A trial is currently being conducted into potentially using the clubber's drug of choice — MDMA, better known as ecstasy — as a treatment for soldiers who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
The internet has gone a long way to disseminate a reasoned discussion on the war on drugs. What was once considered a virtuous crusade against the scourges of society is now being recognized for the failed, decades-long prohibition that it truly is. More than just decriminalizing substances, we are seeing an increase in the emergence of research that hopes to demonstrate actual health benefits as well.
It would be quite a transformation in the public eye, to shift MDMA's reputation as an indulgence of the modern day hippie to a possible cure for soldiers overwhelmed with anxiety, fear, trauma and despair. For combat vets who don't see improvements with therapy and anti-depressants, few alternative options exist. This is in part why researchers have become so vocal in their demand to at least explore the potential medicinal value of certain illicit substances swept under the "War on Drugs" umbrella.
For those unfamiliar with MDMA's particular history, this helpful video covers the most relevant information:
MDMA is notorious for increasing people's optimism, their sense of well being, as well as their love and appreciation for their fellow man. People have described a release from their inhibitions, enjoying a view of the world around them unfiltered by anxieties or insecurities. As a treatment for PTSD, it has demonstrated the ability to elicit an increased response to psychotherapy and was previously used to treat shell-shocked soldiers — before being outlawed in the 1980s.
Medical and recreational marijuana has enjoyed its own rapid acceleration of acceptance across the country. But even with massive public support, political leaders like NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg find time to criticize it. Bloomberg stands among a few people who fear that today's marijuana is "stronger" than what he was familiar with in his youth, and that it comes from nefarious sources.
That would only seem to be a stronger argument for legalization and regulation — so people can know where substances are coming from. You don't have to look far to find a wide array of experts who don't believe in the effectiveness of policing citizens through the prohibition. Even the most cursory examination of substance related death stats will show that thousands of people are dying from pharmaceuticals and alcohol, while marijuana retains the same death toll it's had for years: 0.
I have friends who have endured combat and military training in several countries. They are usually reticent to describe what they've gone through, but there seems to be some common ground in what they do choose to share. From the onset of their training they are all conditioned towards violence. The physical demands, the oaths, the recited codes of conduct, the sense of duty and honor — it all feeds into a refined and honed sense of purpose: a compounded strength that almost yearns for the battlefield.
Once they actually see it for the first time, they are immersed in extreme conditions, suffering daily stresses, constant exhaustion, overwhelming threats, and the inescapable awareness that their life is in actual danger. The ever-present sense of duty still drives them forward, allowing them to keep moving — even when they must take a human life.
Most of them describe experiencing a defensive response in their mind — waxing over the experience with a sense of surrealism. Everything has to go into a certain form of "auto-pilot" so that the situation doesn't overwhelm them. But like all wounds, when the adrenaline cools down, you start to feel the pain of a newly formed scar.
Few of us will ever have to endure anything remotely as challenging as that world and can only sympathize from a theoretical standpoint. It seems absurd to deny those among us who have suffered the most any opportunity to heal their pains. We have have a history of using enhancements, chemicals, and technology to bring out the strongest fighting potential in our soldiers. In WWII pilots were given meth so they could stay awake for days doing bombing runs. Perhaps it's time we put an equal focus on meaningful rehabilitation treatments, so that soldiers can return to the societies they so valiantly protected — and feel the happy sense of altruism we so often take for granted.