Next week, the UK’s Channel 4 will launch their new series "Drugs Live' in which they give a bunch of people MDMA (the main ingredient in ecstasy) and film the results, all in the name of medical research.
People tripping balls on screens throughout UK households use raises a bunch of difficult questions, naturally. One risk is that it will make MDMA look fun and safe for impressionables. But you’d have to hope that people recognise there’s a big difference between popping a pill in a hospital given to you by a doctor while being monitored by other doctors, and putting something in your mouth you bought from a man called Steve who asks that you call him X at a warehouse rave in a grimy London suburb on a Monday morning. Surely context counts for something.
Weirdly, some relatively famous people will be getting high for this so-called ‘research’ too. Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin is one such volunteer. I’m not entirely sure of the reason why, especially as she appears to love it. According to The Guardian, Lionel had this to say about her experience on E ‘"Light. It's pleasant. There's an airiness and openness to the senses. A slight heightening of sensory perception, which I liked. The visual feeling is vivid. The colours are lush, which I enjoy. I might be a bit more alert to sounds. I feel physically relaxed and that is a pleasure." Getting a very good writer to describe drugs isn't the best idea. Maybe in the next scene she goes ape shit and puts a traffic cone up a tree or something.
It’s no surprise that it’s Channel 4 producing the show. Controversy is their game, whether it’s bringing us disgusting close ups of STDs on Embarrassing Bodies or keeping us alongside the drama in 24 hours in A&E. But drug-taking is a new sport altogether. They already been accused of publicity stunting, which I always think is a little redundant. Accusing a TV show of PR is a bit like getting angry that adverts are trying to sell you products. It doesn’t matter to me if Channel 4 want to capitalize on making TV, as it’s probably why they make TV, after all.
No, for me the disturbing thing about the show is the driving force behind the research. Those white coats in charge – Val Curran and David Nutt, are on a mission to make MDMA a prescription medicine for those suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and when no one else would fund their research, crazy old Channel 4 stepped in. Classic. Reality TV gone sideways. It’s this fact that makes me feel uneasy, as the show’s ultimate aim is actually to make MDMA appear as though it could be an innocent prescription medicine, yet another anti-depressant to join an already saturated market. Breaking down the show’s premise, I arrived at the conclusion that ‘Drugs Live’ serves to get rid of MDMA’s bad name. A good reason why TV should not be allowed to get involved in medical research, I reckon.