Canwest News Service
On Sept. 19 this year, 12 people gathered in the suburban Hermsdorf district of Berlin for a group psychotherapy session that allegedly involved illegal drugs. A day later, two of the participants were dead and another in a coma. The substances used and exact cause of death have yet to be confirmed. Local newspaper reports claimed that heroin and MDMA (Ecstasy) were taken, but other drugs may have been in circulation.
Garri Rober, the therapist who led the session, which included his wife, Elke, is facing possible charges in connection with the deaths and on suspicion of supplying illegal drugs. The other nine participants were released from hospital the next day.
This tragedy, which received international coverage, threatens to derail a fledgling renaissance in legitimate research using psychedelic drugs in the management of common disorders from migraines to obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety associated with life-threatening illness.
LSD, the drug that went on to fuel 1960s counterculture, was first explored as a treatment for conditions ranging from neurosis to alcoholism during the '50s, the "golden age" of psychedelic research. As its use spread from the consulting room to the street, concern about its misuse grew, and it was banned in 1968. MDMA was first used by U.S. therapists in the 1970s before it was adopted by rave music and dance culture and subsequently banned in 1987.
At the time, little medical evidence of worth had been accumulated about the effectiveness of these drugs in therapy, but now studies using LSD, MDMA and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic ingredient in "magic mushrooms," are under way in several countries including the U.K. and U.S. …