The Peril of Equating the Healing Power of MDMA With Ecstasy
Jesse Palamar, Assistant Professor of Population Health at NYU's Langone Medical Center discusses the dangers of equating street drugs like ecstasy with the potentially therapeutic benefits of MDMA.This article originally appeared on Inverse
This news appeared in headlines throughout the world, as it represents an important – yet somewhat unorthodox – advance in PTSD treatment.
However, the media have largely been referring to Ecstasy – the street name for this drug – as the treatment in this trial, rather than MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). This can lead to misunderstanding, as recreational Ecstasy use is a highly stigmatized behavior. Using this terminology may further misconceptions about the study drug and its uses.
While Ecstasy is in fact a common street name for MDMA, what we call Ecstasy has changed dramatically since it became a prevalent recreational drug. Ecstasy now has a very different meaning – socially and pharmacologically.
It is understandable why the media have referred to this drug as Ecstasy rather than MDMA. Not only has much of the public at least heard of Ecstasy (and would not recognize MDMA), but this also increases shock value and readership.
But referring to a therapeutic drug by its street name (such as Ecstasy) is misleading – especially since MDMA is known to be among the most popular illicit drugs used at nightclubs and dance festivals. This leads some to assume that street drugs are being promoted and provided to patients, perhaps in a reckless manner.
About 80-85 percent of high school seniors and young adults disapprove of someone even trying Ecstasy once or twice. But stigmatizing attitudes tend to be much harsher than mere disapproval.