British Columbia

Researchers throw fundraiser to buy 1 kilo of MDMA

A group of researchers in Victoria is throwing an unconventional dinner party on Thursday — a fundraiser to buy one kilogram of MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

Victoria hosts one of several fundraising events in North America to raise money to research the drug

MAPS Canada is holding the fundraiser to help with the purchase of MDMA to study its effectiveness in trauma therapy. MDMA is different than ecstasy, which is not the pure form of the drug.

A group of researchers in B.C. is throwing an unconventional fundraiser to raise money to buy one kilogram of MDMA, the pure form of the party drug ecstasy.

Researchers from MAPS Canada — a branch of the California-based Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, a group that researches psychedelics — are raising money to looking into the effectiveness of using MDMA to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"PTSD is a very hard illness to treat," said Mark Haden, director of MAPS Canada. Haden noted that the traditional success rate for treating PTSD is about 25 per cent, but with MDMA, "we are demonstrating 82 per cent effectiveness in one month."

He said previous research conducted by MAPS shows that taking MDMA makes it easier for those suffering from PSTD to access their emotions and helps build trust between patient and therapist. 

"The empathy between people goes up dramatically," said Haden on the effects of MDMA. 

Releases serotonin

Research suggests that MDMA releases serotonin — a feel-good chemical in the brain, and Oxytocin — the 'cuddle hormone' that supports touching, hugging, holding and trusting others. 

Psychedelic drug therapy — which was once legal  — could greatly help ex-military personnel and first responders overcome their PTSD, said Haden.

The money raised from the event will be used to fund the next phase of clinical trials and to pay laboratories to make the drug.

The previous phase of the trial explored the safety and ethics of using the MDMA for therapy. It included 100 people with severe PTSD from around the world. Six individuals were in B.C. 

Vancouver psychiatrist, Dr. Ingrid Pacey was the lead principle investigator of that clinical study. 

She said the findings were remarkable.

"What we found was very powerful therapy," Pacey said. 

"With the MDMA, they can get past that state of terror," she said.

"They're really able to talk about the trauma without blocking or getting anxious," she said.

Researchers say the second phase of the trial showed the effectiveness of using MDMA to treat trauma. (Nuala O'Connell)

Legalize MDMA therapy

Pacey wants MDMA therapy to be legalized and for therapists to be properly trained to use them in sessions. 

She warns that the therapy is to be used to help patients open up about their traumatic experiences. She added that it is not a magic bullet. 

"This is not about prescribing it to people to take on their own, it is to be used with a therapist," she said. 

A dinner fundraiser will be held in Victoria on April 28th and an art fundraiser in Vancouver on May 19th. 

With files from the CBC's On The Island.

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