Channel 4 are to host the UK’s first ever live televised drug trial.
As The Guardian report, 26 volunteers have been recruited for the show. The subjects were either given MDMA or a placebo; after an hour, readings were taken with an fMRI machine. Subjects also had their brain activity tracked when asked to recall happy or upsetting memories. Among the subjects are former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, We Need To Talk About Kevin author Lional Shriver and goon-of-all-trades Keith Allen.
Study leader Professor David Nutt claimed that Channel 4’s intervention has provided funds and resources which have been impossible to source from more official channels: “We have failed to get money for research from conventional sources, which is why the Channel 4 intervention is fantastic. 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. 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.”
Concerns have, understandably, been raised about the possibility of the show glamorising or trivialising use of the drug. Rebutting the claims on BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific, Nutt has stressed that the study will be a “serious documentary on the science of MDMA'”. MDMA has been touted by some as having possible applications as a psychotherapeutic tool, particularly in relation to PTSD – claims the documentary hopes to put to the test.
It’s not the first time Professor Nutt has found himself in the public eye in relation to clubbing drugs. In 2009 he was engaged in a high-profile spat with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith after quoting statistics that horse riding was more dangerous than taking ecstasy. He was removed from his post as chairman of the UK government’s Advisory Council On The Misuse of Drugs the same year after publishing a paper indexing drugs on the basis of the harm they caused; tobacco and alcohol were placed higher than ecstasy and cannabis.
Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial will air on September 26 on Channel 4, presented by Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen.