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Media > Recent and Archival
July 20, 2012

Televised Drug Experiment Will Include a Vicar, an Actor and an Author

By: Sarah Vrba

Care2

Care2 writes about “Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial,” a new television special highlighting MDMA research. Channel 4 funded the new MDMA research, led by Professor Nutt and Professor Val Curran. The six-month study focused on resting brain activity in healthy volunteers. The research was filmed and will be presented alongside a live debate this Fall on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.


Originally appearing here.

The United Kingdom’s Channel 4 plans to air a television show entitled “Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial.” The series will center around an experiment in which a variety of professionals and civilians will take 83mg of MDMA, a Class A form of Ecstasy. Included in the mix will be a vicar, as well as actor Keith Allen, author Lionel Shriver, and an ex-SAS officer, ONTD Political reports.

Apparently, Channel 4 has already filmed the trials in which the famous and unlikely personalities take the drug under scientifically controlled conditions. Professionals administered the MDMA to the voluntary participants but also handed out placebos in order to create a blind experiment. Participants did not know if they had received MDMA or not.

Channel 4 producers argue that the show is intended to be an informative investigation of the impact of MDMA on the brain and body, but many critics claim the show will only glamorize taking drugs. Many health experts feel that putting celebrities on the show and allowing viewers to watch as they ingest drugs will “celebritize” taking substances. These same professionals worry the average viewer might attempt to procure MDMA on the streets, where there is no guarantee of what substances you are purchasing.

Still, the two 60-minute long episodes are intended to be educational and a way to tell the general public about the effects and potential downsides to the drug, the Telegraph reports. Actor Keith Allen stated, “It’s a very, very forensic analysis, a neurological analysis of the effects of MDMA.”

The show will not only include celebrities but also a wide array of participants, such as policemen, soldiers and civilians who have never ingested the drug. After taking the drugs, all of the participants will receive brain scans in order to ascertain the effects MDMA has on the human brain. All of the volunteers were examined by medical and psychiatric professionals in a controlled environment.

Heading up this controversial television program is Professor David Nutt, who once headed up the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, until he advocated for marijuana and other drugs, stating they were less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Last year, Dr. Nutt planned to conduct a clinical trial on the effects of MDMA. In a statement to the Guardian he said:

I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation. The drugs have been made illegal in a vain attempt to stop kids using them, but people haven’t thought about the negative consequences.

In the trial conducted by Dr. Nutt in 2011, researchers found that those with post-traumatic stress disorder showed vast improvement with a controlled dosage of MDMA along with counseling. Dr. Nutt has been on a years-long crusade to discover the potential psychiatric uses of MDMA as a tool in therapy. As Dr. Nutt told the Guardian, Ecstasy is “not about dancing around nightclubs.” Perhaps that is why so many people, including a vicar, were willing to try the experiment on national television.

Debates about the safety and acceptance of drugs have haunted political debates in the United Kingdom and the United States over the years. Debates about the uses and side effects of marijuana have been central to state ballots across the U.S. and many states now allow the sale of medical marijuana. President Obama has recently attempted to clarify his position on people who use marijuana as a medical tool and the prosecution of those who produce it. MDMA faces a much bigger uphill battle for acceptance by medical and political authorities on both sides of the pond.


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