Frescas is one of a team of 13 scientists who have been working under Dr.
David Nicholls at Purdue University since the early seventies. Their work
is backed by the US government health department and is devoted to
understanding the human mind through the effect of psychoactive drugs. They
not only test the effect of existing drugs but also synthesize new drugs
for this purpose, and in this context have produced a psychedelic many
times more potent than LSD besides drugs with very specific effects such as
one that lowers pitch of notes by a precise amount.
Unlike Shulgin, they do not test new drugs on humans but use rats that have
been trained to distinguish between various drugs - this is the established
technique but is slow, expensive and does not show up subtleties such as
the 'warmth' of MDMA. One of the team's major projects is to develop a new
assay for psychoactive drugs based on electrodes planted in several
specific regions of rats' brains. Computers will analyse information
transmitted by the electrodes to produce comparable charts, allowing the
effects of drugs to be compared objectively. This assay should provide a
reliable way of assessing the psychoactive effects of a new drug by
comparing its chart with those of drugs with known effects. This, along
with new techniques of synthesis, is one of many developments that is
likely to lead to the discovery of new psychoactive drugs.
A range of drugs act on both Dopamine and Serotonin in varying proportions.
At the dopamine (speedy) end is Methamphetamine; then comes the Indan
Amphetamines; then MDA, MDEA and MDMA and finally MBDB at the (warm)
serotonin end. However, Frescas is intrigued by the empathy associated with
MDMA, and thinks there is more to it than the known effects on serotonin
and dopamine. He believes this subtle quality is also produced by
Mescaline, which would explain why it is used in Peyote ceremonies. The
similarity is confirmed by tests on rats that will substitute Mescaline for
MDMA but not other psychedelics. While these two drugs 'close the gap'
between people, the opposite is true of other psychedelics.
Frescas believes the effects of psychoactive drugs vary greatly according
to the situation in which they are used, and quotes Dr. Nicholls as saying
that in some situations, such as while dancing, users may not notice the
difference between MDMA and methamphetamine. The full subtle effects of
MDMA (and other drugs) can be best experienced when taken in isolation from
However, he says there is a possibility that LSD varies according to its
'brand'. This is because LSD decomposes into different active compounds in
heat, air and light (in a few hours near a fluorescent tube). Thus "window
pane" acid is protected from air but not light while blotters kept in the
dark are protected from light but not air and so, after storage, may
contain different active compounds.
Research done on monkeys, he believes, may have produced misleading
results. They fight to avoid being injected, have to be chained to a chair
and hate the researcher. In this restrained state they may well prefer the
relaxation produced by MDMA, but this should not be interpreted as evidence
of abuse potential (as it has been).
Toxicity. In animals, the axions (that produce serotonin) of some brain
cells wilt and die back with high doses of MDMA. Although they regenerate,
they appear to be more coarse than before, and this may be considered as
permanent damage. Fenfluramine has almost precisely the same effect.
However, no damage to brain functions has been observed associated with the
damage to axions. Similar damage is also caused by methamphetamine, and Dr.
Frescas is concerned that the use of MDMA together with methamphetamine may
increase the toxicity to a dangerous level. He thinks the best hope of
avoiding toxicity is to find a more potent substitute, since a smaller dose
would be required. He doubts whether fluoxetine really has no effect on the
MDMA experience (as has been claimed), and if taken afterwards thinks it
would only prevent part of the toxicity.
Sex. Dr. Frescas mentioned that there has been much commercial research
into trying to find a drug that will help people have satisfying sexual
experiences, but without success. He thinks that good sex is the result of
many components of which MDMA provides one and 2CB another.
Asked his opinion on reports that 1 in 12 Ecstasy users are at risk due to
a genetic susceptibility, Dr. Frescas says these people would probably be
aware of their sensitivity to amphetamine and non-prescription drugs such
as Contac (for colds) and Sudafed, which would make them sleepless and
agitated. Sensitive people should take smaller doses.
Dr. Frescas also mentioned that black current juice is a MAO inhibitor, and
when one bottle (diluted) is drunk with MDMA or amphetamine the effect can
be felt with increased blood pressure and heart rate. It should therefore