A former MP will be shown on TV taking Class A drugs as part of an experiment due to be broadcast on Channel 4.

Liberal Democrat Evan Harris is one of six volunteers, including the author Lionel Shriver and actor Keith Allen who will be shown taking MDMA as part of the TV show Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Trial.

The controversial show has been criticised Julia Manning, chief executive of independent think-tank 2020 Health, who claim it will "celebritise" illegal substances.

"It's publicity-seeking TV at its worst," she told the Daily Mail.


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Experiment: the study will look to see if the Class A drug MDMA - pure ecstasy - can cure depression

But Val Curran, professor of psychology at University College London, who co-designed the study with former government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt, who was sacked for after claiming ecstasy was less dangerous than alcohol, told The Huffington Post UK the study was a legitimate scientific trial.

"We're not interested in sensationalism. We're just interested in the potential clinical benefits of these things," she said.

"We were interested in this because we're very concerned that MDMA has the potential to be an important therapeutic tool. We were trying to understand the brain mechanisms around that - we wanted to study the brain basis of that."

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Former MP Dr Harris said he wanted to help the study, telling the Radio Times he wasn't hoping to get a free high

MDMA has been used to treat depression before - for example in the case of Donna Kilgore, who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after being raped. The Observer reports she was given MDMA by a licensed therapist, Dr Michael Mithoefer, which she said helped "clear the fog."

But ecstasy has been involved in deaths in Britain, most notably in the case of Leah Betts, who died in 1995. According to drugscope there have been over 200 reported deaths in the UK involving the drug in some way.

Dr Harris told the Radio Times he wanted to help find a dose that might treat depression without giving the patient a high - but he denied he was "raving."

"In order to be allowed to take part in the trial, I needed to have taken ecstasy at least once before without any ill effects. Without going over my 'ecstasy history', I qualified," he admitted.

"I wasn't entering into this hoping to get a free high. I was just keen to help the study," the former MP said.

Professor Curran said that depression could be the most common disease in the world by 2030. "It's a huge problem and a third of people don't respond to available antidepressants.

"If you want to understand something and its potential for its therapeutic use. The only unusual bit is that Channel 4 funded it. It's a big need that we have to address. If you can address it this way, why not?"

A Home Office spokesperson said televising the use of drugs risked "trivialising" issues.

"Our licensing regime allows legitimate research to take place in a secure environment so that harmful drugs can't get into the hands of criminals. There is no evidence to suggest that the current listing of MDMA as a Schedule 1 substance is a barrier to attracting funding for legitimate purposes."

Channel 4's David Glover has defended the programme, saying it was "a brave and radical piece of television. "Obviously we don't want to be part of glamorising drug use.. The programmes will be about really rather sophisticated science."