In the never-ending question to persuade lawmakers to take a more realistic approach to the control and management of drugs, leading experts continue to push for decriminalisation. Those with real knowledge and experience in the subject unanimously agree that for progress to be made, drugs need to be looked at for what they are and the effects they have, rather than simply being deemed ‘bad’ and therefore illegal.
Just a few months ago, a team of researchers made a discovery with regard to the effect LSD has on the brain, which was so significant they likened it to the discovery of the Higgs boson. But even more recently, a pair of highly influential scientists from Stanford University in the United States have insisted that the time has come to proactively investigate the effects of MDMA.
Known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine in scientific circles, MDMA is the active ingredient in ecstasy and remains a highly illegal drug in most countries. In the United States it is a Schedule 1 drug, while in the United Kingdom it is a Class-A controlled substance. Which in both instances means that not only is it illegal, but is officially classified as a serious risk to public health and a substance that has no redeeming qualities or benefits to human health.
However, experts have for generations been insisting that rather than simply writing-off MDMA as a menace to society, it would make far more sense for the greater good for it to be studied. It may have high abuse potential and be dangerous when consumed carelessly, in large quantities or on an on-going basis, but what if MDMA could be developed into safer compounds for controlled use?
Given the fact that the prospect has never been investigated in-depth, could it not be possible that we’re missing out on something quite incredible?
In a word…yes – yes it could.
Boris Heifets and Robert Malenka – two highly respected researchers – believe that there is far too much we don’t know about the effects of MDMA to simply ignore the subject any longer. The simple fact of the matter being that we haven’t even begun looking for what could turn out to be something of limitless value for therapeutic purposes.
“We've learned a lot about the nervous system from understanding how drugs work in the brain--both therapeutic and illicit drugs,” Malenka said.
“If we start understanding MDMA's molecular targets better, and the biotech and pharmaceutical industries pay attention, it may lead to the development of drugs that maintain the potential therapeutic effects for disorders like autism or PTSD but have less abuse liability.”
While research into the effects and addictive properties of MDMA has been carried out in the past, no study has yet focused on the potentially beneficial properties of the drug. Not only this, but the overwhelming majority of research carried out to date has brought about entirely inconclusive findings of little to no value whatsoever. But instead of MDMA being studied more intensively, the issue has simply been swept to one side.
Suffice to say, an approach and attitude that benefits nobody.
“I started thinking five or six years ago that maybe we can actually attack how MDMA works in the brain in a more meaningful way, because now we have the tools to do it right,” Malenka added.
“Although MDMA is an amphetamine derivative and thus shares some features with psychostimulants such as cocaine, its actions of enhancing positive social interactions and empathy are entirely unique, making it unlike any other known psychoactive substance,”
“These effects have been documented repeatedly in anecdotal reports and human studies and have received increased attention in the context of on-going clinical trials for the treatment of PTSD.”
The crux of the whole thing being that to stand by dated assumption when the truth is right there waiting to be discovered is of no benefit whatsoever and represents quite the opposite of common sense.
“Studying the response of the brain and nervous system to any drug is no different than running an animal through a maze and asking how learning and memory work, for example,” Malenka commented.
“You're trying to understand the different mechanisms of an experience. Drugs like MDMA should be the object of rigorous scientific study, and should not necessarily be demonized.”