It's been advertised on Channel 4 for the past week non stop, and last night the first part of Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial finally arrived. Its a two part programme (second part is tonight) that puts 25 volunteers through a double blind drug trial. Each person would get either get a placebo, Vitamin C or 83mg of pure MDMA. Although after watching the volunteers it was pretty obvious who had had MDMA and who hadn't due to the massive black pupils you just don't get with a dose of Vitamin C. Each volunteer was then subjected to an fMRI scan for 90 minutes, after which time the Ecstasy will have had time to exert its effects.
The aim of the study was to discover if there was any possibility of the drug being used to treat depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to its euphoric effects. This does seem a logical step in treatment for these conditions, especially as when prompted it induces the return of happy memories. However I couldn't help thinking that as its a Class A drug they're going to have to do some serious structure altercations to reduce its effects. And also how are they going to roll this out to be dispensed by pharmacies across the country without it being abused?
The choice of volunteers was quite interesting as well. The five people featured on the programme who had been the MDMA guinea pigs were an ordained priest, an ex-SAS soldier, the deputy editor of the New Scientist, a psychiatric nurse and Lionel Shriver, the author of 'We need to talk about Kevin' (who caused mild shock in my living room as my housemate had been under the impression she was a man, which is quite understandable as your first guess wouldn't be that Lionel Richie was a woman).
Anyway what was interesting was how the priest seemed to really enjoy herself and used the description that everything changed from "being watercolours to oils" and it felt like her body was melting. Whereas the ex-SAS man had real trouble and became paranoid and distrustful as he was trying to control the situation, unlike the priest who just went with it. Lionel Shriver seemed to say the same as the soldier although she articulated it much more eloquently, surprise, surprise. It genuinely amazed me how they all recieved the same dose but had such different experiences. Thus it raises the question of how would they use this successfully for PTSD and control such varying experiences.
A lot more information was given throughout the programme, including statistics and science, which was delivered in a non-patronising way that was surprisingly refreshing compared with other things I have watched in the past. I suggest you watch it as soon as possible so you can watch the next part tonight. If not from a scientific point of view but that the Twitter jokes being fired out by the likes of Caitlin Moran were hilarious. I feel a little like I'm doing part of Channel 4's advertising, I hope they pay me for this.
[See Emily's review of the second part of the programme here