Brendan was enrolled on a clinical trial in February of 2020 led by Harriet de Wit, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural science at the University of Chicago. The double-blind study tested healthy volunteers looking at how MDMA affects the ‘pleasantness of social touch’.
After the trial had finished, Brendan submitted a form to researchers, writing in bold letters: “This experience has helped me sort out a debilitating personal issue. Google my name. I now know what I need to do.”
According to Rachel Nuwer, who wrote on the study and Brendan’s reformed views after it had commenced, researchers googled Brendan’s name and were surprised to see that he had been a leader of Identity Evropa, a notorious white nationalist group then known as the American Identity Movement.
Brendan had also attended the ‘Unite The Right’ rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and lost his job as a result of his extremist views just two months before clinical trials had begun.
After confronting him, researchers were told by Brendan: “Love is the most important thing. Nothing matters without love.”
“It’s what everyone says about this damn drug, that it makes people feel love,” lead researcher Harriet de Wit told the BBC. “To think that a drug could change somebody’s beliefs and thoughts without any expectations – it’s mind-boggling.”
Read this next: MDMA in the UK is reportedly at “its purest” in years
Despite Brendan’s shift in views, Nuwer points out that this is an unusual one-off and could just be a temporary fix – MDMA can’t simply ‘solve’ extremist views.
Nuwer wrote that Brendan was still struggling with making connections following the trial, and decided to undergo therapy, hire a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant, and begin meditating.
“I conceived of my relationships with other people not as distinct boundaries with distinct entities, but more as we-are-all-one,” he said. “I realised 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. I hadn’t been soaking up the joy that life has to offer.”
Read the full story from Rachel Nuwer here.
Gemma Ross is Mixmag’s Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins