This is in response to Josh Braun’s article (“Research Links Ecstasy Use to Parkinson’s”, Daily Nexus, Sept. 27, 2002).

While the article provided a concise summation of the research that George Ricaurte found, it left out some controversial aspects and opposition to the study. Certain psychiatrists such as Charles Grob of UCLA believe that MDMA has a potential to aid in therapy, and research performed in Spain suggests that MDMA can be used safely without brain damage

Ricaurte has a history with Ecstasy research dating back to 1995. He created a pair of images that visualized MDMA’s negative effects; a brain scan before and after MDMA use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse adopted the images as the center of its campaign to prevent MDMA use, and Ricaurte became a renowned researcher in the MDMA field.

Once again, Ricaurte is producing a report for the NIDA about the bad side of MDMA. Critics are quick to point out that although the monkeys received a human-equivalent dose of MDMA, it was delivered via injection, which Ricaurte himself proved doubles the potency of the drug. To simulate how an MDMA user might take the drug at an all-night rave, the MDMA was administered in three doses over a nine-hour period. Two of the monkeys died and many became too sick to receive the last dose.

Grob criticized Ricaurte’s research in 1995, and still does now, as demonstrated in his testimony last year in front of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Much of the NIDA-promoted research record suffers from serious flaws in methodological design, questionable manipulation of data, and misleading and deceptive reporting in the professional literature and to the media.

Just what new groundbreaking research Ricaurte was performing is under scrutiny as well, since similar MDMA studies have been around for over a decade. He was just highlighting known side effects of the drug and linking it with Parkinson’s disease – a stretch according to many critics who point to the lack of reported cases.

Perhaps the real research Ricaurte should have built upon is on how to abolish the brain damage associated with MDMA use altogether. Fluoxetine (Prozac) blocks receptors left vulnerable after a large dose of MDMA, preventing oxidation of the axon. Research by Drs. [A. Richard] Green, [M.I.] Colado and associates in Madrid demonstrate that using fluoxetine two to four days before and several hours after MDMA administration can prevent rat brain damage altogether.

Why has research that has the potential to benefit the hundreds of thousands of MDMA users in the U.S. been buried underneath controversial studies that the NIDA produces?

Like so many issues facing us today, things only make sense once you realize the political and monetary ties that are associated with them. The RAVE (Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy)Act is sitting in Congress as we speak. This bill would squash well-known MDMA safe havens, or raves. Could this new “research” possibly be a public relations tool used to justify the new law?

I certainly think so, and I advise the thousands of students who will take MDMA this year to read about preventative measures for stopping damage before it starts. You will thank me later.

Travis Cannell is a junior CCS computer science major.