Better Living Through Chemistry.
May 27, 2006 1:29 AM   Subscribe

Utopian Pharmacology. Can safe, sustainable analogues of MDMA (link to 1914 German patent) be developed? There is an urgent need for non-neurotoxic empathogens and entactogens suitable for lifelong use. Alas no single "magic bullet" yet exists that replicates the subjective effects of MDMA on a long-term basis. Hence most of us are doomed to display the quasi-psychopathic indifference to each other characteristic of the MDMA-naïve state.
posted by three blind mice (44 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Flagged as "Unf!". Thanks.
posted by loquacious at 1:38 AM on May 27, 2006

The recently publicized case of The Man Who Took 40,000 Pills notwithstanding, The NeXT study, results expected by June-end, should be the definitive statement on MDMA toxicity in humans who use it recreationally. It may turn out, as I suspect, that occasional use (<6 times a year) in non-rave (or like) settings, carries no significant risks, but not otherwise. i>There is an urgent need for non-neurotoxic empathogens and entactogens suitable for lifelong use.

David Pearce has some interesting & eccentric ideas, but I doubt that this 'need' is recognised as such by many, besides him.
posted by daksya at 1:55 AM on May 27, 2006

First, I read this:

MDMA was commonly known as "Adam", an allusion to "being returned to the natural state of innocence before guilt, shame and unworthiness arose".

Then I mis-read the headline as Better Living Through Christianity

hmm... Christ in pill form?

ok - I'm staying up way too late here... time for bed...
posted by scheptech at 2:10 AM on May 27, 2006

Considering the alarming frequency of the involvement of psychoactive drugs - both natural and manmade - in the formation, discovery or creation of many of the world's cults and religions, "Christ in pill form" might not actually be too far from the mark.

There's a fair amount of - however fringe - evidence that Christianity has it's roots in the many profilic mushroom cults of the area and era.
posted by loquacious at 2:41 AM on May 27, 2006

Nice site, but you wish the author had fleshed out that skeletal introductory essay a little bit, don't you?
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:43 AM on May 27, 2006

Hence most of us are doomed to display the quasi-psychopathic indifference to each other characteristic of the MDMA-naïve state

For people like me, with english as the third language: this means no MDMA taken, right?

If so, then I say: hear, hear!
posted by vertriebskonzept at 4:21 AM on May 27, 2006

Yeah, vert, it is phrased as commentary on the fact that non-rolling of balls makes us a bit oblivious to the total experience of being human.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 4:49 AM on May 27, 2006

Nah, we know what it's like to be human.
Many people just don't know what it's like for other people to be human also, because they can't open themselves enough to grasp the reality as anything more than just a vague concept.
posted by nightchrome at 5:35 AM on May 27, 2006

Remember that line in the Matrix about how the original reality analogue was a perfect utopia, yet the human mind rejected it anyway? My feelings toward MDMA is a lot like that.

Of the many drugs I've ingested, MDMA is the only one I have zero interest in doing again. I simply do not like being that happy. Take your utopia elsewhere.
posted by quite unimportant at 5:44 AM on May 27, 2006

This reads like peer-pressure on steroids. I never experienced peer pressure to do drugs as a child or teenager, but more of these "drugs are the way and the light" types seem to have come out as an adult.

No, thank you, I really have no interest in your drugs, sir. No, I'm fine on the pot, the speed, the coke. Yes, yes, I have actually tried them. No, I didn't seem to like them as much as you do. Could you please accept that and move on?
posted by Captaintripps at 5:56 AM on May 27, 2006

Your favorite drug sucks.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:03 AM on May 27, 2006

captaintripps has no interest in drugs ... hmmmm

(not that there's anything wrong with that ... it just sounds funny)

i couldn't get through that article, but the assumptions that people can find happiness with pills and those pills are going to affect everyone the same way are rather dubious
posted by pyramid termite at 6:07 AM on May 27, 2006

that history section is a great intro. Thanks for this, three blind mice.

Mass-production of MDMA by the so-called "Texas Group" began in 1983; supply (and demand) soon mushroomed. Ecstasy was distributed openly in bars and nightclubs in Dallas and Fort Worth. It could be purchased via toll-free 800-numbers by credit card.

A friend told me she used to go into bars in Texas where jars of E would be sitting on the bar, with pills free for the taking, with predictable results:

The DEA reacted by petitioning to have MDMA banned altogether. In 1985 the drug-warriors succeeded in having MDMA made Schedule One. Schedule One is the most restricted of all drug categories i.e. MDMA had allegedly "no legitimate medical use or manufacturer" in the USA; it lacked safety for use even under medical supervision; and it carried a "high potential for abuse". But by then MDMA's fame had spread across the Atlantic. MDMA had metamorphosed from "Adam", the psychotherapeutic tool, to "Ecstasy", the party drug.
posted by mediareport at 6:10 AM on May 27, 2006

pyriamid termite: I also have long hair and play saxophone, so I always get the full drug search at airports, which, believe it or not, is also pretty funny. I have a routine.

mediareport: Yes, the history section is actually quite enlightening and the most valuable portion of that site.
posted by Captaintripps at 6:14 AM on May 27, 2006

MDMA is the only one I have zero interest in doing again. I simply do not like being that happy.

Me too, but it's easy to say that when the stuff loses it's empathogenic qualities after about twelve hits or so.

It's like an impotent old man saying 'I have zero interest in sex'. When the MDMA equivalent of viagra comes out, I'll be there in the queue with the teenagers once again.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:24 AM on May 27, 2006

I find this sort of thing fascinating, and positive, in many ways. But it seems odd to have this thread and not explicitly mention Brave New World. So I just did. So do the authors of the site:
One may recall from English literature the effect of taking soma, the "ideal pleasure drug" featured in Aldous Huxley's uncannily prescient Brave New World (1932). After John the Savage threatens to disrupt their soma supply, the angry low-caste Deltas riot. They are promptly pacified by the riot police with soma-gas, and the rioters end up hugging each other
I guess my point being that when entertaining the utopian we need to remember that the distopian is never far away.

I'm not so sure it's the authors' point, though. On the contrary, Huxley's book seems to be taken to be a significant threat to the the entire proposed program of the site, and so the authors link to a critique of BNW, their defense of "paradise engineering".

I think where I stand is that this sort of thing can be very positive when primarily approached from the point of view of personal exploration and enlightenment. I remain more distopian in the face of any grand project to engineer a better world, and deeply fearful of the combination of such massive mind-altering technologies with strong social movements and state power. Care for a little MDMA with your theocracy?

posted by mondo dentro at 6:25 AM on May 27, 2006

Ecstasy Rising
posted by airguitar at 6:27 AM on May 27, 2006

ikuyyu2 wins

Also, I love wry statements like

"a large but variable quantity of the parent compound is excreted unchanged, especially when the drug is taken at higher doses; but the opportunities for MDMA recycling by the cost-conscious are normally wasted."

Raver 1: "Ohhh mann, now doesn't peeing feel sooooo goood. "
Raver 2 "I heard if you DRINK IT you get more e"
R1 "No way. PLUR baby (gets mason jar out, pisses in jar, swigs vile yellow liquid)"
R2 Coool.

20 minutes pass

R1 drops dead of dehydration. Piss Licking = Unsanitary Raver.
posted by lalochezia at 6:45 AM on May 27, 2006

we're all winners
posted by airguitar at 7:24 AM on May 27, 2006

mondo, I take the metro everyday to work and frequently note the parallels to Brave New World: Everybody with their headphones on, playing simple, hypnotic beats, people proudly displaying their newly purchased toys and brand name clothes. Pretty much all we need is a readily available soma to transform society.

I would say that synthetic mescalin is already the perfect drug. The results are the same realization of peace and unity as pure MDMA, but you still remain confined in your body, aware of it's limitations, but resolved to make it better. Mexican indians use it as a sort of medicine for the soul. Huxley seemed to agree.
posted by dobie at 7:35 AM on May 27, 2006

When people talk about all you can learn from psychoactive drugs, I feel like they're only telling half the story. Sure, you can learn things by being on drugs, but you can also learn things from not being on drugs. Who is to say what is the better use of your time?
posted by Afroblanco at 7:59 AM on May 27, 2006

Never has there been a better time to link to The Spiders.
posted by dansdata at 8:42 AM on May 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

The whole story is maybe too long for a mefi post.

- It should not be the policy of a future society (with regards to drug use) to force feed a certain chemical to everyone, but to find out which mental states enable the greatest freedom of decision and how to achieve them. One of our most reliable methods for this is still education.

- It is an interesting idea to say, that future generations could view our current regular mental state as being on some kind of a weird, fear inducing, critical thinking inhibiting drug.
posted by vertriebskonzept at 9:06 AM on May 27, 2006

It's not like the occasional use of a psychoactive drug precludes learning non-drug-related things, Afroblanco. Most people use psychedelic drugs only occasionally - they're not really the kind of thing one can do constantly. It's also not the case that people spend their time only on the things that can teach them the most - sometimes they do useless things with their time, sometimes they do really profound things, sometimes things that're in between. And that seems ok, to me. Do psychoactive drugs really have to be the best of all possible uses of time to be acceptable, and to provide something of some worth?
posted by ubersturm at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2006

Strange, it seems to me that psilocybin administered in a dark room with the right state of mind has far greater potential than mdma.

Amphetamines are not so great, they have a strong tendancy towards repeat use.

DMT and it's slower acting analogues seem to have a much better overall profile for therapeutic work.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:22 AM on May 27, 2006

That's funny airguitar.

The thought of any official use of MDMA by government or religion is alarming to the extreme, especially as a tool for indoctrination or a placative in an oppressive environment. The soma metaphor from Brave New World is apt as is the chemical enslavement in THX 1138 wiki (Which I'm pretty sure is based on a great short story by E.M Forster from 1909 The Machine Stops).

eX had a profoundly positive effect for me. I was dealing with chronic low grade depression and having my eyes opened to the idea that it was possible to actually feel that good and positive, kick started me towards the goal of trying to feel that good/positive in more healthy less invasive ways (exercise, music, the outdoors etc..). Sort of as if I had the revelation "Ah ha! that's what it's like to feel good". Felt no great need to pursue it again much after the first couple of times.
posted by Skygazer at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2006

Whoa, dansdata, thanks for that link.
posted by Richard Daly at 9:51 AM on May 27, 2006

...a weird, fear inducing, critical thinking inhibiting drug.

Like religion? Like nationalism?
posted by mondo dentro at 10:10 AM on May 27, 2006

Drugs are for getting high. There is a name for people who use them to expand their consciousness, find peace in their souls, and all that: stupid hippies. Hie thee to Erowid.

they're not really the kind of thing one can do constantly.

One can. I did for several years. (In retrospect, this was un peu stupide.)
posted by Pock Suppet at 10:22 AM on May 27, 2006

Richard Daly: You should read some of his other work as well... Like "A Jain's Death" or the "Chrysalis Colossus".
posted by Freen at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2006

American users should keep in mind that, like it or not, their pills are going to have some meth in them.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2006

Tlogmer: American users should keep in mind that, like it or not, their pills are going to have some meth in them

posted by daksya at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2006

I like MDMA powder. It's a very nice recreational drug.
posted by brautigan at 11:48 AM on May 27, 2006

Ok, so I have no first-hand experience, but my second-hand impressions were nowhere near this:

Yet the design of long-acting entactogens - and their neurological analogues - should allow introspective depth and a capacity for higher-order self-reflection to be fabulously enriched as well.

It sounded like my friends were too busy taking off their clothes and rolling around together like cuddly bunnies to have deep insights. But then again, it was recreational.

In Western culture, a capacity for reflective self-insight is not highly prized. Introspective genius and a talent for meditation aren't respected in either academia or business. Nothing in our education system is geared toward making young people feel that introspective self-analysis, enhanced self-awareness or personal growth matters in the slightest.

I can jump on this bandwagon. Have they done any brain-imaging studies that show a relationship between MDMA and meditation (similar brain changes)?

The term "empathogen" to describe MDMA and other closely related phenethylamine "empathy drugs" [MDA, MDEA, MBDB] was proposed by Ralph Metzner, Dean of the California Institute of Integral Studies, at a 1983 conference at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Does this mean a possible treatment for antisocial personality disorders / sociopathologies, which are notoriously difficult to treat? Can we start with our world leaders? I'd bump Bush / Cheney to the top of the list. I can already seem them snuggling on a soft bed of grass.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2006

Wow, somebody actually got some history right. Yes, some enterprising souls at SMU made us happy in Dallas for quite some time. 5 bucks a hit from jars at the front of the club. That was the era of Starck Club and etc. Sleek stylish behemoths like Grace Jones and Stevie Nicks prowled the night streets of the dee eff dub.

"Adam" and "Eve" and the like were actually variants. When MDMA first went Sched 1, the formula would get changed around enough so as not to fall under DEA guidelines. Then they worded it so as to blanket the whole shebang. By that time, the cat was well out of the bag.

Anyway, I was there and I lived it and I'm glad and I'm not wrong about one damn bit of it.
posted by First Post at 12:36 PM on May 27, 2006

Regardless of the stereotypical picture of raver kids in a giant, squirmy, sweaty hug puddle, MDMA really does have incredible potential as a therapeutic tool. If they can either show the neurotoxic effects to be overstated or synthesize a similar compound without the neurotoxic effects it would be groundshaking.

Put aside the party kids and you've got a drug that could be of great help in survivors of abuse, patients with PTSD, and other forms of trauma.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2006


This is a new-ish phenomenon. Your data are mostly several years old.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:38 PM on May 27, 2006

Tlogmer: your source, please?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:32 PM on May 27, 2006

Tlogmer: the pills are dated from 1996 to 2006 (Apr 7). This canard about rampant adulteration and substitution of MDMA has been a fixture for many years now. Your claim, specifically about meth, wasn't true couple of years back; in the absence of new evidence, any reason to think it's true now?
posted by daksya at 3:46 PM on May 27, 2006

Well, this is ignoring that MDMA is a methamphetamine. 3,4-METHYLENEDIOXY-N-METHYLAMPHETAMINE.
posted by klangklangston at 4:23 PM on May 27, 2006

Heh, you beat me to it, klangklangston.

Rumours of one sort of drug being in another sort of drug seem to be a permanent fixture of drug lore, even though in most cases an expensive drug is said to be used to adulterate a cheap one (I remember heroin in Speckled Doves, though, oh yeah).
posted by jack_mo at 6:00 PM on May 27, 2006

Makes one want to get one's thizz face on right now!
posted by Lynsey at 11:04 PM on May 27, 2006

Jack_Mo— Those are the best stories. Like, drug dealing is a business. Why would someone adulterate their stash and not charge more for it? It's always just people getting more high than they can handle and being like "There must have been PCP in there, dude. I could hardly walk."
posted by klangklangston at 6:36 AM on May 28, 2006

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