, implying that fluoxetine did not effect it.
The paper concludes that these cases "argue against the view that serotonin
release is the basis for MDMA's psychoactive action", since this is
prevented by pre-treatment with fluoxetine. This is supported by the fact
that drugs such as fenfluramine do not produce similar psychoactive effects
- 185 Effects of [MDMA] on acoustic and tactile startle reflexes in rats by Kehne et al. in. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1/1992
Startle response to noise and touch was increased by MDMA in proportion to
the dose given. This was prevented by fluoxetine.
- 186 MDMA-induced dopamine release: effect of dopamine uptake inhibitors by Nash and Brodkin in J Pharmacol Exp Ther 11/1991
MDMA increased the extra-cellular concentration of dopamine, but this was
reduced when fluoxetine was given 30 minutes beforehand. Results also
showed that MDMA increases the concentration of dopamine in the striatum
via a mechanism independent of its effects on serotonin release.
- 187 Phone call from Clive 5/3/94
Clive is an actor and also part time DJ, living in London. He is interested
in the arts and the effect of MDMA on both performance and perception.
Clive and friends have put on several private events at which MDMA is taken
by everyone present, performers and audience alike. The performances are
multi media and allowed to develop spontaneously, and the results have been
spectacular. The artistic experience becomes almost religious.
He says that most great art comes after de-constructing and allowing
oneself to flow, and that this is allowed by MDMA.
However, not everything can be done on MDMA, in particular the preparation.
The idea is to get everything ready so that you can really let go when on
MDMA. For music, he does the programming of the equipment beforehand.
- 188 Phone call from Graham 5/3/94
Graham is an American in his sixties who has been using MDMA for over 12
years. Originally, he was part of a communal group who routinely took
Ecstasy together, but though the closeness and intimacy at the time was
wonderful, they decided from experience that it was inappropriate to be so
intimate with everyone in the wider group, and now they keep to couples or
family groups. He says their living situation is that of about 100 people
consisting of several extended households living as close neighbours and
friends, along with children and grandchildren. There have been no
divorces; all the couples involved have stayed together.
Since he started taking MDMA regularly at the age of 50, he has
'rehabilitated' himself both physically and emotionally. He used to be a
pushy casino owner without social conscience or morals who thought the
world was a jungle. Now he meditates, has not raised anger for the past
eight years and is vegetarian. He still uses MDMA twice a week, on
Wednesdays and Saturdays. He now uses large doses up to 400 mg as he has
become tolerant, and is aware of other personalities inhabiting his body.
He believes that his frequent use of MDMA has not only transformed his life
but seems to channel chance in his favour - things have happened to him
against odds of millions to one.
Graham asked me not to identify which animal species is involved, but told
me about his involvement in racing. He has been involved in breeding
animals for racing, and they are so highly strung that they sometimes get
illnesses related to stress. A few years ago, with an animal in a critical
state before and the vet not able to come straight away, he administered
some MDMA and witnessed a miracle cure. Since then he has used it with a
variety of animals from horses to birds. For instance, when he has found a
wild bird with a broken bone, in the past he would set the bone but the
bird would still die of fear, but given a 'couple of drops' of MDMA it
would relax and survive.
He has also heard of horses being given MDMA before races, which he says
helps them to overcome the shock of competition.
He had heard of athletes using MDMA as part of their training routine, but
thinks it would not be useful otherwise.
His family has no medical insurance and have never needed a doctor. He
believes this is due to their regular use of MDMA which he sees as a tonic,
giving relief from flu and helping in almost every situation. He has even
given it to one year olds 'in desperation'.
- 189 Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture, $24 from Loompanics and Books by Phone.
According to an illicit manufacturer on MDMA, the third edition of this is
the most useful guide to manufacture. As of March 1994, the third edition
of this guide is being sold by Loompanics while the earlier edition (which
I am told is not so good) is being sold by Books by Phone. Recipients of
books from Loompanics have received them marked 'opened by customs', while
the Books by Phone packets, which are clearly labelled 'Books' have never
- 190 Effect of MDMA on sexual behaviour of male rats by Dornan et al. in Pharmacol Biochem Behav July 1991
Sexual activity was suppressed in most animals while on MDMA, but returned
to normal after a week "despite a marked depletion of 5HT content in the
striatum and hippocampus". In addition, rats who did copulate on MDMA,
"ejaculation latency and postejaculatory interval were dramatically
- 191 Effects of MDMA on sleep by Allen et al. in Sleep September 1993
23 MDMA users were compared to matched non users. MDMA users averaged 19
minutes less sleep and 23 minutes less non-REM [non rapid eye movement]
sleep than controls. The reduction was due to an average of 37 minutes less
stage 2 sleep, with no significant reduction in stages 1, 3 or 4 stages.
- 192 Illicit psychostimulant use in Australia by Dave Burrows et al. monograph, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1993
Use of MDMA in Australia seems to be limited to a small group at events
such as raves. Prevalence is estimated to be between that of amphetamine
In a section entitled Pharmacologic Interventions, various drugs are
discussed. L-Tyrosine and L-Tryptophan have been "postulated to promote
bio-synthesis and thus to restore neurotransmitter function. Their use in
open trials has produced unclear results. No controlled studies document
- 193 Amphetamine Use among Young Adults in Sydney by Julie Hando and Wayne Hall, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, 1993
Study based on 231 in-depth interviews with amphetamine users between
October 1991 and October 1992. Two thirds were male, average age was 24,
all lived in Sydney with 39% in the inner city. 5% were aboriginals. 57%
were unemployed. 58% had tried MDMA of which 24% had injected it. MDMA was
not the drug of choice for any of the sample, and came 9th in popularity
just below cocaine.
- 194 Letter from myself in New Scientist, 18/12/93
Susan Katz Miller's article entitled How Ecstasy blows your mind (20
November) reports on the results of American research that, she says "may
be evidence of the 'neurotoxic potential' of the drug".
She then goes on to report that, "In personality tests, the team found that
the group who took Ecstasy were less impulsive and hostile, and showed
greater constraint and control". However, she doubts that these
characteristics were caused by their use of Ecstasy, quoting an American
psychiatrist's view that "people who gravitate to this drug are often less
However, there is evidence to indicate that Ecstasy modifies user's
behaviour in this way. An ethnographic survey by Mark Gilman, a researcher
for the Manchester drug agency Lifeline studying a group of football
supporters, showed that when they switched from alcohol to Ecstasy they
gave up fighting. Simultaneously, statistics confirmed that the number of
fans arrested and ejected from grounds fell to their lowest level for five
An interesting aspect of the American research not mentioned in your
article is that peaceful behaviour was associated with lowered serotonin
levels, contrary to general belief. This supports the findings mentioned in
your article Does the aggressive gene lurk in a Dutch family? (This Week,
30th October 93) which links aggressive behaviour with high levels of
When the World Health Organisation expert committee recommended that member
countries of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances outlaw MDMA
(Ecstasy) in 1985, they were sufficiently impressed by anecdotal evidence
of its potential benefits to issue a directive urging member countries "to
facilitate research on this interesting substance" under the provisions of
As Britain is a world leader in Ecstasy consumption per capita, isn't it
time that some serious research was carried out in this country?
- 195 Independent 7/3/94
A home office study by Prof. Alan Maynard et al. states that customs rarely
achieved the 10% seizures of drugs consistently claimed, and that in fact
the figure since 1985 has fallen from 1% to 0.3% in the case of heroin.
- 196 Letter from Fiona Measham, 2/94
Ms. Measham's research involves keeping track of a cohort of young people,
now 16-17 years old (described in reference 49). She attends hard-core
jungle clubs in the Midlands about once a fortnight including The Edge in
Coventry and Institute and Q club in Birmingham, the latter being in a
converted church holding 3,000.
"Regarding trends, the jungle scene is vibrant and buzzing at the moment,
as evident by the opening of large new clubs. Last year people spoke to me
of their personal experiences of 'snidey Es' leading them to choose other
dance drugs instead, in particular LSD and speed. More recently, it seems
that improved quality has led some to move back to Ecstasy as the preferred
dance drug. Now, however, a lot of people are sticking to brands they know
and trust, especially 'Doves', rather than the previous trend for wanting
to try the latest E on the market.
"A small but growing number are using cocaine, which is increasingly
available and at a lower price. Male friends say they quite often get
offered a snort in the toilets at venues. . . There is also a race
dimension, with young black men in Wolverhampton more likely to be doing
speed, cocaine (crack and coke), cannabis and alcohol in various mixtures
rather than E which is definitely still the first choice for young white
- 197 Letter from Kellie Sherlock, 3/94
Ms. Sherlock is conducting four research projects which concern the use of
Ecstasy at the Department of Psychology, University of Leeds.
"My first study is a wide scale questionnaire examining various
determinants of drug use. The main body of the questionnaire encompasses
questions to do with; demographics, consumption variables, knowledge about
drugs, as well as attitudes and beliefs about drug use." These survey forms
have been distributed to 6,000 16-25 year olds. She hopes to follow up some
of the respondents after a year to assess changes in answers.
"My second study is a series of semi-structured in depth interviews with
young women drug users. In this I hope to gain some more qualitative data
to supplement the quantitative data acquired in the questionnaire. I am
interested in reasons for; starting, continuing and cessation of use,
positive aspects of use and health related aspects of usage." Results will
be analysed in two ways: first a very simple content analysis; the second
according to the Leeds Attritional Coding System which relies heavily on
Attribution Theory. Again, it is hoped to do a 12-month follow up. "I would
like to administer a scale such as the Brown and Harris Events scale to see
what role life events play in drug use."
The third study is a Behavioural Validation Study consisting of two
components: a group testing of 40 subjects and a longitudinal study of 10
of these. "This involves the subject giving a sample of urine after taking
an Ecstasy tablet and then completing a detailed questionnaire about the
effects, what other drugs they have taken etc." There will be an attempt to
match behavioural effects with the drugs found in the urine.
"My fourth study is still very much in the planning stages. I am hoping to
work in conjunction with Dr. John Blundell from this dept. who did some
preliminary work with Dr. McCann and Ricaurte on Ecstasy, eating and
serotonin levels. We are hoping to conduct something similar on eating
behaviours, probably in questionnaire format."
- 198 Session with therapy group using Ecstasy, 3.94
A reader invited me to attend a 'journey', an event which he and a few
friends made fortnightly on Ecstasy. Without having met any of them, I
turned up at an address in North London one Saturday afternoon.
The participants were old friends in their thirties who had previously been
involved in rebirthing. They felt that spiritual paths were often a
distraction from coming to know and change oneself. They believed that
releasing their internal anger and other negative emotions would result in
being able to let these go.
The session started by each person (including myself) taking the 'medicine'
in a cosy room with lots of candles and a coal fire. Some took a whole
tablet, others three-quarters.
When the drug came on, one member of the group started to talk about the
knot he felt in his belly, and the rest of us focused our attention on him,
encouraging him to feel it and interpret it. When he seemed to exhaust this
route, someone else would take over the central role. Some would talk and
reveal their secrets, others would 'regress' and describe situations they
believed were from a previous life. One particular member took on the role
of interpreting what was going on, and the others seemed to accept his
'insights'. For instance, he might say that someone was angry and that
person would reply "I don't feel angry" to which he would suggest that this
was because they were suppressing anger.
The atmosphere was intense without fun. I found myself identifying
intensely with the pain being expressed, but this was exhausting and too
much to take after the first couple of hours. I then became more detached
and observed, with growing doubts that the process was really therapeutic
and about their implied belief that there is "no gain without pain".
At the end of the session we all shared a meal, and they considered it an
important 'journey'. They planned to meet a couple of days later to go over
it. I learned that they met at least once a week in addition to these
- 199 Attitudes and Ecstasy Use by Mark Conner and Kellie Sherlock, University of Leeds. Paper presented at a conference in Lisbon September 1993.
Anonymous questionnaires were used to study the extent and associated
beliefs of a varied sample of 186 students aged 19-25 in the north of
Over half had tried Ecstasy, and the majority of these had taken it over 15
times. It was found that light users only used ecstasy on special
occasions, while heavy users took it regularly, mostly once or twice a
month. Heavy users tended to take Ecstasy at clubs while light users tended
to use it among friends at private parties. Users were significantly more
likely to take other drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines and
hallucinogens, though less likely to use alcohol.
Enjoyment was the universal motive for taking Ecstasy - none answered
addiction, habit, experience or boredom. However, there was a marked
difference between the perceived outcome of use among users and non-users.
Non-users were far more likely to evaluate the effects of Ecstasy
negatively, such as being feeling lethargic, having mood swings, more
frequent use and feeling run down. There was a tendency for heavier users
to perceive more positive and less negative outcomes of use, although even
heavy users had only moderately positive attitudes.
- 200 Phone call from Andrew Thomson, 3/94
Thomson is involved in a research project on Ecstasy users, originally to
find out if the use of Ecstasy may promote the spread of AIDS. He reported
some findings that have emerged to date.
Back pain. During his 50 in-depth interviews, he has included questions
about fluids consumed and lower back pain after use. Those who consume
large amounts of nonalcoholic drinks do not have back pain, and people who
normally have pain can prevent it by drinking water. He suspects that lower
back pain is due to the effect of dehydration on the kidneys.
Menstruation. When women report stopped or irregular menstruation, he asks
about their eating habits. As a result, he believes that menstruation is
not effected by consumption of Ecstasy but by poor or irregular diet that
often accompanies Ecstasy use.
Sex. Some people can get turned on sexually while on E, but the important
point is that the mood that existed when taking E continues and becomes
exaggerated - "just like alcohol". But Ecstasy does lower inhibitions to
some degree. It also depends on the social context in the widest sense,
including the atmosphere and expectancy of the situation where it is used.
Quite apart from the use of Ecstasy, sexual arousal is common at clubs but
not at raves. Some women described getting randy on E in clubs and one
stopped taking it in clubs so as to keep in control.
- 201 London Programme, ITV 27/3/94
Boring programme but had commissioned a survey among school children. This
showed that about 35% of schoolchildren have bought or been offered drugs
in London area schools. Trends suggest that the majority of kids will have
tried drugs before they leave school. Typical starting age for trying drugs
is now 14 while 5 years ago it was 17-18. 41% of school users are 14 or
under. Drug use is more prevalent at 'public' schools (ie private
- 202 Interview with a Benedictine monk, 2/4/90
Brother Bartholemew is a monk who has used Ecstasy about 25 times over the
past 10 years as an aid to religious experience. Normally he has taken it
alone, but has also done so among a small group of like-minded people.
While using Ecstasy he has experienced a very deep comprehension of divine
compassion. He has never lost the clarity of this insight and it remains as
a reservoir upon which he can call. Another benefit of his use of Ecstasy
has been that the experience of the divine presence comes to him
effortlessly. The effect manifests in its elemental form in the breath, the
breath of divine God. After the awakening he began to discover the validity
of all other major religious experiences.
He believes the 'tool' of MDMA can be used on different levels - as a
research tool or as a spiritual tool. When used appropriately it is almost
sacramental. It has the capacity to put one on the right path to divine
union with the emphasis on love, vertical love in the sense of ascending.
However, this gain only happens when you are looking in the right
direction. It should not be used unless one is really searching for God,
and is not suitable for hedonists such as teenage ravers. The place where
it is taken should be quiet and serene, and you should have a close
emotional bond with the others in your company.
The experience has to be pursued under a certain amount of supervision
because the influence of Ecstasy produces a tendency for attention to drift
off. There is also a danger of squandering the experience by being trapped
in euphoric feelings rather than reaching into a spiritual realm. However,
although it can be invaluable, its use should not be necessary as the need
for a drug negates freedom.
- 203 Interview with a rabbi at the West London Synagogue, 5/6/94
After a talk which touched on the need to prepare for death, I asked a
question about the value of MDMA in terminal patients (referring to Charles
Grob's study in LA). He replied that MDMA was valuable for the dying as
much as at raves in that it allowed the feeling of oneness and seeing life
from a new aspect. Prohibition is not the best way to deal with substances
that can be used in ways that are as sacramental as communion wine. They
may arouse feelings of awkwardness which may be uncomfortable but are
essential for deeper understanding of our selves. However, there are other
methods such as are described in a book called Mind Aerobics.
At the end, the rabbi beckoned me to come up onto the stage. He took me
into a fire exit staircase, out of earshot of his entourage, and told me
that he could not afford to undermine his project by publicly supporting
the use of illegal drugs, but that he had my book (which he praised) and he
believed that MDMA and other psychedelics cold be used to immense benefit.
Not only for personal awareness, but also for the sake of Gaia or the
cosmic wellbeing of the planet. He hinted that the MDMA experience was of
the same quality and potential value as other mystical experiences, and
suggested that priests should take the drug themselves both in order to
understand young people and to see the validity of spiritual experiences
produced by drugs. He referred Masro's conclusion concerning 'peak
experiences' that taking drugs was like reaching the top of a mountain by
cable car instead of the toil of climbing - it can be seen as cheating, but
it gets you to the same place. He ended by giving me a big hug and
encouraging me in my work.
- 204 Visit from a Zen monk and teacher
Bertrand is a Zen Buddhist monk and teacher of meditation in his early
seventies. Formerly an artist, he had an awakening experience on Mescaline
which made him re-evaluate life and to seek a spiritual path, and when he
was 47 he took up Rinzai Zen with a strict Japanese master. Though he found
the training extremely hard, he eventually became the abbot of a Zen
Bertrand has taken Ecstasy about 25 times over 10 years. He has generally
used it on the second day of a five day meditation, and finds that the drug
allows him to give his wholehearted attention without distraction. As a
student, he also once used the drug when undertaking a Zen exercise called
Koans - such as the classic: "to understand the sound of one hand
clapping". The master would name the task which the student would have to
contemplate and then return to demonstrate his comprehension of it;
normally after a considerable time and very often being told to try again.
On MDMA, Bertrand zipped through the Koans with impressive ease. He has
also felt enlightened on two occasions, although he is wary of accepting
this as the highest level. He also knows a Swiss Zen Buddhist who uses E,
but never told his own master. He feels that the experience would be of
great value to some of his devout but stiff fellow Zen monks, although he
knows only one other Zen monk who uses Ecstasy.
Asked whether the E experience was of equal value to 'getting there the
hard way', he replied that MDMA simply allowed one to focus wholeheartedly
on the task in hand, and that the result was in every way as real because
it was the same. In fact, MDMA allowed him to go further than he was able
to without it.
I pressed him to find negative aspects, and he told me that he once made
the mistake of taking E just before leading a meditation. This opened his
eyes to how strained and needy his students were. He expressed what he felt
too freely: that they looked like corpses, all lined up in their black
tunics! This was inappropriate and he did not use MDMA while teaching
again. He felt his mistake lay in not respecting that his students were in
a different space.
However, Bertrand believes that MDMA would be an extremely useful tool for
teaching if the students were on it too. In fact he wondered if he would
live long enough to be able to use it legally. Pressed for possible
problems, he said that there were always people who came wanting to be
given enlightenment on a plate, and that news of a new technique using a
drug would attract those who expected it to 'do be done for them'.
The rave party was the first time Bertrand had taken E except while
meditating, and he was surprised how different the experience was.
Beforehand he said he could hardly stand the noise and volume, but after
coming up said how he could see the value of the volume in drowning out
distractions, and the monotonous beat was akin to American Indian
ceremonies which also provide the feeling of tribal bonding by the use of a
drug - although he felt the rave missed the Indians' cultural framework and
focus. (Bertrand had been guest in an American Indian ritual, though
without taking any drug.) He could see the value of his new experience to
Buddhism as expansive - meditation was contractive, but both were
His first reaction to coming up was sadness in his position as part of the
establishment of a restrictive religion, and a realisation that the Zen
training was not suitable for Westerners in its present form. Later, he got
into the dancing and, as his face changed from severe to happy he
exclaimed: "This is meditation - to be truly in the moment and not in your
head". Next day, he said that he felt the experience had made an impression
on his life and was not sure where it would take him. It had emphasised
what he already knew: that his students were too contracted, and that the
expansive experience of the rave was what they needed, and it was a pity
that he could not advocate it in his position.
Next day he said this may be an important turning point in his life. He had
to take time to digest what he had learned, but his immediate response was
that he could not continue to be part of the establishment of his school in
its present form. He could see that the contractive aspect of the training
had been overemphasised in his school in the belief that Westerners were
too expansive anyway, but in fact those who sought Zen masters in the West
really needed the ability to be expansive - and the rave provided it.
[Chapter 14][Appendix 2]