Ecstasy for the agonizing end?

No, I’m not trying to play a cute turn on “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” just wondering about how useful this drug may or may not be in helping the dying and their families cope with the last days of a long and mortal illness.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a pilot study looking at whether the recreational hallucinogen can help terminally ill patients lessen their fears, quell thoughts of suicide and make it easier for them to deal with loved ones.

“End of life issues are very important and are getting more and more attention, and yet there are very few options for patients who are facing death,” Dr. John Halpern, the Harvard research psychiatrist in charge of the study, said Monday.

That such patients have limited options is certainly true, as we are seeing with my brother, S. Some of you might recall this post about a woman in England’s anger at the overdependence upon morphine for the terminally ill. Well, she was angry about a lot of things, but that was one issue for her, and I confess, there are times I wish we could do more than morphine or opiate derivatives for my brother. I don’t know if psychedelic drugs are the answer, though. I expect proponants of the study will suggest that the “mind opening” aspects of the drugs will create “healthy closures” within families. Maybe. Or maybe they’ll create illusions of healthy closures.

I’m willing to wait and see before criticizing. I will say that this quote just annoys me, though.

MAPS, on its web site, touted the study’s approval, saying “the longest day of winter has passed, and maybe so has the decades-long era of resistance to psychedelic research.”

Ugh. Just Ugh.

About Elizabeth Scalia