Transcendental Commentary on the Issues of the Day

"It's like a year of therapy in two hours," said one New York writer, commenting on his experience with the allegedly psychotherapeutic drug MDMA. Currently being endorsed by a handful of psychiatrists, psychologists, and scientists, MDMA, or Ecstasy, is said by its proponents to have the incredible power to banish jealousy, break down emotional barriers, heal fear, and heighten the individual's aesthetic awareness. However, unlike LSD or mind-expanding drugs, Ecstasy's "high" does not obscure one's ability to confront reality. "It appears to help people recall things from their past," says Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "If this is an accurate picture, you might just be able to break up some logjams in therapy with it."

Exponents of Ecstasy cite case histories that document the drug's effectiveness in treating a wide range of problems, from artist's block to rape victimization. Yet as promising as the results may sound, Ecstasy also poses problems. Responding to a University of Chicago study that revealed that a related drug, MDA, can cause brain damage in laboratory animals, the Drug Enforcement Agency has placed Ecstasy on the Schedule I list of drugs having a high potential for abuse. (The list includes heroin, cocaine, LSD, and marijuana.) Possession of MDMA is now a misdemeanor, and manufacture and sale of the drug are punishable by fines of up to $125,000 and fifteen years in prison.

Mental health professionals who support the drug still contend that it has enormous therapeutic potential. Says James Bakalar of the Harvard Medical School, "I think the DEA's decision is precipitate. It's difficult to make a case that this is a serious threat to the nation's health or safety. They should wait until all the research is in."

Supporters like Bakalar hope to persuade the Government to place MDMA in a Schedule III classification, along with drugs like codeine. This would restrict the drug but still allow licensed therapists to continue using it. Yet should the DEA agree to such a proposal, MDMA boosters would still have a problem: The formula for the drug is available to anyone and cannot be repatented. Therefore, no pharmaceutical company is likely to put forward the millions of dollars it takes to test any drug for government approval. Notes psychiatrist Jack Downing, "MDMA is an orphan that has nobody bidding to be its parent."

However doomed Ecstasy therapy may appear to be, the attempts of therapists to heal fear, banish jealousy, and remove emotional barriers are praiseworthy. After all, energy nowadays seems to be directed toward amplifying these problems, whether internationally or individually.

The Krsna consciousness movement is also concerned with allaying emotional sufferings and helping people realize their full potential. How best to do this is taught in the Vedic literature: We must go beyond the bodily self, beyond the psyche, to the eternal self, the soul. This is not possible through conventional therapy or through the use of MDMA or any other psycho-active drug. It is possible only through the self-illuminating science of bhakti-yoga,which awakens us to our eternal self in eternal loving service to God. By thus transcending the physical, mental, and intellectual planes, we overcome jealousy, fear, and insecurity automatically. Participating in the ultimate therapy of loving God is real ecstasy. And there's no risk of brain damage.