View Full Version : Is Ecstasy harmful?
09-08-2002, 01:33 PM
Recent research suggests Ecstasy causes no longterm ill effects:
Ecstasy Effects 'May be Imaginary'
September 2, 2002
LONDON, England -- An article in a British scientific journal suggests the
party drug Ecstasy may not be dangerous -- and that reported ill effects
could be imaginary.
Writing in the British Psychological Society's magazine The Psychologist,
three researchers -- two from Liverpool, England, and one from California --
criticised studies into the drug's effects.
Studies have reported that the tablets -- popular with young people attending
raves and nightclubs -- cause long-term brain damage and mental problems.
But the new article criticised that research and accused researchers of bias.
The article was written by Jon Cole and Harry Sumnall of the University of
Liverpool and Charles Grob of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California.
Cole is an expert in cognitive neuroscience and Sumnall is a post-doctoral
psychopharmacologist; both work in the university's psychology department.
Grob, director of the hospital's division of child and adolescent psychiatry,
is a leading U.S. expert on child and adolescent depression and adolescent
Their criticisms focused on several areas of existing research:
* Ecstasy is said to affect brain cells that produce the mood-influencing
chemical serotonin. But Cole, Sumnall and Grob said any changes involved the
degeneration of nerve fibres, which can be regrown -- and not the brain cell
* Some research only reported positive results and ignored negative data,
thus minimising data that suggests Ecstasy has no long-term effects, the
authors said. "This suggests that hypotheses concerning the long-term effects
of Ecstasy are not being uniformly substantiated and lends support to the
idea that Ecstasy is not causing long-term effects associated with the loss
of serotonin," they wrote.
* Because many people participating in studies were self-selected and from
universities, the article questioned whether they truly represented the
general population. "Given the high media profile of the long-term effects of
Ecstasy, one must question whether the participants are coming forward to
confirm their fears about any adverse reactions that they may have suffered,"
the authors wrote.
* Studies on animals often involved injecting them with large doses of the
Ecstasy chemical MDMA but "routinely failed to find changes in the behaviour
of MDMA-treated animals" even when there were signs of damage to the brain,
according to the article.
Surveys indicate that about 90 percent of young people in the UK regularly
attending raves or nightclubs have taken ecstasy
* The authors noted that many psychological problems started in
adolescence, that Ecstasy users often took other drugs, and that some of the
reported symptoms mirrored those caused by staying awake all night and
* Most community-based studies have failed to find a definitive
cause-and-effect relationship between Ecstasy use and associated problems,
* Perhaps most controversially, they suggested that Ecstasy's long-term
effects might be "iatrogenic" -- or caused by a physician's manner or
treatment. "We are concerned that the long-term effects of Ecstasy could be
iatrogenic because researchers and the media are discussing a hypothesised
cause-and-effect relationship as if it were fact," they wrote.
The article was countered by three other Ecstasy experts writing in The
Psychologist, who dismissed the idea that Ecstasy's symptoms were imaginary.
"There is strong converging evidence that Ecstasy does cause impairment, that
it is not merely iatrogenic," wrote Rodney Croft, a research fellow at the
Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Australia.
"Although conclusions drawn from such evidence cannot be infallible, I
believe that the strength of this evidence makes 'danger' the most reasonable
message for the researchers to be broadcasting.Ecstasy effects 'may
09-30-2002, 05:30 PM
One of the negative side effects of the Drug War is that what should be objective, scientific facts become obscured by propaganda, and the result is that it becomes impossible for the average person to know what to believe.
Scientific research which could accurately determine safe usage and long term effects of Ecstasy is not permitted, and so we are left with anecdotes, hearsay, and dubious science.
I believe that it is likely that there are persons who: will have allergic reactions to the constituents of Ecstasy due to their own unique biochemistry; through excessive use of Ecstasy and combinations of other substances, will cause long term damage to themselves; under the influence of Ecstasy, will drive or attempt other potentially dangerous activities and harm themselves or others; will receive other substances when they try to purchase Ecstasy which could cause damage to themselves. I believe that the organized criminal structure which exists to distribute Ecstasy contributes to governmental corruption and engenders violence among rival dealers.
I wish that there was reliable, definitive, scientific information regarding long term effects of moderate use of Ecstasy, but, as far as I know, this does not exist, and, in the current socio-political environment, I won't hold my breath.
10-04-2002, 04:59 AM
Unfortunately, Stephen is absolutely correct(not for Stephen himself but the grim truth he uncovers and its applications) when concerning how the current socio-political climate prohibits us from reaching the truth about mind-altering substances. Current laws birthed out of the self-rightousness and monopoly of Christiandom and the hyperprogress doctrine of capatilism keep us from adequitly, if at all, studying these compounds. Experimenter bias run rampant in this field I believe because of the fear of change and recant. A change that would be so fundamentaly magnanamous it would uproot all Western conceptions and cause countless "experts" to reassemble theories. The true mark of intelligence is the willingness to recant, to admit fallisies, to learn.
10-04-2002, 06:06 AM
I believe that without guidance Ecstacy can be harmful. I wish that I had had a guide or teacher, any instruction, when I was experimenting. We would do it as a group, like they are using Ecstacy today, to escape the grayness of our little lives.
I have just read Daniel's book and I feel regretful that I didn't keep up the search for guidance/expanded knowledge.
There definitely needs to be instruction and some sort of care for the recipient's life instead of just a money making opportunity (which may be why so many governing factors condemn drugs...they don't get a payback!).
10-04-2002, 12:47 PM
Thanks for posting.
When you said you thought "Ecstasy could be harmful without guidance" did you mean physically or psychically or both? And how so, exactly?
I found it a benevolent substance, although I imagine it might be physically harmful if abused. There is a new book of essays on Ecstasy edited by Dr Julie Holland that looks into the medical knowledge currently known. She seems to think it is okay in moderation and it has therapeutic value. In a recent issue of Tikkun, Dr Charles Grob argued it could be used as a mediation tool in the Arab-Israeli conflict!
10-08-2002, 05:29 AM
When I took Ecstacy years ago I did not have a good experience. I believe that the setting within and around are extremely important and perhaps this is why I fell short of being ecstatic. In answer to your question, I believe that there should be some guidance psychologically/spiritually. Adolecent drug use is a way to escape from something/to somewhere else. But when you read of firsthand experiences and explanations of people and their spiritual connections to drugs from authors like Carlos Castaneda (my first "mind opening" read) and yourself, there seems to be more substance or meaning, if you will, to experimenting with drugs.
10-08-2002, 06:10 AM
Definitely working with a real shaman is a great way to go, and puts the whole thing on another level. There are also shamans who work with non-psychedelic means, such as drumming, soul retrieval, breathwork. I have been hearing more and more amazing stories about these scenes, and hope to try these methods myself soon. Castaneda's followers started a school of movement called 'tensegrity,' which also sounds interesting.
10-08-2002, 06:44 AM
At the Rainbow gathering I attended years ago we would have a huge bon fire every night and most everyone would have some sort of instrument. It was the most amazing experience of my life thus far (well, second to giving birth!). Sleeping in a yurt enabled me to have the most tranquil sleeping experience to date (my dreams were so different that week).
When I read of your many adventures I envied you for about 1 minute. But I was then transported back in time and could only be happy for your growth.
Also, I refuse to stop seeking and acquiring wisdom...meaning, "It's not too late for me or anyonelse!"
10-09-2002, 04:23 PM
I'm not intending to interrupt, but I feel that I have something to add to this communication.
"When I took Ecstacy years ago I did not have a good experience. I believe that the setting within and around are extremely important and perhaps this is why I fell short of being ecstatic. In answer to your question, I believe that there should be some guidance psychologically/spiritually."
I agree with you. I think that any experience which explores nonordinary states of consciousness allows for the possibility of negative experiences, either internal or external. All of my own experiences with Ecstasy have been positive, but I had several years of experiences with LSD and psilocybin which prepared me for the experiences. When I attend a rave or club, I "wander" and talk to many people, especially anyone who is sitting by themselves or appears like they may be having a bad time and do my best to improve their experience. I have many times seen persons, especially young women, who have been victimized by jerks who took advantage of their state of mind. Its difficult to remember when you feel so good and you believe that everyone is your friend that there are people around who are definitely not. I think the criminality of the whole thing doesn't help any.
"Adolecent drug use is a way to escape from something/to somewhere else. But when you read of firsthand experiences and explanations of people and their spiritual connections to drugs from authors like Carlos Castaneda (my first "mind opening" read) and yourself, there seems to be more substance or meaning, if you will, to experimenting with drugs."
Absolutely. The model of intoxication that the adolescent has is generally based on alcohol and its stupefying effects, the pursuit of annihilation, self-destruction. When I first took LSD, I was a self-destructive atheist practicing self-mutilation frequently binging on alcohol to the point of unconsciousness, and I was looking for more of the same. However, my ingestion of LSD allowed the creative consciousness of the universe a portal into my being, which, over the next few years completely changed my outlook on the world and my place in it. Researching and writing a college term paper on the work of Stanislav Grof gave me the opportunity and the discipline to thoroughly explore and learn, and I have continued to explore and learn more about the ever expanding interdisciplinary world that these ideas and concepts impact. Its a lifelong process.
[ October 09, 2002, 06:06 PM: Message edited by: Stephen ]
10-13-2002, 06:52 PM
Very briefly I want to thank you. In your last paragragh you related something from your past that in all truth, is my present. And just by that simple relation not even directed towards me, somehow I feel relieved-that its not just me.
The very least I can return is the knowledge of where you have shone your light. A privelage not often found.
10-15-2002, 04:13 PM
You're welcome. I wish that I knew some magic words that would change everything but thats simply not the way it is. And its not like one day its over; I am still that same person who painted I am the antichrist I am an anarchist in 6" caps in my blood on my bedroom wall (lived by myself). What's different is that I mostly accept who I am, that I am able to treat my self and others with genuine human dignity, that I am less focused on external validation of my own worth as a human being, and that I have mostly let go of the hatred I had for those who hurt me when I was a child.
I think that it is quite remarkable that these substances can bring up those issues that most need to be dealt with psychologically.
These substances could be a great tool for practitioners to provide meaningful therapy if it were not for this irrational drug war. I won't go anywhere near a psychiatrist and their Prozac.
10-29-2002, 07:39 AM
With regards to MDA/MDMA use..
I'm 32 - I started using "X" when I was about 17 or 18. Then it was a club scene thing for me - As far as drug history -i've experimented with many substinces - sometimes for pleasure, sometimes for "illumination" - but always with a sense of self programming - or - how to say.. Being consious of either being a passenger or a driver as far as the experience - and not simply treating it as, for instance, "getting drunk". I just finished listning to Daniel on the Art Bell show and can relate a lot to his insights, discoveries, etc - tho i've never left the US, a lot of what he comminicated was familiar to me. At any rate - as far as doing X goes - I would refer everyone to http://www.ecstasy.org (which appears to have gone through a facelift in the past 48 hours - if their online book on x is gone, email me for a copy) - i have *NEVER* had a bad experience on X. I have had nothing but interesting, pleasurable experiences. I have never personally known anyone who had a bad experience on it, either. My girlfriend and I recently did some over the weekend and had a wonderful time - In a cabin, in the woods. She was relatively knew to it, so we did some research together for a couple weeks before doing it. She related afterwords that it relieved a lot of stress, tension, etc from her and was like a "breath of fresh air" - There was no "come-down" kind of crash feeling (there never has been for me - on real E)and the next day we had no psychic-hangover (or whatnot) whatsoever. Its not something you should do every other weekend, I think, (which is what i did when i was younger) because then I think the experience becomes degraded - not as "special".. But on special occasions, spontanious whatnots.. I think its totally safe. If you're doing it safe -and its easy to do it safely if you do a little research before hand - and use common sense when you go seeking it. Someone not familiar to drug culture could be at risk trying to get ahold of this substance - i mean, they could be sold *ANYTHING* and told it is E.. I think that sucks - but its all part of the game - so to speak - The risk.. Looking back at my experiences and exeriments with LSD.. If my own daughter, who is now 6, were to experiment with psychedelics when she was older - i would feel a hell of a lot better about it if she was experimenting with X instead of LSD. It has been brought up in various sources on the net and elsewhere that first time X users need a guide - of sorts - I think the term "guide" leaves a lot to be considered - But if you compare that kind of trip with an acid trip - I don't know how interested the youth culture of today is in researching the culture behind the drugs they may be curious about trying - Myself, in the 80s - I read everything I could get my hands on by Leary, Lilly, etc - as well as crossover ideas I found represented in different Eastern philosophies/theologies - i cross refferenced everything i could - manically.. to find connections and meaning in an area that is otherwise "taboo" - where the only voice of (accepted) authority is simply saying that it is all BAD and you should LEAVE IT ALONE. - Enough rambling for now - My main point is I think X is great - if not abused, and certainly better on the psyche if you happen to go into it not knowing why or what you're doing -
Of course none of this matters because "they" will *NEVER* make any of these drugs legal again.. NEVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. In fact, if these drugs ever were legal I would be really suspect about why our government/etc thinks we should be doing them.. But i suppose paranoia is another topic altogether..
10-30-2002, 04:18 AM
Phraktalsnipe writes; "Of course none of this matters because "they" will *NEVER* make any of these drugs legal again.. NEVER. NEVER NEVER NEVER. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. In fact, if these drugs ever were legal I would be really suspect about why our government/etc thinks we should be doing them.. But i suppose paranoia is another topic altogether.."
I don't agree with you. We see in Europe right now a wave of decriminalization of psychedelics, pot, and MDMA. Possession of such substances is decriminalized in, I believe, Spain and Portugal - with the UK and Germany not far behind. What these societies are quickly realizing is that the draconian approach to substances is senseless and harmful. And use of these substances poses no threat to democracy or government.
We now see new liberalized approaches to marijuana in a wave of ballot initiatives across the US. With the acceleration of everything that is pushed by our new communication technologies, the rapid-fire evolution of thought and understanding is possible.
As for paranoia, it is just as easy - and true - to realize that the universe is conspiring for you as it is to see it conspiring against you. One friend of mine got a profound teaching from a Dj Devil during a psychedelic trip: "When you recognize yourself in everything you see, then you become everything." In other words, 'they' are also 'we.'
Rather than capitulating to easy cynicism, I suggest you work - hard! - for the social and psychic evolution that you would like to see take place.
10-30-2002, 06:50 AM
*"When you recognize yourself in everything you see, then you become everything." In other words, 'they' are also 'we.'*
That's definately a better way of looking at it..And its refreshing to "hear" it again - Its something I tend to forget..
You raise a good point about what, to me, looks like the very early stages of a better understanding of AT LEAST "pot" - by the Powers That Be.. But that's a long way off from going down to the liquor store and buying DMT juice-squeezeies or Shroom-Pops(tm) or what not.. And while its good news that other areas of the world are becoming more informed and taking more intellectual views of drugs in general, I personally don't have that kind of faith in America.. I would certainly like to! Perhaps you could at some point place links in your website to various pages which are keeping track of the progress American government (state and local) is making towards this end? Happy Halloween to all,
11-18-2002, 06:07 PM
For my two cents, I have tried ecstacy only once and a really wonderful person showed me the way. Proper set/setting, etc. She showed me what she discovered by taking ecstacy so many times: energy. We shared our energy that night but I told her that I was very familiar with it. Which is why I probably wont try it again. I can get to a truly ecstatic state and cultivate my energy through other means naturally (qigong, meditation, etc.) I dont think that E can ever be visionary so I wont mess with it again.
But for those interested in the topic of MDMAs possible toxicity you should check out "Hallucinogens A Reader" edited by Charles S. Grob. It has one or two important chapters on ecstasy that you will find helpful, I believe.
There is allot of evidence, both scientific and anecdotal, that shows MDMA to be relatively safe if taken in reasonable doses and with knowledge of the substance and its effects.
Evidence shows that the physical harm done by MDMA is due to one of three things: impurities, excessive heat and exhaustion. All of which are due to prohibition (impurities are a direct result, and the other two are caused from a lack of proper - and legal - education efforts).
In studies done with unadulterated MDMA, it was shown that excessive heat and exhaustion were directly related to any physical damage done to the user. When those two factors were eliminated, the harm was nil. Of course, long term studies have yet to completely rule out neurotoxic damage, but this is due to prohibition putting an almost complete stop on medical research.
Check out www.maps.org (http://www.maps.org) and www.erowid.org (http://www.erowid.org) for more good info on MDMA.
12-08-2002, 03:10 PM
I just wanted to contribute my own ecstasy report, having read the others. My own story is a tale of extreme contrasts, both positive and negative. I started somewhat later than most, not having my first dose of E until I was 23 and had just finished college. When I did try it, it really opened up a whole new world for me. I'd always been a terminally shy person, and the first time I took it I was with about a dozen other people, only a few of whom I had known prior to that night. The E was like magic to me: it tore away all the layers of neurotic self-absorption that I was accustomed to wrapping myself in during social situations, and allowed me to deal with total strangers on a completely empathic level, with no fears whatsoever. I'd experimented with psychedelics prior to this, but nothing else had ever succeeded in showing me just how ridiculous all the years of tortured loneliness (which I had always justified to myself inwardly as the lot of the struggling young artist, as I always viewed myself) I had imposed on myself really were. I had always viewed most people with disdain, believing that I had some special insight into reality that they lacked. All during my college years I would usually reject invitations to parties, preferring to spend my Friday nights locked in my room with a volume of Dostoevsky, scoffing at the shallowness of my peers, all the while nursing a secret envy when I heard the laughing voices passing by my door. But now I understood that all that was just a cover for the fact that I was frightened by contact with strangers because I felt that I was basically unlovable and that, once anyone got to know me, he or she would inevitably reject me. But when I was talking to people on E, all that was gone - I saw that the people I was with were all just like me, with their own forms of intelligence and fears, and that I could open up to them and be understood and not have to worry about being judged. I found myself discussing ideas and feelings that, prior to that night, I would have rarely even admitted having to myself. I ultimately ended up retreating to a corner of the room with a woman I'd never even met before, where we talked and hugged and kissed each other for hours - something that I never would have been capable of prior to that night, even with somebody I had known for years.
Not long after this, I saw a movie which captured the spirit of this night perfectly -"Performance," a British film from 1970 starring Mick Jagger and James Fox. (I later learned that the film borrows heavily from Hermann Hesse's novel "Steppenwolf.") In that film, the alchemy is performed by mushrooms rather than E, but the effect it has on the ego of the protagonist is very similar to what I experienced.
Anyway, having had this intense experience, for about a week afterwards I felt completely disoriented. Long after the effects of the E were gone, even though I wasn't tripping I couldn't get the feelings I had experienced out of my head. I was dropped back into my "old" life and it was unbearable - just attempting to get through my daily routine would reduce me to tears, as I now saw how sterile and solitary it was. I also had some of the most intense dreams of my life during this week, as if my subconscious knew that I'd reached a turning point and was urging me not to shrink from it. The entire world had changed - it seemed like even my surroundings had taken on meanings I had never seen before. (This was 1997 and I recall that the comet Hale-Bopp was hanging in the skies nightly at this time, and it became an eerie omen in my mind that something odd was afoot.)
At any rate, I knew that things had to change or I was going to end up killing myself. So I set about completely changing my life. I resolved to start spending a lot more time with the people I had been with on that night, which I did, and I was pleased to find that they were more than happy to welcome me into their circle. It turned out that many of them were new to this kind of experience as well, and we formed a very close support group. We developed our own little community, which grew rapidly as we introduced new people to the experience. We all looked out for each other, consoled each other, helped each other when there were problems. This culminated after a few months when I gave up the apartment in which I'd lived alone for three years and moved into a house with all of these people - it just seemed the natural next step in the process to all of us. I found myself gazing with wonder at what was transpiring in my own life, something I had never foreseen - I was now spending every available moment with people who, only a short time earlier, I wouldn't even have wanted to share an elevator ride with.
I know this sounds too good to be true - utopia created through chemical means. And, unfortunately, it proved to be just that. I, like the others, couldn't get enough of E. For a period of about a year, I estimated later that I took E an average of twice weekly. But what we all came to realize after a few months of living together is that we were beginning to use the E to cover up the fissures that were beginning to appear in our perfect little community. Inevitably, in any situation where you have a lot of people living together, conflict began to develop. We'd all have a big E party together, and everyone would talk about the problems we were having, and it would seem like everything was solved, but by the next day our egos would all spring back into place and things were right back where they had started and people were arguing about whose turn it was to do the dishes.
After a while I think we all began to realize that the E was only prolonging the inevitable. I was the first to start abstaining - I just couldn't enjoy taking it any more, because it now felt like a big lie to me. Everyone acts like your best friend on E, but I knew that by the following day I'd be getting pissed off when somebody woke me up at 3 AM with their stereo or drum. And, gradually, everyone else stopped doing E as well, arriving at the same conclusion. I think the failure of our little utopia turned us all into total cynics for a while. Really violent hatred began to spring up between some of the people involved. Many of them turned to heroin for solace and soon developed severe problems with it. I became a lot more aggressive in my everyday life as well, flying off the handle for no real reason, and I started to drink heavily for the first time in my life. I couldn't stand to be around these people whom I had once loved so intensely. When our lease was up, all of us went our separate ways.
That was five years ago. The aggression I felt slowly petered out. Sometimes I still think I enjoy drinking too much, but I think I do it for different reasons (and with greater moderation) than I did when everything was falling apart. Some of the people I knew then are still struggling with addiction, others made it through but would rather forget about that whole period. I myself have mixed feelings about it. I wouldn't trade that period of my life for anything, but I realize now that I was so desperate for change that I temporarily abandoned some of the things that had been positive about my old persona as well as the negatives. For example, prior to that my greatest pleasures were reading and writing, and during the period of my E use I scarcely wrote a line or read a page. I was able to reintegrate these things into my life, slowly. As I look at my persona today, I realize that I'm still struggling with many of the same neuroses, but I did bring something back from my "ecstatic" days. Today I still feel somewhat anxious in social situations, but I no longer feel paralyzed with fear like I did before. And I think I have a much better understanding of what love is. So it wasn't a total failure. I suppose that, if nothing else, E showed me what's possible - how humans COULD live if only we could understand each other more completely. It may be an unattainable ideal at present, but having experienced it in reality, however briefly and artificially induced, has sustained me through some tough times subsequently. I can definitely say that reading Daniel's book has made me start thinking about those days again, and wondering if I could have been doing more to follow up on what I felt back then than I have. I've been thinking that maybe I need to recapture some of the spirit and energy of those times, in some other way. I'm still a long way away from the person I want to be.
As far as physical side effects, which others have been discussing...I'm five years down the road from that time, and I haven't observed any at all. I think that as long as you remember to stay hydrated and take a break occasionally if you're dancing or doing something strenuous, you'll be fine. Really, the only physical drawback I experienced was the inevitable law of diminishing returns one gets from any use of a drug - it's never as good now as it was in the beginning. I thought that perhaps with the passing of time, it would regain some of the intensity it held at first, but I've tried E twice in the years since my heydey, and while it made for a fun evening both times it had none of the revelatory qualities it had for me at first.
In closing, then, I suppose I'd say that I believe E can have a very positive effect on people's lives. But I would caution newcomers not to mistake it for an answer. I think it can show you some ways you can get to your own personal "answer," but ultimately you're going to come back down and have to deal with life on its own terms. I think that's the ultimate lesson to be drawn from any drug: drugs are a means to an end, but never the end itself.
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