It is a tragedy that some parts of the US government try so hard to restrict this drug. I fully agree that it is a powerful, dangerous drug. Still, for most purposes, the benefits almost certainly outweigh the harms. I think future generations will look back on this as a moral failing of our time.
1. In moderation, of course, and mega-caveats for anyone who has a family history of schizophrenia. MDMA is not good for your brain. However, I think for many people it may be necessary to use the drug to open a figurative door. I wish better drugs existed, but research in the field has been stifled.
That said, the birth of my son altered me for a long time (made more emotional, better able to enjoy emotion). Finishing the reconstruction of my house with my own hands altered me (showed me I can do major things when I just start doing them). Getting my PhD showed me that even though I reached the maximum level of education I can still have insecurities about my intelligence and they are thus irrational. Reading Atlas Shrugged changed me from someone who automatically though from a group perspective to someone who kept his own needs at a higher priority by showing me the moral rational for this type of thinking.
I never tried LSD or the like but aren't they just shortcuts to states of mind I can attain by learning myself to be more grateful for what I have? To be more social and nice? Can I attain the long term effects of psychedelic drugs by reading? By learning how to meditate? That is what I always believed.
Perhaps at some point I will experiment, now I feel I can't take any risks, I need my brain the way it is to provide for my family.
Did you do that work on your house with trees you'd taken down with your teeth? Or did you use a bunch of short-cuts, developed over hundreds of thousands of years, from saws to cut wood to hammers that pound nails to an exchange economy that allows you to work at one thing and pay someone else to do another for you (like build hammers etc). How big a short-cut is that!
Civilization is nothing but a huge collection of short-cuts.
Every tech company is in the business of developing and selling short-cuts.
So don't be running down short-cuts: they are what make our lives communal, rich, pleasant, civilized and long.
The issues with drugs are not that they get us to places we'd like to go without the otherwise-arduous work required, it's that they don't necessarily get us there, and they can get us to places that are very difficult to get out of. But the very fact that they can mess you up in ways you can't achieve by reading or meditation suggests they can give us positive effects that can't be achieved in other ways. It's not something I'd likely do myself, but if people are bad places already, suffering from PTSD and the like, it's not unreasonable for them to take the damned short-cut if it has a plausible chance of working.
That said, I'm in favour of legalization, or at least decriminalization, in part to reduce the risks: MDMA in particular involves a synthesis that I'd really like to see done in a quality-controlled environment (there are mercury compounds involved and if the chemist screws up their clients can die, which unfortunately happens, and would not happen if the drug was legal, so I lay those deaths at the feet of prohibitionists.)
People are really underestimating altered states when they've never experienced them. Psychedelic drugs are not as subtle as what you are describing and MDMA in particular is not random at all.
Also don't confuse the immediate effect of the drug with what you learn from the experience.
Actually I do know people that messed up their life pretty bad on xtc and weed (ok, perhaps 16 is to young to experiment). Alcohol also messed up the life of someone dear. To be really fair perhaps he just needed more and more to maintain normal social functioning and his anxieties and a lurking depression were probably the real cause.
I have never read PIhKaL or TIhKaL but I am aware of the 1-10 rating scale, so forgive me if I over-simplify but I'll explain it briefly in case you've never heard of this. Chemicals are rated on a scale of -10 to +10 based on the potency and reliability of the experience they produce. +10 is not said to be a linear extension of +9, instead +10 is said to be reserved for drugs that ingesting the substance can be shown to produce a "religious experience" where your perception is changed, you see God, and everything is right for you. (Not necessarily reliably, or every time, but enough for viziers such as Shulgin to have felt a need to document it in this way.)
Looking it up now I see the "Shulgin Scale" really only goes up to +4: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulgin_Rating_Scale
If you read the "canonical" interpretation of +4, it's clear that what you're describing as having changed you in these ways is similar, if not the same; probably you'd agree with this regardless of your position on God or religion. While I appreciate your belief, if I had seen positive effects on people using the drug then what you're saying wouldn't change my mind about the effectiveness or about a potential good that could come out of the drug. Maybe it's a shortcut, or maybe for some person even with similar experience to yours it's still the only way for them to have that experience and to open those doors.
(NB: I don't have any children, and I'm neither sure that I could build a decent house with my bare hands.)
After a while I began taking it at home and listening to music that inspired me. I began to reflect on my childhood when I had 2 verbally abusive parents. I had shut those thoughts out, and at 25 began dealing with them and seeing the effect their abuse had on me. MDMA allowed me to look at those relationships in a completely loving light and realize them for what they were; 2 people who could not express themselves appropriately. It changed my love for them in a very positive way, even after "the roll" had stopped. I forgave them for the many years of anguish I experienced in middle school, high school and college. I had literally ignored them since college out of anger for a lost childhood. Being able to love them again made me realize that I can love others too. Around that time is when I began to trust people and it is when I met my future spouse.
It's a tough thing to admit, but MDMA had better reparation on my emotional and psychological state than many years of church and reading books. I love God, I know he's guiding us, and I think sometimes healing power starts on the inside of your mind. If you're a religious person, the first two commandments are "Love God", and "Love your neighbor". MDMA helped me on both of those.
I just read a statistic the other day that veteran suicide rates are increasing. As a non-combat veteran, I wish I could take the many troubled and PTSD afflicted and have them try MDMA to work through their issues in a controlled therapy session.
Lost in all the DEA-fueled hysteria that tried to show the potential lethality of the drugs (which was laughable, considering basic observation of recreational usage showed it was almost never fatal) was the more subtle consequences of the drug. For instance, of the group that I used to "roll" with, all but one of us have suffered from a diagnosed depression. It's a small sample size, but 9 out of 10 people is somewhat alarming and it's not hard to find plenty of examples of people online claiming to suffer from similar symptoms after prolonged MDMA usage.
So I'd temper your recommendation. It's still a substance that you need to be very careful with. For one, there are so many other substances that are much more dangerous that are easier to produce and sold as MDMA. If you're going to use the drug, make sure you're using the actual drug. Second, be mindful that the actual dangers are far more subtle than the scaremongering would have you believe but can be almost as devastating.
Ecstasy use could have been a source of self-medication for the effects of depression in the folks you hung out with, rather than a cause of that depression. Like many self-medicators, they and you may not have recognized the symptoms of depression consciously before using the drug, which could lead to a misconception of cause/effect timing.
But, just a thought, obviously not knowing you or them.
I was a teetotaler until my mid-tweens, and still I only drink in moderation. I've only gotten shitfaced once, when a pretty girl was hitting on me and kept buying us shots (an unlikely scenario, I know - hence the only once). However, that one time was enough to cure a lot of social anxieties for me.
Like your MDMA experiences for you, that one-time experience of drunk buffoonery opened the door to self-healing. In my case the fact that I managed to be a drunk idiot without being a drunk asshole made me worry less about losing control in general. That also highlights that while it worked for me, it's unlikely to work for everyone (and I'm sure you all have anecdotal experiencethat backs this up...). So my conclusions are the same: the usefulness of mind-altering drugs is highly context-sensitive and misunderstood.
Ate a tiny piece of space cake once and ended up jumping out of a window. Years I did MDMA once and did not notice much effects (and it wasn't a dud - I shared it with a friend and they definitely noticed its effects). Another anecdote suggesting that the effects of these drugs on people greatly depend on your state of mind when you take them. It's precisely there where we have little hard data on how the drugs work, I think.
For each individual who says psychedelics have made them a better person, there are hundreds who make the same claim about religion. And I think we can all agree that the risk of biological side effects is much lower with religion.
If I were going to follow your advice and try MDMA, shouldn't I follow my father's advice and try religion first?
Religion is a bit more of a commitment. And, for it to have the desired effects, often requires you to change what you believe about the world.
Generally, no. You can't become better by taking a drug, but they're not talking about bettering themselves. They're talking about healing. If your intention is to better yourself with the aid of psychedelic drugs, you'll only get out what you put in, and psychedelics will mostly only inspire you to put forth the effort. edit: You still have to work at improving yourself through other means.
> For each individual who says psychedelics have made them a better person, there are hundreds who make the same claim about religion.
Well, not that many people are willing to try psychedelics.
> And I think we can all agree that the risk of biological side effects is much lower with religion.
Every year more people are killed in the name of religion than by psychedelics. Psychedelics kill noone. Their LD50 is usually too high.
> If I were going to follow your advice and try MDMA, shouldn't I follow my father's advice and try religion first?
Sure, but please try more than one religion, and check out philosophy too. You can choose whether or not to try MDMA in the same way that you can choose whether or not to go sky diving.
 This is not an inherently misguided idea, but in uncontrolled environments, psychedelics can be quite dangerous.
Perhaps, for pure 'traditional' psychedelics like LSD. (I'm not sure if there are any known direct toxicity-related deaths from it, including doses ~1000x typical). MDMA, on the other hand, can cause fatal hyperthermia or serotonin syndrome at ~10x typical dose.
Some of the 'novel psychoactive substances' gaining recent popularity due to their ambiguous legal status have much, much worse safety profiles. The 2C-x-NBOMe family is especially troublesome in that regard.
Also, consider exactly what the 50 in LD50 means.
And we won't even consider 'drug-related' fatalities, since it's even harder to find unbiased reporting on them as a class.
It might be a very small number (and I believe it is), but it ain't zero.
There is the elephant that died after a massive overdose of LSD. I'm mot sure if the LSD killed it or the exertion it went through after being given the LSD killed it.
Drugs can kill by mechanisms other than toxicity (and this includes killing people other than the user.)
I'm going to mostly point out that although this is an appealing idea: that we only get out of ourselves what we put in/etc./etc. there's no reason for it to be true. In fact, I'd expect that for some drugs, it's probably not true: if you're talking about a substance that has dramatic, longer term effects on the functioning of seratonin/dopamine systems in the brain.
Moving away from the kind of nebulous 'better person' realm and into a slightly more measurable/agreed upon "normal person" realm, it's patently untrue for those with nonstandard brain chemistry (and completely backed by scientific+medical consensus--drugs are a baseline treatment for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia), and so I think there's no reason why drug use should not improve the experience/behaviors of people with what our society has deemed 'normal' or 'normal-enough' brain chemistry. I don't think there's something so different about people with what are considered diseases with a larger genetic component which have lasted for centuries: they are likely caused by a combination of otherwise beneficial traits coming together in a less than beneficial way.
Also, since the diseases I mentioned often do involve long term maintenance medication taken on a daily basis (such that there's always some amount of it in a patient's bloodstream), I think it's worth also mentioning that there are treatments for otherwise drug resistant depression such as electroconvulsive therapy which are effective when used every few months or only once or twice. I don't think it's unreasonable to assert that there are likely compounds that have impacts on people's brain chemistry that last longer than the life of the drug in the bloodstream.
I'd like to note, though, that I'm not advocating going and taking psychedelic drugs in an attempt to better oneself. They're compounds which have debatable (and unresearched) longer term effects on those who imbibe them, and which have fairly established negative impact on people who take them and are at risk for developing a serious mental illness. (family history, etc.) I think that the appropriate thing to do is to pressure govt. and push society to allow for actual, well founded scientific research into the matter. (I say this as someone who has taken a psychedelic drug once, and wouldn't attribute any long term betterment or changes in personality/etc. to it. However, as someone fairly familiar with mental illness and its treatment, I think that it's reasonable to assert that drugs with strong impacts on brain chemistry--and certainly on the functioning of the seratonin system, which is often implicated in depression, bipolar disorder, and psychotic disorders might have beneficial uses in treatment of some individuals, and perhaps betterment of those with more 'normal' brain chemistry.)
A) Meditation takes concerted effort (by definition).
B) Meditaiton has been shown to increase empathy: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/060608.htm
Conclusion) You can put effort into improving yourself and improve yourself (in this case: become more empathetic toward others).
> They're compounds which have debatable (and unresearched) longer term effects on those who imbibe them,
25 years is pretty long: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_Chapel_Experiment#Doblin...
But we do need more.
> and which have fairly established negative impact on people who take them and are at risk for developing a serious mental illness. (family history, etc.)
Yes. If you have a family history of schizophrenia (or other severe mental illnesses), you shouldn't try psychedelic drugs. They can precipitate schizophrenic episodes, psychotic breaks, and the like.
Other than that, I totally agree. I was just trying to clearly and succinctly discount the enlightenment-in-a-pill attitude.
GP was just pointing out there is no law of nature that says the things worth having require effort. Your meditation anecdote is correct, but does not address the comment. There are things which are very good for us, but take little personal effort to attain (antibiotics are a good example, to continue with the drug theme...)
I believe meditation is an important, effortful aspect to understanding myself and how I relate to the world. I also believe that the psychedelic experiences I have had have worked in a similar, complementary manner. In either case, the amount of effort it took is not necessarily connected with the value received.
(Also, FWIW, not all meditation is concerted effort. Do you mean mindfulness? I believe Zen meditation advises that you let go of everything and do not focus; the blank slate principle and all that.)
Thank you for your polite comment.
You might also check out Sam Harris's latest book. A noted atheist, he's recently written a book called, "Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion". I haven't read it, but I heard him on the radio last night, and it sounds like it is aimed squarely at your concern.
There has been some promising research with psilocybin: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2006/07_11_06....
I'm not saying it's easy but it can be done and drugs should be used as a last resort when all else fails.
I am afraid people will just choose the easy route and take the drugs instead of doing the inner core work to fix these issues.
I haven't tried MDMA, or any of they psychedelics. But trustworthy friends report just the opposite. It was trying those drugs that made them understand that different ways of being were possible. It was only then that they started doing the work necessary to make that their normal state.
That makes a lot of sense to me. For years I heard a lot of talk about how exercise was good for mood and cognition. But as somebody who hated sports, I filed it under "blah blah". It wasn't until I had a couple of intense exercise experiences that I experienced the difference. Now I'm training for my second triathlon (after doing more than a dozen running races).
I know exactly what you mean.
I don't know whether it's a result of taking LSD or just getting older, but for a lot of things where my initial reaction would be indifference or opposition, I've come to think: Wait, those people actually have a point!
There is also that difference between (rationally) understanding something and understanding something, attaching meaning and value to it.
> I am afraid people will just choose the easy route and take the drugs instead of doing the inner core work to fix these issues.
What is the problem with that if it helps them all the same?
While it's true our lives are better than in the Middle Ages, stories like this and the myriad of misconceptions and outright lies that follow cannabis really demonstrate, superstition still rules law. We've clothed ourselves in technology, but not wisdom.
We think we are sophisticated and advanced but there's only a skim of sophostication on top of our primitivism. Look at our criminal justice system, which makes a mockery of justice, perverts society, and embraces medieval ideas about punishment, retribution, and suffering. You see similar things everywhere you look. The idea of rule of law, then the subversion of law with favoritism for the powerful. And so on. We don't notice much of this because we see the good, which to be fair is important and nevertheless real, and ignore the bad because it has become familiar (or worse, it is familiar but we dismiss it as being exceptional, like sexual violence or police corruption).
But don't knock the technology piece. Humans may not be very good at thinking, but we're definitely better at it when we're safe, warm, and well fed. Especially so if that's what we've had a lifetime of.
Maybe this is a little too engineer-y of me, but I think if we want wisdom, we have to construct environments where people naturally produce wisdom.
The drug that had been “mislabeled” as MDMA and proven so horribly toxic that it had stopped Michael’s study cold; the drug that was far more toxic than actual MDMA, methamphetamine, already was a prescription medicine.
I don't know a drug smart enough to recognize bad memories from good ones. Most of those Dr Frankenstein's pills effects have been found by random, and as this article shows research on effects is very much a work in progress.
Let me re-iterate that, you do the healing. The substance just provides the ideal setting.
Though, I was commenting more on the implication that taking MDMA will be an experience around memories and exploring them - "I don't know a drug smart enough to recognize bad memories from good ones." MDMA will not suddenly bring up memories (good or bad) to haunt you. It will in all likelyhood invoke strong feelings of empathy and love for the people around you :)
Now imagine discussing that with your hypothetical friends or peer group. Hypothetical? Why is that? It's hypothetical because a frequent consequence of damaging experiences is the inability to form meaningful connections with others that engender that kind of trust or dynamic. Even if you were, would you really want people you're presumably planning to know for the rest of your life to have that as your reference point? And what happens when your peer groups or friends are a entwined or part of the problem? Who do you turn to then?
Now humour me just a little more and substitute the word "ashamed" in the first sentence for every extant and applicable negative adjective. That is why you need a setting that insulates you in order to enable you to begin to address and introspect in a therapeutic session, without "prop" like MDMA that sort of setting takes time, qualifications and skill to build - and in some case is impossible to build.
Edit: re-reading your comment I'm fairly sure I misunderstood your question, regardless I leave my response
And we are discussing MDMA here so that very feeling is numbed, it can't hurt you in that very moment, you feel save by any means. (Provided you generally feel comfortable among the people you are with).
Now for the sake of the argument let's assume the person here does have real friends, friends they do care for them and aren't just random acquaintances. Let's also not discuss some extreme cases where this might not be enough. But that rape case you've mentioned might still work.
I find it kind of sad that you disregard the possibility that talking with friends and getting their support, helping you to continue your life, something humanity has done for millennia. Instead you say only a professional can magically 'fix' it.
I think you are making it a bit too easy here to disregard all personal responsibility for your peers, saying that only an expert can provide help.
> Even if you were, would you really want people you're presumably planning to know for the rest of your life to have that as your reference point?
I think that if you know them well enough and share more experiences with them then just that, it will not be their 'reference point' but instead an important fact to know you better and support you when necessary.
Of course there are situations where this is not applicable, but that goes for everything. There are no magic bullets.
I was only explaining what the therapeutic value of the substance is perceived to be, this isn't according to me -- though I obviously share that opinion and paraphrased. That's according to the qualified professionals that advocate its use. They have fairly robust reasons for this that result from experience using it in controlled settings for that purpose.
It's interesting that you mention alcohol & marijuana, because it's sadly that sort of confusion and unwarranted comparison that got us here, it's actually the point of the article: one drug (ironically a legal perscription medication) was mistakenly given to test subjects, bad things happened. Consequently research on a totally different drug was curtailed. Retrospect deepens the irony as the first drug, the bad yet legally perscribed one, went on to wreak havoc in the streets through addiction and associated crime.
I donated money to this mdma study. You get a copy of the book this article was excerpted from for some donations.
The relevant part of that presentation was the potential real therapeutic value of some of the 400 or so component compounds resident in the natural botanical plant material. The problem was that studying the possible effects is impeded by the requirement for special permission to use cannabis (or fraction thereof), since its a Schedule 1 drug.
Furthermore, the only legal source of cannabis is that which the federal government supplies (grown in Mississippi), which is very limited. That's a shame since preliminary studies suggest certain compounds in the plant may indeed have therapeutic applications.
Other countries have gone further in studying cannabis (Israel was mentioned by the presenter), but until the DEA policy changes, study will remain minimal in the US.
Unfortunately, removing restrictions in individual states is not very helpful since cannabis preparations produced in one state can't legally be shipped to other states, a severely inhibiting factor for medical research.
Similarly, risks and benefits of MDMA have had minimal systematic evaluation. Anecdotal reports are not considered "evidence" in the world of science, as everyone reading here should know. The only way certain drugs will be studied is to work toward changing DEA policy, there's no getting around it.
What would we need to make it happen?
I think what eventually allows new ideas to take hold is having the rigorous studies producing "air-tight" results. I always say it's hard to argue with facts. Once it's clear that "this stuff really works", others jump on board spurring all kinds of related offshoots and new studies.
That's why it takes a tenacious and courageous leader to advocate for the "cause" of basic or foundational clinical research. "Spontaneously acceleration" happens if it turns out there's money to be made, but that may be way, way down the road.
"in 1985 ... the Drug Enforcement Administration declared MDMA a
Schedule I drug — a drug with a high potential for abuse and no
medical use. A Schedule I designation made MDMA use criminal and
research into its therapeutic potential virtually impossible."
"As Mithoefer told Doblin in an email, 'When I asked him if he
could tell me anything about what the concerns were, he would
say only that they had to do with ‘safety.’'
Which was odd, and disturbing. It was the job of the FDA and
the IRB to determine if the study was safe, not the DEA. The
role of the DEA in approving a Schedule I license was solely
to ascertain that the drug could be secured from theft and
distributed in accordance with the research protocol."
If you want to really fuck up your life then go ahead and take LSD. Can you imagine years after taking a drug and driving down the interstate and having a flashback and getting into an accident? What about holding your 3-month old and dropping them because you just had an acid flashback?!
This is total BS. People who are stressed out need better nutrition, sleep, and to get people who are stressing them out off their backs. What they DON'T need is an acid trip.
Have a look through http://erowid.org and make up your own mind about drugs instead of swallowing what other people have told you, hook, line and sinker. Please consider the possibility that you've been severely misled by the people who provided you with this understanding of drugs. If you are still young, perhaps it is just because your understanding is just your parents' prejudices untainted by actual experience. If you are old enough to have lived your whole life, perhaps you've just not met the right kind of people, only people who were misled like yourself, or who were actively engaged in anti-drug propaganda.
Either way, you owe it to yourself and to your sense of intellectual curiosity (the same that drives you to this site) to actually research this for yourself, perhaps even find some people who take drugs in moderation, get to know them better, and figure out whether there is truth in what you've been told about drugs. Chances are you already know those people, they're just not telling you because they know how you'd react and they care about you, so don't want to get you riled up about a topic on which you're unwilling to entertain other points of view.
Either way, the onus is now on you to find out more about the world rather than perpetuating the incorrect dogmas which you've been fed.
Note: I used to be just as intolerant as you. Then I looked things up and I experienced them for myself.
Judging by your submissions, you are not a fan of many drugs. While this position is understandable, I think it is mistaken. Drugs such as LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin allow us to achieve mind-states that would otherwise require years (if not decades) of dedicated meditation. Most of the people who have used psychedelics (including myself) are better for it. I can't say the same for nicotine and alcohol.
Psychedelics benefit humanity much more than they hurt it. It is comically inconsistent to jail users of psychedelics while merely taxing nicotine and alcohol addicts. The harm caused by the latter is much, much worse than the harm caused by the former.
"Case reports of mental health problems following psychedelics are often comparable to case reports of mental health problems linked to intensive meditation, visiting holy sites, or viewing beautiful artwork and sublime natural scenes," they write."
Consider this: many of the world's most successful and effective individuals have taken LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, and more besides. This is not to say there's no risk, however ambitious mountaineering, riding a motorbike, and traveling by bus at night in a country with poor road infrastructure, all carry (I would wager) more risk of major harm or death. Yet all three are perfectly legal.
A nice long belly laugh is good medicine indeed!
Edit... the down votes indicate I'm coming across as snarky. Not my intent. It's just that ill informed and over the top sensationalistic propaganda has always amused me. I'm just trying to imagine a rash of baby dropping and unexplained auto accidents due to flashbacks. Apologies for the public display of mirth.
"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.