Miss Molly Goes to War

by Whatsblem the Pro

CJ Hardin has gone from PTSD to MDMA to A-OK

CJ Hardin has gone from PTSD to MDMA to A-OK

CJ Hardin first went to Burning Man in 2006; when he can make it to Black Rock City he volunteers as a medic. He spins fire staff, and is learning ball poi.

Outside Black Rock City, CJ Hardin is a soldier whose three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan left him an alcohol-soaked, suicidal wreck peppered with physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. The physical damage wasn’t much – some minor injuries, a touch of tinnitus – but the PTSD he suffered picked him up by the scruff of the neck and took him right out of his life.

Michael and Annie Mithoefer are burners, too, and more formally known as Dr. Michael Mithoefer, MD, and his co-therapist, Annie Mithoefer, BSN. The couple run a well-regarded internal medicine practice in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

The Mithoefers are currently conducting clinical trials as part of a ten-year, $15,000,000 project that intends to transform MDMA — sometimes sold under the street names Molly, Ecstasy, or X, among others — from an illegal street drug into an FDA-approved prescription medicine. CJ Hardin is a patient in one of those trials.

The project is being administered by a non-profit organization called MAPS, or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. MAPS, currently the only organization in the world funding clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, has earned a solid reputation in the scientific community by doing peer-reviewed work on the legitimate medical uses of psychedelics and marijuana since 1986.

To a non-profit organization like MAPS, exploring the medical uses of MDMA makes good sense, because the patent on the drug has expired. This being the case, the for-profit pharmaceutical industry has little or no interest in testing and developing the drug into a product. Once someone like MAPS does it, the for-profit big boys in the big league may manufacture their own version and sell it alongside the patented products they own, but since they can’t hold a monopoly on the drug, there’s no money to be made in doing the groundwork that must come first. This is part of the reason why MDMA has remained on the government’s Schedule 1 list of substances that supposedly have no medicinal value.

All the drugs that MAPS works with either have expired patents, like MDMA, or are unpatentable, like marijuana; once the research allows products to be manufactured from them, nobody – not even MAPS – will have a monopoly on making and selling them, and thus they will likely remain cheap or even free to the people who need them most.

I interviewed CJ Hardin about his progress with the Mithoefers’ MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on Tuesday, November 26th, 2013.

Whatsblem the Pro:
CJ, you’re a burner, right? How did you find your way to Black Rock City the first time?

CJ Hardin:
I went with friends in 2006, after my second Iraq deployment. I really didn’t know much, other than that it was a huge party with cool music and art in the desert. We rented a bus and really kinda glamped it. I didn’t know that it was such a participatory event, but I really started to enjoy it once I began talking to fire spinners, since I had done fancy drill teams with rifles in the JROTC. I had a great time, but also gained a deeper appreciation for the burner community. I really appreciated how Burning Man set itself apart from music festivals I had been to, like the Family Values Tour, and Bonaroo.

Whatsblem the Pro:
How long have you had PTSD, and how long have you been doing the MDMA therapy?

CJ Hardin:
I got deployed in 2003 during the initial push to Baghdad, and served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I started to really feel it after the second deployment.

I’ve been in the MDMA study since midsummer of 2013, and I’m about to do my third MDMA session, on December 3rd. If I haven’t been getting the higher of the two doses they’re testing, I’ll get another five sessions with the high dose after this.

Whatsblem the Pro:
This is a horribly rude question that I wouldn’t ask under other circumstances, but would you mind telling me something about the experiences you had that left you with PTSD?

CJ Hardin:
Well, I’ve been hit by two IEDs while in armored vehicles, but I wasn’t seriously injured, just some hearing loss. I was hit by a bullet fragment from friendly fire that made me think I was shot. . . and pretty much every day we were being targeted with mortar and rocket fire, so we could never really feel safe. On top of that, I was a member of a command team, so I got to see all the operational stuff and the casualties. There was a lot of gory stuff, and friends getting injured and killed. . . and of course never knowing whether a mortar was going to drop on you in your sleep or on the shitter was a really bad feeling that dissociates you from the real world. All of it combined was the problem.

Whatsblem the Pro:
What sort of symptoms did you develop?

CJ Hardin:
Any sudden noise, change of air pressure in the room, motion. . . I’d get hyper-vigilant. Rapid pulse, crippling anxiety. Depression. A need to avoid crowds. Driving became impossible; I’d swerve to avoid anything near the road because it would remind me of IEDs. I got into some major alcohol abuse to keep my mind off stuff. Insomnia. Lack of a sex drive. Thanks to the IEDs, I’ve also got permanent tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears.

I got to the point where I stayed home and never went out. I didn’t even try to work really, just did odd jobs. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts.

Whatsblem the Pro:
How has the therapy you’ve been doing with the Mithoefers affected all this?

CJ Hardin:
Working with them and with the MDMA has vastly reduced all the symptoms. Some are gone totally. I go out and hike and drive now; I don’t jump as much at all at sudden things; I’m much better with crowds now. Essentially, I realize on a gut level that I’m not at war any more, and I’m safe.

Whatsblem the Pro:
All that, with just two sessions?

CJ Hardin:
Two sessions with the MDMA, and some therapy sessions in between, yes. I’m about to do the third MDMA session.

Whatsblem the Pro:
It sounds like you got your life back.

CJ Hardin:
I did get my life back! There was a profound difference after the first session. . . and my girlfriend benefits by having a sane boyfriend. Did I mention that I lost my marriage due to the PTSD?

Whatsblem the Pro:
I’ve read that a single dose of MDMA might be worth years of psychotherapy.

CJ Hardin:
Oh, yeah. . . eight hours of therapy with MDMA feels like three years of therapy without it.

Whatsblem the Pro:
What went with the MDMA? Were you guided through any particular experience with it, or did they just give it to you and babysit passively?

CJ Hardin:
Oh no, I was totally guided. The doctor and his wife, who is a nurse, were with me the whole time. There was soft music playing, and they gave me a sleeping blindfold in case I wanted to “go inside.” My girlfriend was there for most of the time, too. They let me talk about whatever. Sometimes they would remind me of what I was saying or get me back on a train of thought.

Whatsblem the Pro:
They told you to go inside yourself?

CJ Hardin:
Yep. After I’d talk about something a little more intense, they’d suggest that I go inside and try to feel where I felt the feelings. . . then breathe through it. To dwell on it, kind of.

Whatsblem the Pro:
I can see that happening at a theme camp at Burning Man, too.

Thank you, CJ. This is fascinating research, and from what you’re telling me it seems very promising. Is there anything the community can do to get involved and help?

CJ Hardin:
Actually, yes. . . the study I’m taking part in right now needs funding to continue. It’s all non-profit, and runs on donations, so there’s an Indiegogo campaign that you can give money to. You can read all about the clinical trials and the science and everything there, too.

I really believe that the work the Mithoefers are doing is going to end up helping a lot of people who need help badly and can’t get it because MDMA is illegal. It’s helping me, and I’m very grateful. Please give generously!

Whatsblem the Pro:
Good luck, CJ! We’re rooting for you.

4 comments on “Miss Molly Goes to War

  1. Pingback: World’s Top 20 Drugs? And internet Silk Road | Adonis Diaries

  2. Pingback: RIP Sasha Shulgin | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. Pingback: These Are The World’s Top 20 Drugs | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  4. Pingback: Resetting The Set | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

Share your thoughts with us

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s