Until recently, prescribing Ecstasy, mescaline or magic mushrooms has been a guaranteed way for a psychiatrist to lose his research funding, his job or even his liberty. But now, scientists are beginning to suspect that such illegal drugs may be the key to treating a range of intractable illnesses, from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression.
These chemicals – which include the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, derived from magic mushrooms, and LSD, as well as ecstasy – affect the way we think and behave, as well as causing hallucinations and mystical experiences. Yet a series of studies performed in Britain and the US is beginning to tease out their potential benefits. One, into the effects of Ecstasy, is featured in the controversial Channel 4 documentary, Drugs Live, tomorrow night.