Channel 4 Lines Up Ecstasy Experimentation
The six month long neuroscience study is using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the effects of MDMA on resting brain activity in healthy volunteers. It has been designed by two of the world's leading experts on MDMA, Professor David Nutt of Imperial College London and Professor Val Curran of University College London. In addition to providing fundamental information on how MDMA affects the resting brain, results from the study might also inform future studies into whether the drug might be of clinical use.
According to C4, the 2 x 60-minute programmes will include recorded footage of part of the study alongside a live debate exploring issues around the controlled drug. “The programmes aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA,” says C4.
The study, funded by Channel 4, has been subject to an ethical approval process for research involving healthy volunteers, who were screened by medics and psychiatrists before giving their consent to take part. Professors Nutt and Curran retain control over the research, which they plan to submit for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Channel 4 Senior Commissioning Editor, David Glover, said: "The use of controlled drugs, including ecstasy, is a hugely important issue and Britain has been called the ‘drug-taking capital of Europe'. But too often the facts - and particularly the science - can become lost in the heat of the argument. These programmes will feature a scientific study that aims to demonstrate the effects of using ecstasy on the brain and behaviour alongside a grown-up debate about the issues raised featuring a wide range of views. This is a programme that only Channel 4 would be brave enough to commission."
David Nutt, the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, said: "Nearly half a million people are believed to take ecstasy or MDMA every year in the UK, but there has been very little research into what it does in the brain. This is the first study that will involve brain scans of people taking MDMA while not performing any tasks. Imaging technology has improved enormously recently, so these experiments will give us a much clearer picture of the fundamental effects of MDMA on the resting brain than anyone has been able to get before.”
Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial (w/t) will be shown this autumn on C4. It is being made by Renegade Pictures
, the exec producer is Alan Hayling
and programme editor is Liz Foley.