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Ricaurte, a 50-year-old neurologist at Hopkins since 1988, is probably the best-known Ecstasy expert in the war on drugs.
The available evidence shows that MDMA can cause psychosis, hyperthermia and even death in some people who take the drug recreationally.
But there is no research to indicate whether or not this will be a problem in the controlled settings of a clinical trial, or whether such controlled administration might result in long-term brain damage.
The drug has also been reported in conjunction with at least 12 cases of psychosis in the medical literature.
Of course, much scientific research is driven by non-scientific motivations, and no drug would ever be proven to work in clinical trials without an interested champion.
But unlike most other drugs tested in clinical trials today, this experimental treatment, MDMA, or ecstasy, is also widely used in clubs around the world.
Proponents of the MDMA trials say that they are long overdue, and have been stalled by political concerns (see page 126).
This more reflective approach would help researchers learn more about the origins of and responses to the frightening side effects that sometimes occur when users take MDMA as a recreational drug.
This would surely be a better way of ensuring that safe treatments reach the patients who need them.
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