Daily Rounds: Ecstasy For Trauma; Gas Leaks In Boston; Feds Confront Pot Laws; MS Pill’s Downside

A ‘party drug’ may help the brain cope with trauma (The New York Times) — “The soldiers have no interest in traditional talking cures or prescription drugs that have given them little relief. They are lining up to try an alternative: MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, a party drug that surfaced in the 1980s and ’90s that can induce pulses of euphoria and a radiating affection. Government regulators criminalized the drug in 1985, placing it on a list of prohibited substances that includes heroin and LSD. But in recent years, regulators have licensed a small number of labs to produce MDMA for research purposes. “I feel survivor’s guilt, both for coming back from Iraq alive and now for having had a chance to do this therapy,” said Anthony, a 25-year-old living near Charleston, S.C., who asked that his last name not be used because of the stigma of taking the drug. “I’m a different person because of it.” In a paper posted online Tuesday by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, Michael and Ann Mithoefer, the husband-and-wife team offering the treatment — which combines psychotherapy with a dose of MDMA — write that they found 15 of 21 people who recovered from severe post-traumatic stress in the therapy in the early 2000s reported minor to virtually no symptoms today.”

Boston riddled with mostly small natural gas leaks, Boston University study finds (The Boston Globe) — “Natural gas is escaping from more than 3,300 leaks in Boston’s underground pipelines, according to a new Boston University study that underscores the explosion risk and environmental damage from aging infrastructure under city sidewalks and streets. The vast majority of the leaks are tiny, although six locations had gas levels higher than the threshold at which explosions could occur. Although there have been no reports of explosions in Boston from any of the leaks, the study comes three years after a Gloucester house exploded probably because of a cracked and corroded gas main dating to 1911. The research, being published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Pollution, confirms what Bostonians sometimes smell on city streets: a telltale whiff of gas.”

Will U.S. Try To Snuff Out State Marijuana Laws? (NPR) — “Here’s the problem: A federal law called the Controlled Substances Act still ranks marijuana as a dangerous and addictive drug, in the same class as heroin. That old law is rubbing against a new coalition of voters, particularly in Western states. In fact, on Election Day, more voters in Colorado and Washington cast their ballots for marijuana legalization than for President Obama.”

As MS Pill Debuts, Doctors Prescribe A Dose Of Caution (The Wall Street Journal) — “Generally, Dr. Steinman says he will prescribe Gilenya to new patients who haven’t tried one of the older therapies, have aggressive cases of multiple sclerosis and want to take a pill. Gilenya reduced relapses by 54% at two years treatment, according to Novartis AG, NOVN.VX -0.72% its maker. Yet Dr. Steinman says Gilenya won’t work for some patients. He wouldn’t give it to heart patients, because it could dangerously slow their heart beats, which could lead to death. Another concern with Gilenya, which works by suppressing the immune system, is that it increases the risk of herpes virus infections that can lead to shingles.”

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