Recently we had an interesting discussion at the MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedlic Studies) mailinglist. It was about the fact that research is being conducted to treat war vetereans with PTSD using MDMA and help them integrate their experience in their own life. An interesting problem because one suddenly finds the use of psychedelic drugs perverted to (only) support warveterans. Clearly I’m against such use.
> > >From Scientific American:
> > Can the Peace Drug Help Clean Up the War Mess?
Well indeed, it is something to wonder about isn’t it ?
While MAPS often presents PTSD as an opportunity to bring MDMA in the daylight, it also becomes clear MAPS uses warvictims (?) to support their own mission of MDMA promotion. Essentially, by doing so, MAPS supports a warmachine that allows people to commit crimes, murder etcetera. I’m not sure this is such a good strategy. Let’s think about what people might say in 20 years time if this is successful:
- ‘Oh MDMA ??? Isn’t that a drug soldiers receive after they killed too many people ?’
- ‘Right, you took MDMA. Are you also a murderer ?’
- ‘Hmmm, I’d like to take MDMA, how many people should I murder to receive a treatment ? Maybe I should join the army.’
Of course, the above expressions are somewhat too direct and extreme, but it makes my point clear: how can MAPS support the treatment of PTSD in the context of questionable morality ? Very soon we will have a problematic association between war and drugs. I’m not at all sure we might want to go there, Maybe somebody is interested in explaining the ‘strategy’ here. I’m sure you will point out that such treatment is ‘not only’ for soldiers, but it doesn’t tackle the point I brought forth. People will only remember the war-mdma association,
The answers were manyfold and generally boiled down to combinations of the following:
- helping the individuals should be independent from the context in which they suffered a trauma.
- PTSD is a disorder found among a wide range of individuals. War victims with PTSD are just a good testgroup. How else would you study this ?
- I don’t believe you : there is no mdma-war association. Answer: I disagree completely since this seems the only thing that gets reported by the mainstream press. So there certainly _is_ a relation. Just claiming that it is ‘not so’ doesn’t make it any different.
- people who got treated will not reenlist and avoid war.
- It might even be worse, if the drug would be optimized there is no stopping the government of killing more. Soldiers might happily go back.
- War cannot be reduced to a simple ‘drug-war’ relation and in general it is a very complex sociological problem.
- Researchers are responsible for their role in society.
- Researchers should think about their role in society.
- Researchers are not responsible for their role in society and should not care how the government decides to use any discovery.
- You don’t know what you talk about and you should try it yourself.
- It is people with PTSD that suffer because they do feel guilt and those people are not the serial killers we picture them.
- People who have access to it will take it themselves when they feel the need. E.g: the goa scene.
My original email was intentionally a bomb and obviously contained a serious reasoning error in going from war, killing, ‘PTSD’ to ‘MDMA’ as a single one to one relation. And this was mainly my point; although many people here realize the fallacies in this type of argument, the common person, who has other things on his mind, might only remember the war-MDMA association and we should start thinking about the problems caused by too much propaganda on this front.
Now, from the above summary, I would like to join two points that many brought up: a- war is a complex sociological problem and b- what role does researchers play in it ?
Some argue that the individual researcher has not the responsibility, or argue the researcher carries the responsibility. Honestly, it doesn’t matter: the researcher/the individual doesn’t have the power to oppose the governments’ decision to go to war anyway. So although an interesting philosophical debate, it will never lead to any real action.
Of course, this ‘it doesn’t matter’ argument is different when we talk about groups and organizations. Larger groups do have more power than individuals and not using possibilities to communicate a peaceful message and finding peaceful means to conflicts would be a shame.
Where does that lead to ? I could suggest a couple of actions:
- one could take an explicit step (or two) back from the war-mdma association.
- one could focus more on the use of psychedelics to avoid war, instead of fixing the mess afterwards
- research should be balanced and also include elements that are peace related.
- one could also investigate how free access to drugs could help people integrate their life experience. Then people can integrate difficult experiences themselves when they feel they need it. A natural balance could be achieved.