Probably most people who have taken MDMA (Ecstasy, Adam) have felt that it can be a very “psychological” entheogen, enabling you to look at your thoughts in a dispassionate and sort of therapeutic way. Now a new study shows that it can be useful in treating war veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome for that very reason.
“The feeling I got was nothing at all for 45 minutes, then really bad anxiety, and I was fighting it at first,” said Anthony, the Iraq veteran, who patrolled southwest of Baghdad in 2006 and 2007 amid relentless insurgent harassment and attacks with improvised explosive devices. “And then — I don’t know how to put it, exactly — I felt O.K. and messed up at the same time. Clear. It was almost like I could go into any thought I wanted and fix it.”For instance, he could think and talk about an attack that occurred in a town near Baghdad, in which Iraqis posing as allies — and who had been armed by the American military — turned their guns on American troops, killing several. The unit could not quickly evacuate its wounded because of weather conditions. Anthony’s rage and grief were so overwhelming that he had to suppress them and did so for years.
On the other hand, entheogens administered to unsuspecting people can be destructive, something the Central Intelligence Agency learned in 1953. That death, of a government researcher, is news again because his family is suing the CIA for causing it, claiming that it was murder, not drug-induced suicide.
For more on the Cold War use of LSD as a “secret weapon,” read Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream.