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Drugs live. 2/2, The ecstasy trial.

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About this work


In the second of two programmes; Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen follow an officially licensed trial in which 25 people took MDMA, the pure form of the recreational drug ecstasy, for scientific study. Split between footage of the trial and a live studio discussion the programme aims to discuss the effects and potential risks of MDMA. The designers of the trial were Professor David Nutt and Professor Val Curran. The objective was to provide clinical evidence of its effects on the brain. This programme further investigates the effects of MDMA, and potential clinical including the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The programme discovers what recreational users can learn from the trial before discussing MDMA's classification as a Class A drug and possible long-term effects. Professor Nutt recounts the aims to understand where ecstasy works in the brain, and find out If these brain changes might be translatable into clinical benefits. Curan is interested in the effect MDMA has on interpersonal trust, and how this might be harnessed in psychological therapy. Ecstasy seized at Glastonbury festival is tested and the results show a third of pills had no MDMA. Instead they contained other legal psychoactive chemicals that mimic MDMA but can be very dangerous, The other two thirds contained varying doses of MDMA which had been cut with a filler. In the studio Snow discusses the comedown from MDMA, commonly known as ‘The Tuesday Blues’. The increase of serotonin in the brain leads to euphoria, however MDMA also impedes serotonin replishment by three to four days and this leads to a lack of the chemical which in turn causes negative feelings. Professor Andrew Parrot and Philip Murphy argue the side effects of MDMA; low mood states, poor memory and depression can be long term, however Curran and Nutt dismiss this. The ‘Tuesday Blues’ were not present in this trial and Nutt attributes this to the medical setting, arguing mood effects are influenced by situation and consumption of other drugs. Dr Adam Winstock discusses the risks of prescription drugs arguing they are affected by the way in which they are used. There is footage of an illegal underground therapy session in America in which patient Danielle uses MDMA to help cure her PTSD. After the therapy Danielle recognises an overall reduction in her day-to-day anxiety and is convinced after a decade of ineffective conventional treatment MDMA is finally helping her overcome her PTSD. Nutt reveals findings from the trial which suggest MDMA shuts down the pre frontal cortical region of the brain and in turn decreases the brains response to negative memories. Nutt argues this could allow people to engage with traumatic memories without the emotional overlay. Footage of Hayley’s trial examines how MDMA has helped her deal with and overcome her own PTSD through full memory recall of the trigger incident. Snow discusses with the audience their experiences with MDMA and how it had emotionally effected them. Snow and Jensen round off the programme by discussing the results of a national survey on drugs and address questions from the audience.



Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color; 12 cm.


Originally broadcast on 27th September 2012 on Channel 4.
Notable participants include the writer Lionel Shriver, actor Keith Allen, MP Evan Harris and deputy editor of New Scientist Graham Lawton.

Creator/production credits

Presented by Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen.
Produced by Dan Murdoch and Barney Newman.

Copyright note

Renegade Pictures (UK) Ltd.



  • English

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