Ups & Downs With Ecstasy (MDMA, Molly, etc.)


by R.U. Sirius

With the recent FDA decision granting a Breakthrough Therapy Designation to MDMA (i.e. Ecstasy) for PTSD, it seems like a fine time to revisit the first ecstasy experience from the unpublished, incomplete MONDO 2000 story (a different sort of MONDO 2000 book is in the works)

While I am thrilled with the continued movement of MDMA and other psychedelics towards social and political acceptance as therapeutic tools, the fact that this is mainly aimed at bringing soldiers to an inward acceptance of the hurt they gathered… and in some case, inflicted… in one of America’s perpetual overseas adventures raises some deep political questions.  Not that I would deny our “wounded warriors” relief. They are not to blame for the poor choices of our political leaders. But it does raise the question whether — in a broader philosophical and political sense — we want the burden of going to war to be lightened and to what degree. 

It also implies the potential for a drug that makes us calmly transcendent and all self-forgiving even in the act of war. This is, indeed, one of the conditions the military is looking to create for its supersoldiers. 

Anyway, here are some excerpts about MDMA from the MONDO 2000 story…

The following entry is from the early part of the MONDO 2000 story, when “Somerset Mau Mau” and I were distributing the first newsprint edition of High Frontiers, the magazine that became MONDO.

From: “Chapter Six: Funky Punk Acid Rag”

A few weeks after publication, Bruce Eisner said that we really needed to hustle down to his and Peter’s hometown of Santa Cruz because there weren’t any copies available in the stores and people had already grabbed the few we had sent them for free.   Also, it would be good to meet the folks in the Santa Cruz psychedelic community. We were invited to stay at Peter Stafford’s apartment.

We arrived at Peter’s place, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Entering a spacious two-room apartment with high ceilings and sunlight streaming in through huge picture windows, Eisner greeted us in the living room. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, there seemed to be a mild hubbub going on. We stood making small talk with Bruce as the door to this other room — it soon became clear it was a bedroom — would quickly open and close.   Eventually the door opened and we could see a bunch of guys in a sort of ill-formed circle around the very tall Peter Stafford, so that we could just see his naked chest, goofy grinning laughing face and wildly flailing arms. Everybody seemed to be arguing with Peter. Bruce sighed. “Peter likes to get naked when he’s high,” he said. We assured Bruce that we had no problems with anybody greeting us naked. Eventually, Stafford apparently compromised with his friends and came out to great us wearing a pair of white undies. We immediately fell into a rapture with Peter, as he excitedly ran us through a full course in his personal psychedelic history; tossing books he’d written or that he was mentioned in at us and waxing mega-enthusiastic — as I recall — about squeezing mescaline from a cactus among many other trippy matters.

Bruce Eisner: You might say Peter (Stafford) was the prototypical hippie. He probably was the first hippie, in my estimation, because I remember him growing long hair when he was living in Greenwich Village in 1963, 64. And he hitchhiked to Mexico with really long hair, and he was very boyish and good-looking in those days. I think he was one of the first people to really inspire the hippie movement. He actually used to publish these tabloids, in the Village. He published these special ones that looked kind of like The Oracle, but they were “Stafford Specials.”


And then the party began. As I recall, it was just drink and powerful weed. So the next few days were a blur of way-stoned, half-drunk but absolutely lucid lessons in drug history and psychopharmacology as preached by Peter, interrupted by brief forays around Santa Cruz to meet the local heads. Most impressive were two older women, probably in their ’60s or ’70s. Nina Graboi lived in a neatly furnished modest but brightly colored apartment with huichol peyote paintings on the wall. She had been the New York Director for the League of Spiritual Discovery (LSD), Timothy Leary’s earliest attempt at organizing to educate psychedelic explorers and defend their rights to trip. She had also worked with the legendary LSD psychotherapist Stan Grof. Mau Mau and I felt ourselves in the presence of deep psychedelic history.

The other elder was Liz Gips — a funky gal in baggy blue jeans who seemed to have the hint of a southern accent. I remember being very impressed with her intellect as she laid out the Santa Cruz psychoactive scene and told us about the radio show she hosted on a local public radio station. She invited us to come on her show to talk about High Frontiers a couple of days hence.

The last day of our planned visit arrived and I woke up irritated that we’d stayed so loaded that we hadn’t done what we planned to do. — go to the local bookstores and get them to take magazine. Mau Mau’s heavy drinking and lack of discipline weighed on me. People who wanted to just stay high were clearly too irresponsible to stay on mission… even when the mission was pretty simple. As everybody in the house came to consciousness, I pressed my case for getting out right away and getting to Santa Cruz bookstores with copies of the magazine. My plan was hazily agreed to, but bowls of weed were smoked and lazy conversations sputtered along until the morning was completely gone. I finally got openly pissed and Mau Mau and I got ready to haul ass out the door to distribute the ‘zines. Just as we were walking to the door, this absolutely perfect young blonde haired surfer-looking dude with blazing blue eyes and a blinding shiny white toothed grin walked in. “Does anybody want some MDMA?”

Mau Mau and I had never had MDMA (ecstasy) so we eagerly purchased a few hits for ourselves, as did Peter and some other hangabouts — one of them being kind of a Rainbow Tribe guy named Verge Belanger (who will appear later in this epic.) “Fine,” I said. “Now let’s go distribute the magazines.”

That wasn’t going to happen. “You’ve never had ecstasy?!” Stafford asked, shocked at our virginity. “You really need to try this now!” After a few minutes intransigence on my part, irrepressibility prevailed and we downed our capsules. I sat alone out on a porch that was attached to Stafford’s place feeling irritated and trapped.   Then there was a slight turning of the sky into richer gentler pastels, a second or two of mild nausea, and suddenly I was back through the doors and back into the living room where everybody at once started telling everybody else how wonderful they were; how the essence of that person was just a wonder to behold.   My concerns and irritation was gone. The barriers between my self and the world melted. Clearly, most of the things we let make us crazy are less important in actuality than they seem in our own heads.   We communed blissfully and I, for the first time, understood what actual contentment — the complete absence of any nagging doubt about the safety and rightness of being in that moment — felt like. Later that night, we went on Liz Gips radio show and promoted the magazine. We were relaxed and funny and informative. I had never done a radio interview before and I’m sure if it had not been for the ecstasy, I would have been – and more importantly, sounded – nervous on my first try.

We stayed in la Cruz an extra day — me missing a day of work as a phone salesman — and finally got the magazines to the local outlets. Meanwhile, I was pretty nearly convinced that ecstasy was the key to the psychedelic revival. Surely, I thought, even mindless lugheads who could take acid and mescaline and learn nothing from it other than that it’s fun to stare at flashing colored lights while listening to Led Zeppelin (it is, though), couldn’t miss the point of this. This one really was the magic bullet; the peace pill; the cure for cultural anxiety and neurosis; the start of an era of hedonic sweetness. Surely, people couldn’t take this drug, this ecstasy, and not be changed by it. Surely…


From “Chapter 16: Out With The Old, In With The Strange Brew”

A couple of slightly rough-looking LSD outlaws who had done jail time came around occasionally asking for psychedelics. I evaded their requests, having an intuition that they might have been turned by the feds. But one night, they came to a party at Quail House where people were dosing on ecstasy and 2cb — and the party was so small that it was virtually impossible to exclude them. I stood and watched while they took their doses.

A couple of hours later, I was sitting silently with Mu in the backyard — both of us sort of gazing at the creek — and I could hear these gentlemen chatting behind us. They were talking about how, sometimes, in the course of things, it had become necessary to “deal with someone.” And then one of them said, “but when you deal with someone, you always do it with a lot of love in your heart.”

By then, my initial thunderstruck response to Ecstasy — if you recall, “Surely, people couldn’t take this drug, this ecstasy, and not be changed by it. Surely…” had begun to fray around the edges. After all, I’d seen enough people who took ecstasy —myself included — continue to behave not all that differently from people who didn’t. I had also reached that point, familiar to X heads, where the experience starts to fall short of its original agape and merely becomes sort of pleasant and noodly. But I hadn’t really thought about any of this in any sort of focused way until I heard these “hitmen” talking, after taking their ecstasy hits. Indeed, ecstasy — mostly dealing it but also certainly taking it — soon became an element of rough outlaw culture.  The human tendency towards self-justification was not going to be easily displaced by a few chemical milligrams — or, at least, certainly not by gentle ecstasy. Additionally, some social scientists claim to have discovered that an amplification of empathic qualities can — in some cases — lead to a greater love for the tribe or the gang combined with a concurrent increase in hostility towards the excluded enemies/others.  Just a warning. Every panacea has its bite.  

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