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  1. source
    Nearly half a million people are believed to take the Class A drug ecstasy every year in Britain and the country was dubbed the 'drug-taking capital of Europe' in a recent EU Drugs Agency report.
    Now, in a UK television first starting TONIGHT on Channel 4, two live programmes will follow volunteers as they take MDMA, the pure form of ecstasy, as part of a ground-breaking scientific study.

    Presented by Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen, the programmes aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA.

    The six-month long neuroscience study - designed by two of the world's leading experts on MDMA, psychopharmacologists Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London and Professor Val Curran of University College London - is using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how MDMA affects the resting brain in healthy volunteers for the first time.

    Tonight's Programme
    The first programme unravels the mysteries of MDMA, revealing how the drug affects the brain.
    Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London will reveal the results of the scientific trial and the programme follows some of the volunteers - who include actor Keith Allen, novelist Lionel Shriver, a vicar, a former MP and an ex-soldier - through the trial.

    The programme also looks at the potential side-effects and dangers of taking MDMA and includes a discussion with an expert who disagrees with the study and is sceptical about its purpose.

    Take part in the anonymous survey before the show - show starts at 10pm BST Channel 4.

    Channel 4 website, 26th September 2012.


  1. source
    Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial – the highs and lows

    Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial – the highs and lows

    Volunteer Shabs danced til dawn but Channel 4 struggled to explain the science behind E

    Half a million people take ecstasy every week in Britain and Channel 4 provided an opportunity on Wednesday to see some of them in Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial.

    First things first: nobody took drugs live on Drugs Live. Rather, presenter Jon Snow and TV doctor Christian Jessen presided over an hour-long studio debate, enlivened with explanations around a giant flashing brain and footage including Shabs, a 38-year-old raver, waving his arms around on a dancefloor until 5am and three students babbling on a bed while wearing a variety of hats.

    The centrepiece for Drugs Live, which Snow declared one of Channel 4's "boldest projects ever", was a medical study into the effects that clinical grade MDMA (ecstasy) has on the healthy brain.

    "Incredibly, no one knows how it works in the brain, nor how harmful it is," said Snow. There are hopes the drug's euphoric effects might help to relieve depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, for example in soldiers returning from war.

    The trial was funded by Channel 4 after the Medical Research Council declined. Leading the scientists at Hammersmith Hospital in west London were psychopharmacologists David Nutt from Imperial College and Val Curran from UCL, who held the drug under a Home Office licence and gained ethical approval to go ahead with the study.

    Memorably, Nutt was sacked from his position as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2009 after commenting that ecstasy was no more risky than horse riding and that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol or nicotine.

    Five of the 25 people who volunteered for the trial appeared in the studio. Each had spent two sessions at the hospital, where they had taken 83mg of MDMA or a sugar pill, before lying in a functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scanner. As scientists monitored activity in their brains, they answered questions about their mood and memory.

    Immediately afterwards, they sat at a computer and rated strangers' faces by how trustworthy they seemed.

    Some scientists may have raised an eyebrow at the study. These 25 people were not chosen at random. There was Hayley, the ordained priest, who felt euphoric after the drug, but disconnected from God. Lionel Shriver, the novelist, remained articulate but was disappointed at not getting more. Phil, who was in the SAS and now works "the private military circuit" was the only one, it seemed, to have a bad time. He talked of fighting the drug, became paranoid and felt so bad the next day, he spent the afternoon in bed.

    And was it mere luck that the last patient on the trial, who was discharged from hospital during the programme, and came into the studio, seemed to get the drug rather than placebo?

    What science came from the study was tentative, but perhaps that reflects how little is known about these drugs. Stood around the giant model of the brain, Nutt spoke of two regions that seemed to operate in unison. When people are stressed or depressed, those regions can become overactive. Unlike alcohol, which dampens down activity across the brain, ecstasy seemed to act particularly on this region, suggesting it might help in depression or PTSD.

    This highlighted the problem: the scientists gave the impression that clinical MDMA, not the street drug, might help PTSD, but there it is too early to say.

    The one participant on the study who had a bad time was the one person with experience of war. What does that tell us? Nothing, except that an awful lot more work is needed.

    Another result from the brain scans revealed that vivid memories of happy times was associated with more activity in the visual areas of the brain, even when the volunteers were laid with their eyes closed in the scanner.

    But what of the risks? Andy Parrott, a scientist from Swansea University, rolled out a long list of acute effects of the drug, from a rush of the stress hormone, cortisol, to varied levels of the brain chemical serotonin, poor appetite and sleep.

    That will have left some viewers confused, but it is hard to blame the scientists. They are right that far too little is known about the drug.

    Ian Sample, science correspondent
    The Guardian, Thursday 27 September 2012
  2. hookedonhelping
  3. source
    [imgr=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=28582&stc=1&d=1348855532[/imgr]Channel 4 has been accused of using scientific research as a “flimsy” excuse to “glamorise” the use of ecstasy, by the Government’s leading drugs adviser.

    Prof Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, questioned if there was any value to the controversial programme that showed volunteers taking the illegal dance drug live on television.

    He said viewers were told that it was a “ground-breaking” experiment, whereas in fact more than 60 studies have been published in academic journals on the effects ecstasy has on the brain.

    In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Prof Iversen, an expert at Oxford University, said: “While I am strongly in favour of scientific research on both legal and illegal drugs, I have to question whether this project has any real “research” value.

    “Viewers were repeatedly told this was ground-breaking research that had never been done before.

    “However, a search of the scientific literature reveals that there have been no fewer than 68 human studies of ecstasy using brain-imaging techniques. Twelve of there were published in the past 12 months – and they include reports of effects of ecstasy on the hippocampus and forebrain, as described in the programme.

    “The dressing up of the Channel 4 project as ‘research’ is flimsy, and there is a danger that such programmes may glamorise drug-taking as a form of entertainment.”

    His comments came as it emerged that 1.9million people, an 11.4 per cent share of the audience, watched Drugs Live: the Ecstasy Trial on Wednesday night.

    The programme featured Evan Harris, the former Liberal Democrat MP who is a qualified doctor, among 25 volunteers given either an MDMA tablet or a dummy pill so their reaction could be filmed and studied on MRI brain scanners.

    It was presented by the newsreader Jon Snow, who admitted on the Channel 4 website that he had once driven down a motorway while high on LSD.

    Despite the interest in the programme, new figures suggest misuse of drugs is continuing to fall out of fashion.

    Home Office statistics taken from crime surveys for 2010-11 suggest that 3million people aged between 16 and 59 have taken an illicit substance in the past year, the lowest level since polling began in 1996.

    Even the popularity of new drugs such as the former “legal high” mephedrone is falling among young people, with only 3.3 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds trying it in the past year.

    The scientists involved in the programme, Prof David Nutt and Prof Val Curran, said: “Our research on MDMA is unique and ground-breaking in many ways. For the first time the effects of MDMA have been studied using an experimental approach with validated tasks to explore social cognitive processes which may underpin the pro-social effects of the drug.

    "Moreover it is the largest and most detailed imaging study of the effects of MDMA on the brain. In the scanner we used tasks to measure brain processes never before studied under the influence of the drug such as self-referent encoding an autobiographical memory. For both tasks and during rest periods we performed state of the art analyses of brain activity and connectivity.

    "Of course we are aware of the few studies looking at how the brain responds to MDMA while people are performing language or emotional tasks. Our research builds on and extends these findings.”

    A Channel 4 spokesman added: "The programmes aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding ecstasy and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA, as well as allowing a discussion about issues raised with people representing a wide range of views, including experts such as Professor Andy Parrott.

    "The programmes also look at whether results from the study could also inform future studies into potential clinical use of the drug, particularly in the therapeutic treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The programmes do not glamorise drug taking and reflect both the positive and negative aspects of using MDMA.”

    By Martin Beckford, Home Affairs Editor, Daily Telegraph.
    7:00AM BST 28 Sep 2012
  4. enquirewithin
    "Prof Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, questioned if there was any value to the controversial programme that showed volunteers taking the illegal dance drug live on television.""

    Iversen was put there to replace David Nutt so he could spout government views.
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