Response by Belladonna Dioszegi
on "Research on Ecstasy is Clouded by Errors" by Donald G. McNeil Jr.
New York Times writer Donald G. McNeil responds to Dr. Ricaurte's scientific studies on Ecstasy. According to Mr. McNeil's sources, these studies were highly inadequate and inaccurate, where a particular study was even retracted due to a mix up in labels. Many of Dr Ricaurte's mentors, fellow scientists, and examinees are quoted throughout the article, all admitting Dr. Ricaurte's methods and results to be not quite up to par. From postcards showing holes in brains of excessive users to claiming Ecstasy causes the tremors of Parkinsonism, Dr. Ricaurte is proven wrong on every front.
The very first paragraph draws the readers in by identifying a well known, costly study preformed on primates to be completely invalid, stating the labels on methamphetamines and Ecstasy were mixed up. “What a comical mistake”, I thought, and continued reading. Mr. McNeil backs up his first statement by proceeding to give examples of other work the Dr. has published and the comments of other professionals and scientists familiar with Ricaurte. All of which either make claims against the Dr.'s results or his sloppy methods. It would seem that everything Dr. Ricaurte has done or said is in some way comical and hard to take seriously. The article concludes with a study on two male patients who took a large amount of Ecstasy, among other drugs. The patients stated they were jet lagged and sedated as the tests were preformed, and that it was a biased exam that seemed bent on proving they had some sort of brain damage. Despite the 4 years of heavy drug use, one man is a graduate in Chemistry at “a leading university”, and the other works at a law firm and “is in line for a federal job”.
With not a single sense of praise or credibility included, I am left to wonder how a man supposedly so incompetent could be taken seriously; or is this portrayal of Dr. Ricaurte unfair and more belittling than he deserves? Based on my own lack of knowledge on Dr. Ricaurte, and Mr. McNeil's known credibility, I am immediately enticed to take McNeil's word for it, at first. Then the five pages of Dr. Ricaurte's petty claims and quotes of others down talking him, it starts to feel like just a negative buildup against Dr. Ricaurte, and becomes hard to take seriously. For the man to be a ranking scientist, how can all of his methods be less than desirable? Mr. McNeil makes no effort to a counterargument, giving Dr. Ricaurte no saving grace. The information provided seems accurate, but I would have preferred it to include some positive aspects in the Dr.'s research, so I could better form my own opinion on him.
Despite the one-sided opinions portrayed, the article is well written and an intriguing read. I particularly found the short paragraph explaining the medical use of Ecstasy to be interesting. It was often used to help patients with trauma or anxiety talk about the event or their upsetting experience with ease, without the sleep inducing effects a sedative would create. In 1985, when Ecstasy was outlawed, this productive use for the drug ceased to be practiced for fear of prosecution.