IDPRC Advocates MDMA for Therapy

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The International Drug Policy Reform Conference (IDPRC) met this month in Los Angeles, CA. The organization seeks to find useful ways to reduce harm from illegal drugs. Their belief is that the war on drugs causes more damage to society than other approaches. This focus, on harm reduction, steps beyond increased law enforcement and looks at other possibilities, like legalization with regulation or monitored use.

The most recent meeting had one particular speaker of note who related her experiences giving MDMA (Ecstasy) to her dying daughter (video of speech). Marilyn Howell talked about finding an “underground psychotherapist” to administer several sessions with MDMA and how her daughter, dying of colon cancer, benefited. In her words, “it restored her humanity” and provided a “psychic healing.” Powerful and moving testimony.

Other sessions at the conference dealt with topics in criminal justice and prison reform, moving marijuana to a completely legal status, and allowing research and clinical trials on psychedelics (including MDMA). The three day conference is both controversial (because of its stance on drug legalization) and mainstream – many of the speakers are well respected lawyers and PhDs involved in drug treatment and policymaking.

Part of the controversy with using Ecstasy as a medicinal stems from the side effects seen in the abusing population. These include sudden death from hyperthermia (an inability to regulate the body’s temperature) and water intoxication when users drink too much water to combat thirst. Liver failure has also been linked to use of the drug.

Advocates point out that street Ecstasy is rarely pure and may contain many other compounds. In fact, this is one of the problems they seek to remedy with legalization and commercial manufacture.

The real problem with MDMA seems to be a lack of study by the medical community. Without the possibility of making a useful (and marketable) drug from MDMA, there is little incentive to do the clinical trials needed. Furthermore, the legal status of the substance influences what studies are performed. Special licensing from the DEA is required.

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