"Better living through chemistry," was the official slogan of DuPont chemicals for decades. It became the ironic cri de coeur of hippies in the 1960s, who started to experiment with psychedelic drugs ranging from LSD to mescaline to magic mushrooms.
One of those old hippies is Charles Wininger, a 71-year-old Brooklyn-based psychotherapist and relationship specialist who Newsday once dubbed "the Love Doctor." Wininger has recently come out of what he calls "the chemical closet" with his new book Listening to Ecstasy: The Transformative Power of MDMA, which is both a how-to guide and memoir of how this drug impacted his relationship with his wife Shelley, a retired nurse.
Variously known as ecstasy or molly, MDMA was banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1985 but is now in Phase 3 trials for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is likely to be legal again for medical use within a couple of years. Wininger isn't waiting. While he doesn't use the substance in a professional setting, he tells Reason that it has benefited him enormously on a personal level. "It's like taking a chemical helicopter ride above my life," he says, "I can look out at where I've been, where I am in my life, and perhaps to the horizon where I want to go. It gives me this sense of perspective that is priceless. Then I can come back down and rededicate myself to the way I want to be living."
Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt. Camera by Jim Epstein.
Photo: Scott Houston/Polaris/Newscom; Yuko Saito-Miller/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; World History Archive/Newscom