London Play 'Give Me Your Love' Explores MDMA Therapy For PTSD

By John Lavitt 02/01/16

The play is the second part in a projected trilogy on mental health by the theater troupe. 

London Play 'Give Me Your Love' Explores MDMA Therapy For PTSD
Photo via Shutterstock

MDMA therapy for post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is the subject of the new London play Give Me Your Love. Put on by the two-man troupe Ridiculusmus, the question asked by the two actors and co-creators of the play, David Woods and John Haynes, is whether the drug ecstasy (MDMA) could help to heal a damaged soldier. Although ecstasy is known to enhance mood and boost the senses in a dance club or rave environment, the play explores the drug’s potential as a therapeutic adjunct. 

Profoundly impacting people’s lives, PTSD produces changes in the brain. PTSD decreases activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in memory and emotional learning, while increasing activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain associated with the fear response. As a presynaptic releasing agent of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with happiness and wellbeing, MDMA counteracts this negative reaction. The drug-induced feeling generated by ecstasy minimizes fear while heightening emotional connection and good feelings. 

Extremely challenging to perform, Give Me Your Love demands an emotional commitment from the actors. As the last man standing, war veteran Zach has retreated into what he believes is a tiny dugout under a barrage of hostile fire. Zach spends most of the play in a cardboard box in his kitchen. His imaginary enemies are cunning, using every trick in the book to mess with his mind. His wife Carol whispers that it’s safe and the war is over, but Zach can’t accept that reality. She then suggests MDMA therapy as a way out of the box.

Informed by the scientific research into the use of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress, Give Me Your Love uses wit, warmth and black comedy to explore the healing potential of altered states of consciousness. The latest show from the multi-award winning theatre company behind The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland, Ridiculusmus had its origins in 1992 as an expression of Dadaist comedy, and elements of that absurdism remain in this show.

When researching the play, the co-creators spoke to veterans, who had fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. The damaged warriors had tried various therapies and drugs for 18 years with no luck. MDMA, however, as one veteran pointed out, changed his life. With the initial research in their heads, the artists developed the dramatic framework that evolved into the play. The edge is walked through the dark comedy, as when Carol backtracks in the face of the stigma attached to drugs by angrily asking, “How many celebrities are in rehab because they’ve taken bloody ecstasy?”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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