From Rick Doblin, President of MAPS
Gen. McCaffrey gave a profoundly exaggerated, misleading report of what Dr. David Smith
says he actually told the General about MDMA-related adverse effects.
I spoke to Dr. David Smith at length on Friday regarding Gen. McCaffrey's comments
attributing to him the statement that hundreds of people a month were coming to the Haight
-Ashbury clinic seeking treatment for MDMA-related psychosis and severe depression.
I called David Smith after Gen. McCaffrey made these same comments on CNN on
Friday, on the show, Burden of Proof.
It will probably not be surprising to learn that Gen. McCaffrey didn't have his facts
straight. The Haight-Ashbury clinic gathers statistics from around the country on
adverse events related to MDMA use and on reported cases of MDMA abuse and
"dependency." Dr. Smith didn't have the exact numbers in front of him but
said that while there might (he wasn't sure) be hundreds of MDMA-related reports a month
submitted to the Clinic, the numbers of reports of psychosis and severe depression were a
very small minority of all the reports.
Furthermore, a very high percentage of the reports involved poly drug users who used MDMA
as well as a variety of other drugs, sometimes one at a time but often in combination.
Dr. Smith said he thought that roughly 25% of the pills sold as MDMA were actually
methamphetamine, which had a contributory effect to the creation of adverse effects
attributed to MDMA.
By way of comparison, there were about 100 MDMA-related emergency room visits per month
reported in the government's Drug Abuse Warning Network for 1998. The adverse events
reported to DAWN and those reported to the Haight Ashbury research team can be the same
incidents and thus do not represent two completely different groups.
Dr. Smith said he supports efforts to conduct MDMA psychotherapy research. We discussed
the possibility of using the Haight Ashbury data to create a risk estimate of incidents
per x amount of pills used in non-medical contexts. We also talked briefly about my
sending him a proposal to conduct a prospective study on MDMA and memory, testing 1-200
MDMA-naive people who were considering the possibility of taking MDMA and then testing
them all again after several years. We discussed the difficult-to-asses ethical aspects of
such a study (would it encourage MDMA use?) but left the ethical issue open for further
Dr. Leshner and Gen. McCaffrey are presenting information that is a long way off from
reality. Clear evidence that too much involvement in government drug policy circles causes