but tweakers still suck
April 11, 2005 5:09 PM   Subscribe

I told you Ecstasy was good for you. "The study of Ecstasy for the terminally ill will involve 12 cancer patients who have less than a year to live. They'll receive varying doses during two strictly supervised therapeutic sessions. The drug, once hailed as 'penicillin for the soul,' is a chemical cousin to amphetamines that reportedly induces feelings of profound empathy. It will be combined with traditional psychotherapy, and, [Dr.] Halpern hopes, 'enable them to open up in therapy so they can talk about challenging issues and resolve their grief.'" (reg rq'd)
posted by tsarfan (45 comments total)
Then no need for the study, eh?
posted by NortonDC at 5:34 PM on April 11, 2005

Sounds like an interesting idea. While I have no firsthand experience myself I have been around several people who have taken E regularly and responsibly and they seemed suddenly happy, gregarious, content and ambivalent to negativity. "Penicillin for the soul" sums it up as far as I have seen.
posted by fire&wings at 5:55 PM on April 11, 2005

The LA Times is lagging. This was on FARK last year.
posted by acetonic at 5:56 PM on April 11, 2005

My only experience with it envolved rolling around in the grass because it felt so cool. The negatives are pretty shitty though.
posted by puke & cry at 6:00 PM on April 11, 2005

Recent related thread - with links (in comments) about proposed studies and more.
posted by peacay at 6:02 PM on April 11, 2005

Ditto, puke & cry. Basically I was Yoda all night, and two days later I was Sybil.

The high was more dramatic than the low, but I'd hate to undergo the LOW with something like CANCER hanging over my head. Jesus Christ. Talk about jumping out a window.
posted by scarabic at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2005

Incidentally, I heard about this this AM via an alert sent out to the Fans of Bill Hicks tribe on Tribe.net.

The headline was something like: "IT HAPPENED! A POSITIVE DRUG STORY IN THE NEWS!"

posted by scarabic at 6:08 PM on April 11, 2005

I've heard some pretty wonderful things about X from friends of mine. But, as puke&cry pointed out, there are some potentially scary negative effects. As someone who has a tendency toward depression, I am afraid to try it out for fear of the "morning after". I'm certain this fear would be compounded if I had a terminal disease. But for those people without that tendency, I'm all for any drug that will help people.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:18 PM on April 11, 2005

Didn't they once say that about cocaine?
posted by HTuttle at 6:23 PM on April 11, 2005

Weird, my experience with it were completely benign . . . I actually felt generally better weeks after taking it. The "morning after" effects were actually more appealing than the actual high (although that was good too).
posted by Boydrop at 6:53 PM on April 11, 2005

That's something I don't understand: if you have terminal cancer with less than a year to live, why would you WANT to "talk about challenging issues and resolve [your] grief"? Me, I'd want good drugs, full cable TV, satellite radio, the best food I could hold down, whatever books I wanted to read, an apartment in a decent city, a car and driver, a daily ration of good bourbon, a hot naked babe or 20 to keep me company and share the other good shit, or the best combination of those items I can possibly get. I.e., in my own little way I'd want to ENJOY whatever time & energy I had left.

The LAST damn thing I'd want to do is "address my 'issues'" (or anybody else's). "All I want to say about my childhood is that if I hadn't lived through it I wouldn't be dying of cancer now, damn you!" Furthermore, I bet this is one of the few things that the vast majority of the world's people will agree with me on (however impolite it might be to say so out loud in their respective milieux): "If I'm dying of cancer then I want to have FUN!"

Now THAT is why I'd be happy to try Ecstasy if I were dying of cancer: screw the psycho-socio-therapeutic bullshit, I hear it makes people HAPPY for a while! And even if it turns out to be a bad idea, hey, I'd be dying of cancer anyway!

(Gee, and y'all wonder why they hate us.)
posted by davy at 6:55 PM on April 11, 2005

I can't believe that negative link doesn't mention back pain--i always had lower back pain the next day (people have told me that serotonin is stored there). E really taxes your system--maybe there's another thing they could use?

davy has a good point--the negatives are far outweighed by the fun it would give them. (imagines a raver clown dancing thru hospital wards dispensing E and hugs)
posted by amberglow at 6:57 PM on April 11, 2005

If I'm terminally ill, I want to go out like "The Barbarian Invasions" - high on smack, surrounded by friends and family. Fuck that Schiavo shit.
posted by fungible at 7:06 PM on April 11, 2005

I can't believe that the "negatives" describes the comedown so gently. Your body essentially runs out of serotonin, which is not what I'd want if I was a terminal cancer patient. If there was, I don't know, time-release E without any comedown.... Well, it would be on the street already, wouldn't it?
posted by honeydew at 7:07 PM on April 11, 2005

An old E-taking friend of mine once told me the day-after depression could be taken care of by taking a dose of paxil before taking the E.

I never tried it. I was into the LSD those days. I couldn't handle ecstacy's emotionally drained comedown. But acid's next-day-brainmush ... man, I liked that almost as much as the tripping itself.

But this is kinda off topic.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:07 PM on April 11, 2005

how do I get in on the action? I'm terminally ill, but more in a beastie boy kind of way than anything else.
posted by RightsaidFRED at 7:08 PM on April 11, 2005

i wonder if i could get a fake "he has cancer" note from elvis' dr and get in the group?
aaa, he's probably dead also.
posted by emdog at 7:13 PM on April 11, 2005

I too had an experience where I felt much better for days afterward. I have a feeling it depends entirely on what "other" things are mixed into what you're taking.
posted by nightchrome at 7:20 PM on April 11, 2005

amberglow : " I can't believe that negative link doesn't mention back pain--i always had lower back pain the next day (people have told me that serotonin is stored there)."

There are serotonin receptors and serotonin throughout.

I think one thing that people tend to erroneously do, is assign negative effects as inherent to the drug. If you are dancing in a crowded milieu, for a long time, without hydration, your body core temp can shoot up. But if you are in a relaxed environment, core temp doesn't rise by more than one fahrenheit, generally. Similarly, loud noise increases neurotoxicity (atleast in mice). Consuming a SSRI concurrently (normally Prozac) seems to avoid the putative brain damage. This last part holds for meth, as well.

I suppose one could blame the general state of science reporting and also the innate anti-drug bias for lack of nuance. Another thing, the common belief seems to be that the huge serotonin dump is responsible for the high. Not so simple. Fenfluramine, the 'fen' in 'fen-phen', is of the same family. It, too, triggers huge serotonin release, but doesn't get you high. What MDMA also does is increase dopamine biosynthesis, as well. Hence this total synergy seems to be closer to the true mechanism. Generally, postloading with 5-HTP supplements might help you get back up to speed(no pun), soon.
posted by Gyan at 7:30 PM on April 11, 2005

Well, if recovering from experimenting with Ecstasy was bothersome, I'd just take an extra morphine -- and decide that that's not FUN. Oh well.
posted by davy at 7:36 PM on April 11, 2005

Davy, I agree to the letter with your first post. But on review, hell, in a sense I'm dying now, just at an undetermined rate - I want all that stuff now.
posted by OneOliveShort at 7:55 PM on April 11, 2005

I don't know, Gyan--it made me stop--it happened all the time like clockwork the next day (and even when i hadn't been dancing or strenuously doing other fun stuff). I loved it tho, otherwise.
posted by amberglow at 7:58 PM on April 11, 2005

I've always hated the comedown. I can now effectively smooth it out by taking 5-htp over the course of the following few days.

Hydration is an important factor. I would get a lot of muscle tension, especially in my lower back. Now when I roll (about every 6 months or so..gotta keep em separated :) if I'm not constantly peeing nice clear pee, then I'm not drinking enough water. (Besides, peeing while on E is just FABULOUS!) I keep it up for a few days (I tend to try to stay well hydrated in general). I don't get any headaches or back pain the day after anymore.
posted by zerokey at 8:12 PM on April 11, 2005

X always made my wing wang sore and chafed.

But that could probably be attributed to the marathon sex that X caused, rather than the drug itself.
posted by BobFrapples at 8:21 PM on April 11, 2005

The LAST damn thing I'd want to do is "address my 'issues'

Mmmm. Yeah. That was an amusing post to read on the internet, but think about it. It's like getting married. You're not the only person who gives a crap. And if your Mom, Dad, siblings, S.O. and all your friends are willing and able to party it up with you, the best cable TV money can buy, and 20+ hot babes, then great. But chances are the lights will go low at some point, or you'll wake up early in the morning before the sun comes up, and wonder if at any moment a piercing pain is about to develop deep underneath all the organs you normally can't feel, and if these seconds are, perhaps, the last you'll ever experience that aren't marred by morphine stupor or agonizing pain.

And perhaps you won't be thinking "shit , dude, the new Battlestar Galactica is on! Where's the remote?"

I don't mean to pick on you, Davy. I agree with you in spirit. But we both know it would be harder than all that. Cancer's no Spring Break extravaganza.

My most salient thought about this is that it's just a bad idea because it breaks all my rules about trying a new drug. Those entail more or less being in a safe place, having several people I trust around me, being in good enough health to handle a challenging trip, bring in a correspondingly stable state of mind, and having plenty of spare time not only to enjoy it but recover from any potential come down.

People who pressure me to take drugs under any circumstances other than those are assholes. People who suggest I take drugs under lesser circumstances are clueless and not cool. Doctors who want to feed me heavy substances under less-than-cool conditions are facelessly businesslike and frightening. But I will admit that lots of people I've met have just adored ecstasy. It's the last serious drug I've ever tried and it was a worthwile experience, but I didn't take to it like a baby seal to a furry warm tit.

Aw what the hell. It's on topic.
posted by scarabic at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2005

'enable them to open up in therapy so they can talk about challenging issues and resolve their grief.'

Not on tuEsday they wont
oh lordy the come downs would be ........
posted by isol at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2005

acid's next-day-brainmush ... man, I liked that almost as much as the tripping itself.

seconded, this part is where you piece your ego back together like a jigsaw....

Only tried E once, was not a fan...
posted by schyler523 at 8:44 PM on April 11, 2005

On the whole comedown issue, I wonder how many of the anecdotal bad feelings are a result of the E crash and how many are from all the crap it's cut with.

Yeah, E does have aftereffects but I've always felt wayyyyyyy better the morning after when I've taken stuff that was lab-verified pure MDMA. When I rolled on a mixture of E and methamphetamine that's usually what you find on the street, that's when I wanted to sleep through the entire week after I came down.

Presumably this study would be using good E, and they'd dosing intelligently (low to moderate dose, no boosting, dose early enough in the day that you can actually sleep at night). Those things all make a huge difference the morning after.
posted by rhiannon at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2005

It's true that the "crash" after MDMA is often confused with the even harsher one of methamphetamine, which is is often cut with. I'm also pretty sure that the comedown of MDMA is caused by a shortage of serotonin after the drug has left one's system, which can be greatly softened through capsule supplements of the precursors of serotonin (so your body can make all that it suddenly demands).
posted by mek at 10:53 PM on April 11, 2005

Um, scarabic, you're thinking WAY too much. In the first place I doubt I'd be one of those terminal cancer patients who die of THAT -- most likely I'd OD once the pain outweighed the kicks. As for the feeling that I might die soon, that'd mean it'll soon be over with.

As for this thread, has nobody thought that the reason they want to test people who'll be dead soon anyway is to limit their chances of being successfully sued? In other times and places they'd use captives, slaves or Jews, so there'd be no need for any test subjects to be terminally ill beforehand. I doubt the content of what the test subjects talk about, let alone providing any opportunity for "personal growth", will be the real point. Besides, that part about "strictly supervised sessions" does NOT sound like FUN. (Who has not heard of MK-ULTRA?)
posted by davy at 10:55 PM on April 11, 2005

nightchrome: most Americans have never had pure MDMA. A friends cousin brought it back from Amsterdam about a year ago. There really is no down-time the next day. There arewayyyy to many amphetamines in the pills here, which makes for a helluva night but a grisly morning. Most American pills are a lot more "dancy." The pure MDMA was more of a, "let me sit back and take this in..." type thing. A lot less intense of a "blow up" and subsequently a much gentler crash. Just a cleaner feeling overall.

Davy: I think the "issues" at hand aren't a Freudian unraveling of their inner childs or whatnot. I think the issue is coming to peaceful terms with impending doom. I've always found that their are two types of drug users: those who take them to escape their realities and those who take them to analyze their reality from a completely different perspective. Over time, the two become almost inseparable though.

/ because of the direction this country is going and because of the long-term caching of this post, I am merely attesting to my observations of other people
posted by trinarian at 11:17 PM on April 11, 2005

Penicillin for the soul? I'd rather have some Penicillin for the arsehole!

When my forty a day habit finally gets the better of me, I want Brompton's Cocktail and plenty of it.

Or failing that, an unlimited supply of those man-sized 500mg diamorphine ampoules -- provided they've resolved the current supply problem by that time.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:57 PM on April 11, 2005

I've never had a bad comedown from X except for the stuff I bought in LA. Even then it was nothing that couldn't be cured by watching cartoons and eating ice cream for several hours. Which is more than can be said for a bad hangover.
posted by fshgrl at 4:11 AM on April 12, 2005

as with any psychotropic substance, its effects are in large part a product of one's setting, one's expectations, and one's company.

in a therapeutic context, i have very little doubt that pure mdma (accompanied with a pre-/post-load of 5htp and a fluoxetine chaser) would be extremely healthy for a patient undergoing taxing emotional circumstances like terminal illness. in all honesty, i think virtually anyone can derive a great deal of psychological benefit from a moderate dose of the above regimen and some quality time with close friends and/or family in a comfortable, calm setting. what's fascinating about mdma is its capacity to induce profound sincerity, tolerance, and emotional self-awareness alongside the characteristic euphoria, and the insights are often neither transient nor ungenuine. many people undergoing difficult personal situations or who have emotional hangups can benefit a lot from this alone, to say nothing of the accompanying psychotherapy or involved conversation.

the intolerable unpleasantness of the 'low', as has been mentioned, is largely a product of (a) the impurity of the mdma, (b) a failure to buffer the high with supplementary chemicals before and after ingesting the mdma, (c) loud and/or hyperactive activity during the trip, and (d) the fact that many people do mdma among strangers or casual acquaintances and often by the next day regret how they behaved in front of them.

none of these, presumably, would be problems for patients taking mdma in therapeutic contexts.

in my experience the low can be `unpleasant' on a certain level, but in most cases i've found it provides a very healthy emotional counterpoint to the euphoria, hyperempathy, and wide-eyedness of the high. in the end the emotional core of the experience remains, only tempered by the harsher realities of life that were forgotten in its midst.
posted by apiratto at 4:30 AM on April 12, 2005

Diamorphine = heroin, no? I concur, no matter what the authorities try to do, those in pain will gravitate to that substance that crosses the brain blood barrier quickest, which is really all that differs heroin from those vicodin horse-pills that most people take. Horse pills because they contain a heroic dose of acetominophen (paracetamol to you Brits) which ain't too good for your liver, especially if you enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner.
posted by telstar at 5:02 AM on April 12, 2005

To whomever said Paxil and E should be taken at the same time:

Not a good idea - SSRIs weaken the effect of E, and you're more likely to get serotonin syndrome, e.g. that "depletion" by doing the two at the same time.
posted by Veritron at 6:18 AM on April 12, 2005

In studies, SSRI given upto 6 hours after E, does the trick. Concurrent intake is just for convenience. The putative mechanism for toxicity is that dopamine enters serotonergic axons, gets oxidised by MAO, of which hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct. That ultimately induces toxicity. This is probable, if MDMA indeed triggers axonal degeneration, as opposed to receptor downregulation. In practice, being in a cool environment, not too much exertion or loud noise, decent hydration, should be good enough.
posted by Gyan at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2005

So, the terminal wards are gonna be big panters now, huh? Gramma's got pacifier in her mouth, Grampa's rubbed himself with Vick's?
Good for them. This echoes the original use for MDMA: a theraputic drug, back before it was made illegal.
Terminals might also benefit from some acid, but that might make for a less loving, more bitter, experience.
posted by klangklangston at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2005

On a silly tangent, I found this yesterday on the WFMU blog. It's a song and video from H Jon Benjamin (The voice of McGuirk on Home Movies) on the topic of MDMA

(lyrics NSFW, but more comical than offensive)


posted by stifford at 6:51 AM on April 12, 2005

Hollywood, November 22, 1963: fortified by a final dose of LSD, Aldous Huxley dies of cancer. He was unaware that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas earlier that afternoon. The young man delivering a new oxygen tank was about to break the news when Huxley, woozy from the lysergic acid, addressed his wife: 'Those tanks are heavy. Give the boy a dollar.' They were his last words.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:41 AM on April 12, 2005

I saw a heartwrenching documentary, maybe about two years ago, about a wife and her terminally ill husband who both took mdma to help them discuss the reality of his imminent death. Unfortunately I can't remember the name or channel it was on (sorry!), but I do remember tears streaming down my face the whole time. They dealt with the resentment, anger, abandonment, etc as well as the sadness, all in a calm, nurturing environment.

I've taken E several times, and when it was pure mdma the whole world was safe and wonderful. I think that's what makes it so great for therapy in these situations- you feel safe and happy and sort of move the cancer from being the center of your existence.

I really hope that lawsuits have nothing to do with them using terminally ill patients. Just because you're terminally ill, doesn't mean you're held captive in a hospital, or that you can't sue someone.
posted by Annabella at 8:43 AM on April 12, 2005

I think the issue is coming to peaceful terms with impending doom. I've always found that their are two types of drug users: those who take them to escape their realities and those who take them to analyze their reality from a completely different perspective.

What would be the point of analyzing the reality of dying of cancer from a different perspective? "On the other hand, now I can start my own worm farm! (This Brompton's makes me witty!)" Why analyze it at all? No matter how you look at it you'd still be dying of cancer. Like with that guy that kept staring at me on the bus while repeatedly muttering something: once I got him to repeat himself loudly enough so I could understand he was saying "Damn you are ugly!" I said "So look somewhere else, fool!" I don't even like to think about the arthritis in my hips or the pinched nerve in my neck, neither of which will kill me. I'm with Mr McDermott there: I'd rather be STONED (but unfortunately they won't give me good opiates for my current problems and I'm not motivated enough to develop worse ones).

And Annabella, a common tactic when being sued by a terminally ill person is to keep delaying the trial until the person either dies or is too damn sick to press it. This has obvious applications when experimenting on people.
posted by davy at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2005

serotonin syndrome, e.g. that "depletion" by doing the two at the same time.

Serotonin syndrome isn't depletion; it's having too much serotonin.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2005

I had always been of the belief that we'd already used MDMA in a therapeutic context as far back as the 1970s -- with great effect.

I can't find information about the successes (or otherwise) of E used in this context, but this appears to confirm my belief that it has been used in this way:

"First synthesized by the Merck pharmaceutical firm in 1912, but never marketed by the company, MDMA resurfaced in the early 1970s. With its short duration and unique characteristic for reliably heightening the capacity for introspection and self-acceptance, coupled with the easing of communication anxieties, MDMA soon caught the ear of psychotherapists who quietly began using the then-legal (but unapproved) drug as an adjunct to therapy."

Penicillin for the soul sounds right to me.
posted by Lleyam at 11:56 AM on April 12, 2005

As a footnote:

I was in Austin when the stuff was legal and straight out of the bottle. I've tried it a few times over the ensuing decades. Not the same. I'm sure that having it tested for purity would help, but I'm not interested in being a lab rat anymore.

I don't know if some of these anecdotes are hokum or just bad street drugs, but if somebody soaked oregano in PCP and told you it was weed...

A shame really. Best high. Ever.
posted by lazymonster at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2005

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