The study participant, referred to as Brendan, was enrolled in a clinical trial in February 2020, led by University of Chicago professor of psychiatry and behavioral science Harriet de Wit.
De Wit’s double-blind study was investigating how MDMA affects the “pleasantness of social touch.”
Upon its completion, Brendan submitted a form to researchers, writing, “This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do.”
Having spoken with both de Wit and Brendan after the completion of the study, Nuwer writes that researchers were surprised to learn that Brendan had been a leader of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group previously known as the American Identity Movement.
Brendan had lost his job due to his extremist views two months prior to enrolling in the clinical trial.
After researchers confronted Brendan about the cryptic message, he responded with the simple message: “Love is the most important thing. Nothing matters without love.”
Speaking of Brendan’s response, de Wit told the BBC, “It’s what everyone says about this damn drug, that it makes people feel love. To think that a drug could change somebody’s beliefs and thoughts without any expectations – it’s mind-boggling.”
However, Nuwer specifies that this instance is not necessarily the norm and that MDMA can’t “solve” extremist views outright.
Nuwer also reports that Brendan continued to struggle with making connections after the trial, eventually deciding to undergo therapy, hire a diversity, equity, and inclusion coach, and start meditating.
“I realized I’d been fixated on stuff that doesn’t really matter, and is just so messed up, and that I’d been totally missing the point,” Brendan told the BBC. “I hadn’t been soaking up the joy that life has to offer.”
Check out the full story from the BBC’s Rachel Nuwer here.
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