Ecstasy

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Tainted Ecstasy Linked to Western Canada Deaths

A cluster of recent fatalities among ecstasy (MDMA) users in western Canada has been linked to tainted drugs. At least five people in Alberta and three in British Columbia have died in the past few weeks. In six of those cases so far, paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) has been found in toxicology reports.

Ecstasy -- or is it? (wikimedia.org)
The outbreak of deaths began last month in Calgary, and by December 29, Alberta Health Services sent out an alert warning that "Ecstasy or a combination of toxic substances sold on the street as Ecstasy is the likely cause of three recent Calgary-area deaths."

Then, in a new joint warning on January 11, the city of Calgary and Alberta Health Services announced that the province's chief medical examiner had confirmed that "paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) and methamphetamine -- not previously associated with street drugs sold in Calgary as 'ecstasy' -- was present in toxicology results for each of five recent Calgary-area street-drug deaths."

On Thursday, British Columbia Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall confirmed that PMMA had shown up in one of the BC deaths, while toxicology reports were still outstanding in the two other cases.

PMMA is thought to be a less expensive compound to produce than ecstasy, similar in appearance, and produces similar, though stronger, psychoactive and physical effects. Its use as an adulterant has been linked to earlier clusters of deaths in Norway and the Netherlands.

"There are some important differences in the toxicity of PMMA compared to MDMA" said Dr. Mark Yarema, Medical Director of the Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS). "Although all have toxic effects, PMMA is considered more toxic than MDMA, with a higher incidence of seizures and elevated body temperature. Also, the onset of action of PMMA is delayed and its initial effect may be milder. This is dangerous as it may result in users ingesting several tablets to achieve a desired effect, with potentially fatal consequences."

If Canada is going to continue to subject recreational drug users to the Russian roulette of buying drugs without quality controls or ingredients labeling in the black market, it behooves drug users to do what they can to protect themselves. They could start by checking in with organizations such as DanceSafe or checking into ecstasy testing kits.

Canada

New Drug Policy Videos from HCLU

In "The State of Harm Reduction in Europe," the film crew of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union interviewed activists and professionals attending the first meeting of the European Harm Reduction Network (EuroHRN) in Marseilles, France, to provide an overview of the progress, the backward trends, and the current state of affairs of harm reduction across the European continent.

 
One of the most powerful speeches at the recent International Drug Policy Reform Conference was Marilyn Howell's recounting of how MDMA helped her daughter gain dignity and quality of life in her final days. Watch her presentation courtesy HCLU below or read more information here.
 
 
Three videos from the "Drug, Set and Setting -- Today" panel at the conference bring us speeches by Julie Holland, Gabor Maté and Carl Hart.
 
Explore HCLU's video collection through the links above or click through to their YouTube page for more footage from the conference.
Location: 

Federal Judge Rejects Ecstasy Sentencing Guidelines

A US District Court judge in New York last Friday refused to sentence an Ecstasy defendant according to federal sentencing guidelines, saying they punish such offenses more harshly than scientifically justified and are based on "selective and incomplete" evidence.

Ecstasy tablets. A federal judge has ruled that Ecstasy offenses are punished too harshly. (Image: Wikimedia.org)
The ruling came in the case of Sean McCarthy, who faced 63 to 78 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a single count of conspiracy to possess and distribute Ecstasy. But in the first federal court opinion rejecting the Ecstasy sentencing guidelines, District Court Judge William Pauley III instead sentenced him to only 26 months.

The case was the subject of a legal intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union  (ACLU), with assistance from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). The ACLU Drug Law Reform Project challenged the judge in this case to review the sentencing guidelines and assess whether there was any rational basis for them, and relied on MAPS for a scientific review of the literature on the effects of Ecstasy.

MAPS executive director Rick Doblin had testified to the relative safety of Ecstasy before the US Sentencing Commission when it was setting the guidelines in 2001, but the commission ignored his and other expert testimony in setting guidelines that treated one gram of Ecstasy the same as 500 grams of marijuana when it came to sentencing.

In a December hearing, the ACLU presented the court with scientific evidence from expert witnesses to argue that the Ecstasy guidelines were flawed. Among those testifying was Harvard psychiatrist John Halpern, MD, who had parlayed a MAPS $15,000 grant for a pilot study of the drug's neurocognitive effects into a $1.8 million, five-year National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that found long-term recreational Ecstasy use did not cause clinically significant cognitive damage.

In his written opinion, issued in May in anticipation of Friday's sentencing, Pauley found that sentencing McCarthy under the guidelines would "give rise to a sentence that is greater than necessary to serve the objectives of sentencing." Judge Pauley also lambasted the Sentencing Commission for "opportunistic rummaging" through the scientific evidence at the time of the 2001 hearing.

That hearing and the resulting guidelines grew out of the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act of 2000, passed in the midst of a drug panic over spreading recreational use of the drug. That law directed the Sentencing Commission to review and increase the penalties for any Ecstasy trafficking or distribution offense.

"The harshness of the Ecstasy guideline affects hundreds of defendants each year in the federal system," said ACLU Drug Law Policy Project staff attorney Scott Michelman. "We are gratified that courageous and thoughtful jurists are addressing this problem, and we hope today’s decision will encourage more judges to take a hard look at this issue. This ruling demonstrates the importance of thoroughly reviewing the empirical basis underlying each of the US sentencing guidelines for drug offenses, to make sure the Guidelines reflect the current state of scientific knowledge."

As for McCarthy, he did 14 months in federal prison before being released in December while awaiting sentencing. He now lives in San Diego, where he works as a home health care nurse, volunteers with the homeless, and cares for his ailing father.

Los Angeles Promoting Safe Ecstasy Use

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Los Angeles County Health officials have posted tips for safe ecstasy use at the publicly owned Los Angeles Coliseum and Sports Arena.
Publication/Source: 
Cal Coast News (CA)
URL: 
http://calcoastnews.com/2011/02/los-angeles-promoting-safe-ecstasy-use/

Law Student Sues St. John’s University for Rescinding Readmission Over Drug Charges

Location: 
8000 Utopia Parkway St. John’s University
Queens, NY 11439
United States
David Powers, an accountant who took time out of law school at St. John’s University, has sued the Roman Catholic university in New York after it refused to readmit him, saying that he had not been honest about a criminal conviction, since expunged, in his past. Three semesters into his law degree, Mr. Powers was granted a leave of absence to manage a $2-billion investment fund in Hong Kong.
Publication/Source: 
The Chronicle of Higher Education (DC)
URL: 
http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/law-student-sues-st-johns-u-for-rescinding-readmission-over-drug-charges/30251

The Promise of Psychedelic Healing: Entheogens, Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

An evening with Neal Goldsmith and special guests John Perry Barlow, Julie Holland, Daniel Pinchbeck, Rick Doblin, and Ethan Nadelmann. And a dance party.

Join Evolver.net and Mangusta Productions for a mind expanding night of psychedelic exploration. Banned after promising research in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, the use of psychedelics as therapeutic catalysts is now being rediscovered -- a topic covered by Neal Goldsmith's new book, Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development (Inner Traditions, 2011). Come celebrate its publication with a kaleidoscopic conversation featuring five of the leading figures in this field, speaking on the latest theories, research, and legal developments.

How can psychedelic experiences shape personality and healing? Can psychedelic psychotherapy truly can be transformative, either individually or collectively? Can humanity change course from an impending human dieback and blossom to create a truly integral planet?

Come for a reading and discussion with:

Neal Goldsmith, Ph.D, Psychotherapist specializing in psychospiritual development. A frequent speaker on spiritual on spiritual emergence, drug policy reform, and post-modern society. Author of Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., President and Founder of Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Science (MAPS). His dissertation was on “The Regulation of the Medical Use of Psychedelics and Marijuana and his master’s thesis (Harvard) focused on the attitudes and experiences of oncologists concerning the medical use of marijuana.

John Perry Barlow, Visionary, former Grateful Dead lyricist, and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization which promotes freedom of expression in digital media.

Julie Holland, M.D., Psychiatrist specializing in psychopharmacology. Author of Ecstasy: The Complete Guide and bestselling Weekends at Bellevue and editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis and Ecstacy: The Complete Guide.

Daniel Pinchbeck, Bestselling author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Notes from the Edge of Time, and Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shaminism; Co-editor of Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age. Daniel is the editorial director of RealitySandwich.com, and co-founder of Evolver.net.

Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. Author of Cops Across Borders, the first scholarly study of the internationalization of U.S. criminal law enforcement, and co-author of Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations.

Dance Celebration follows discussion with live music performance by JahFurry & Kochie Banton with the I & I Drum Link. DJ sets by Krister Linder and Winslow Porter.

Cash bar – organic beer, wine and drinks.
Astoria's own Beyond Kombucha presents a special blend for the event.
Snacks by Xango.

Doors at 7:30, panel at 8:00, dance celebration 11pm – 2am

Price - $25, $20 for Evolver Social Network Members (e-mail psychedelichealing@gmail.com for info); $15 after midnight.

To purchase tickets please go to http://psychedelichealing.eventbrite.com/. Tickets will sell out so to guarantee your entrance, get yours ahead of time.

Date: 
Fri, 02/04/2011 - 7:30pm - Sat, 02/05/2011 - 2:00am
Location: 
446 Broadway 3rd floor Safe Harbor
New York, NY 10013
United States

Australia: Ecstasy Emerges As Secret Choice of Middle Age

Location: 
Australia
Publicity about people being caught with party drugs usually concentrates on those in their teens and 20s. So when the Austalian Labor aide Matthew Chesher, 44, was charged with possessing one ecstasy tablet last week, the lid was lifted on a quite different phenomenon: the growing number of middle-aged ecstasy users. The generation that championed the drug in the '80s and '90s is getting older.
Publication/Source: 
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
URL: 
http://www.smh.com.au/national/ecstasy-emerges-as-secret-choice-of-middle-age-20110131-1ab4v.html?from=smh_sb

Study Explores Therapeutic Value of Ecstasy

The recreational drug known as ecstasy may have a medicinal role to play in helping people who have trouble connecting to others socially, new research suggests. In a study involving a small group of healthy people, investigators found that ecstasy prompted heightened feelings of friendliness, playfulness and love, and induced a lowering of the guard that might have therapeutic uses for improving social interactions. The researchers suggested that ecstasy might help people with post-traumatic stress disorder as well those with autism, schizophrenia or antisocial personality disorder cope with a variety of emotional difficulties.
Publication/Source: 
Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
URL: 
http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/3090288-418/drug-club-disorder-dose-feelings.html

Psychedelic Pioneer Alexander Shulgin Suffers Stroke

Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, the Berkeley pharmacologist who synthesized hundreds of psychoactive compounds and re-introduced Ecstasy to the world, is hospitalized in San Francisco after suffering a stroke over the weekend, his wife Ann told the British newspaper The Guardian Tuesday. He is 84 years old.

Sasha and Ann Shulgin
"Sasha had a mild stroke over the weekend and is still in the hospital, where they are treating him. He will be undergoing speech therapy for a while," Shulgin told The Guardian. She added that he is not paralyzed and is expected to recover.

Shulgin is a counter-culture hero to generations of psychonauts. Beginning in the 1960s, he synthesized and then sampled hundreds of variations of phenethylamines and tryptamines. The former are related to mescaline, a psychoactive compound found in peyote cactus and the latter are related to the psychoactive compounds in hallucinogenic mushrooms.

That research was anthologized in a pair of books, PiHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved) and TiHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved), which Shulgin and his wife co-authored. Both came out in the 1990s.

Shulgin is known in some circles as the "Godfather of Ecstasy" after he re-synthesized MDMA in 1976 for use in psychotherapy. The drug had been invented by Merck in 1912, but then largely forgotten. After Shulgin began experimenting with it in the 1970s, its popularity spread rapidly beyond psychotherapeutic circles as it became one of the world's most popular synthetic psychedelics.

Shulgin and his wife have been in tough financial straits recently, and friends have set up a Facebook page to appeal for donations.

"We need funds for a lot of things including attempts at archiving his work, and that is something we have been asking for money for. But right now it's simply donations for Sasha's health that we need," Ann Shulgin told The Guardian. "The Medicare system in the US pays 80% of certain things but what is left over is considerable, and we are not wealthy. We need around-the-clock care for him right now, and for the next few months, and that can mount up rather fast."

Shulgin is notorious for his decades of drug consumption, but Ann Shulgin was quick to declare that his drug use was not the cause of his stroke. "Considering the hundreds of thousands of people who have experimented with psychoactive drugs and visionary plants, many of them using them as spiritual tools, there is no medical evidence whatsoever that that would be the case. It's simply not true," she told The Guardian.

San Francisco, CA
United States

Ecstasy found to Help Alleviate PTSD among Military Veterans

Researchers are gaining ground in the combat against posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an unlikely way.  Touted as “the party drug,” ecstasy, or MDMA, may just be the saving grace for hundreds of thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD.

According to a study by the Rand Corporation, in 2008 one in five soldiers returning home from Afghanistan or Iraq showed symptoms of PTSD. All in all, nearly 300,000 returning soldiers were affected. Letting individuals with PTSD go untreated is detrimental to both the individual and to society as a whole, as it has been linked to higher incidences of depression, health issues, violence, marital problems, drug use, unemployment, homelessness and suicide among veterans. And although each active military service member is provided with $400,000 in military life insurance coverage, that provides little comfort to families of a PTSD-afflicted veterans.

The Study

In the first controlled study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in July, 2010, ecstasy was used in combination with psychotherapy to treat patients suffering from PTSD.  The subjects tested in the trial were patients with symptoms that were not improving with standard psychotherapy and antidepressants. According to Time Magazine, government-approved drugs such as Paxil and Zoloft typically administered to PTSD patients are only effective in about 20% of cases. Therapy has a higher success rate in alleviating symptoms; however, one-fourth of all patients drop out when asked to recall painful or stressful memories.

The Science behind Ecstasy and PTSD-afflicted Military Veterans

The theory behind this very controversial treatment is that ecstasy releases a large amount of mood-regulating chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. Patients who have taken ecstasy are more open in therapy sessions and able to talk about otherwise agonizing events.  The results showed that after two months of therapy 83% of the patients that were given ecstasy showed tremendous signs of improvement and were no longer being classified as PTSD patients.

This pilot study has opened a psychedelic door in the pharmaceutical world. There is hope yet for veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

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