Next week is Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week at the University of Manchester. As a student there, I’ve written this piece for the Mancunion newspaper, highlighting the need for harm reduction initiatives that protect our students.
Please read and share to promote safer drug use and potentially save lives!
Strobe lights, dense fog, thumping beats, crowded dance floor… and a whole lot of MDMA. It’s a typical clubbing experience.
Clubs devoted to the class-A drug ecstasy aren’t exactly a new concept. They’ve been around for decades. But this was my first encounter. Everyone was clearly there to get high; the dancers knew it, the DJ knew it, the bouncers knew it.
In some ways it was a bizarre experience. And it was a microcosm of our nonsensical drug laws.
Ecstasy has been illegal since 1985, but it is a relatively harmless drug. There are risks associated with taking large amounts, taking it frequently or mixing it with other drugs, but compared to alcohol or tobacco these risks are low. Former head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Professor David Nutt, was fired for (truthfully) saying that taking ecstasy is less dangerous than horse riding.
Right now, millions of people are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) worldwide. Up to 10% of the population of the US will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime 1. PTSD can develop after any kind of trauma, most commonly sexual assault or combat experience. People with PTSD may find it hard to function normally, re-experiencing their trauma in frequent waking nightmares. It can lead to depression, drug abuse, and even suicide in many cases.
PTSD is a real struggle for healthcare professionals to treat, with various therapeutic and drug-based approaches having limited benefit. Many PTSD patients are resistant to commonly used therapies, and may develop a chronic form of the disorder 1.
The stimulant drug Ecstasy, or MDMA, is most commonly known for its use as a party drug. But MDMA was originally used as a tool for psychotherapy in the 70s and 80s. Psychotherapists used MDMA to induce an easily controllable emotional state that enhanced communication with their patients 2. Use of MDMA in psychotherapy became a well-kept secret, with therapists constantly in fear that their miracle drug would be taken away by the DEA. Very little was published on MDMA around this time, but private correspondence was circulated around psychotherapists for years, hailing this new unique therapy drug.