Prescription: Euphoria

| January 16, 2002 Issue

T he mood-elevating drug Ecstasy, long-criminalized and categorized as harmful, was approved recently for a U.S. study for its use in psychotherapy, reports Carla Spartos in the Village Voice. The Food and Drug Administration approved the study in November, and clinical trials -- which have not yet begun -- will measure the effectiveness of drug-assisted psychotherapy for people diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prior to Ecstasy's criminalization and popularity in recreational use, the drug was a tool for a small number of therapists. After Ecstasy became illegal in 1985, Spartos says some therapists still relied on it as an underground practice, for its ability to "open people up." One psychiatrist even likens the use of Ecstasy in therapy to anesthesia during surgery: "It allows you to remove this malignant thing."

The approval of a study on the helpful properties of Ecstasy may seem contrary to the current controversy surrounding the drug. In July, Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would allocate more than $22 million to start an anti-Ecstasy campaign, along with increased law enforcement and an Ecstasy drug test. Spartos says that while the government is bent on eradicating illegal drugs, the FDA is an agency relatively immune to political pressures.
--Kate Garsombke
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