Charles Wininger has been a psychotherapist and "psychonaut"—a user of psychoactive substances ranging from LSD to marijuana to psilocybin—for decades. In his new memoir and practical guide, Listening To Ecstasy: The Transformative Power of MDMA, the 71-year-old New Yorker comes out of the "chemical closet" to talk about how MDMA has helped to revitalize his personal and professional life, what important lessons today's "psychedelic renaissance" has learned from the 1960s counterculture, and why "serious fun" that leads to both self-actualization and the revitalization of community is within our grasp.
As MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder enters Phase 3 trials for FDA approval and voters around the country legalize or decriminalize the use of psychedelics, Wininger believes that the time has come to have honest discussions of how best to use what the government calls illicit drugs to create a better world. One way we make that happen, he says, "is for those who can do so and who dare to do so to come out of the chemical closet and say, 'I am a user of these compounds, they do me a lot of good, and they help me function in a better way. They help me become more creative, more alive and more useful to society as a whole.'"