Ecstasy can harm the brains of first-time users

By Lunar Loops · Nov 28, 2006 · ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    Nothing very conclusive here and whilst they say that "we cannot conclude that ecstasy, even in small doses, is safe for the brain", they can not conclude that it is unsafe either.

    This from (
    Ecstasy can harm the brains of first-time users

    CHICAGO -- Researchers have discovered that even a small amount of MDMA, better known as ecstasy, can be harmful to the brain, according to the first study to look at the neurotoxic effects of low doses of the recreational drug in new ecstasy users. The findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
    “We found a decrease in blood circulation in some areas of the brain in young adults who just started to use ecstasy,” said Maartje de Win, M.D., radiology resident at the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “In addition, we found a relative decrease in verbal memory performance in ecstasy users compared to non-users.”
    Ecstasy is an illegal drug that acts as a stimulant and psychedelic. A 2004 survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that 450,000 people in the United States age 12 and over had used ecstasy in the past 30 days. In 2005, NIDA estimated that 5.4 percent of all American 12th graders had taken the drug at least once.
    Ecstasy targets neurons in the brain that use the chemical serotonin to communicate. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating a number of mental processes including mood and memory.
    Research has shown that long-term or heavy ecstasy use can damage these neurons and cause depression, anxiety, confusion, difficulty sleeping and decrease in memory. However, no previous studies have looked at the effects of low doses of the drug on first-time users.
    Dr. de Win and colleagues examined 188 volunteers with no history of ecstasy use but at high-risk for first-time ecstasy use in the near future. The examinations included neuroimaging techniques to measure the integrity of cells and blood flow in different areas of the brain and various psychological tests. After 18 months, 59 first-time ecstasy users who had taken six tablets on average and 56 non-users were re-examined with the same techniques and tests.
    The study found that low doses of ecstasy did not severely damage the serotonergic neurons or affect mood. However, there were indications of subtle changes in cell architecture and decreased blood flow in some brain regions, suggesting prolonged effects from the drug, including some cell damage. In addition, the results showed a decrease in verbal memory performance among low-dose ecstasy users compared to non-users.
    “We do not know if these effects are transient or permanent,” Dr. de Win said. “Therefore, we cannot conclude that ecstasy, even in small doses, is safe for the brain, and people should be informed of this risk.”
    This research is part of the Netherlands XTC Toxicity (NeXT) study, which also looks at high-dose ecstasy users and aims to provide information on long-term effects of ecstasy use in the general population.
    Co-authors are Gerard J. Den Heeten, M.D., Ph.D., Gerry Jager, M.S., Liesbeth Reneman, M.D., T. Schilt, M.S., Jan Booij, M.D., Ph.D., C. Lavini, D.Phil., and Win van den Brink, M.D., Ph.D.

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  1. Nature Boy
    This study reminds me of the infamous "one ecstasy pill can cause brain damage" study that was funded by the DEA in the late 80s. It's difficult to take any data released by NIDA seriously when organisations similar have blatantly lied in the past. The results also seem rather inconclusive and vague. What exactly does verbal memory performance cover? Would this mean that the researchers are 100% sure of one's verbal range before taking ecstasy then they can tell how it decreased afterwards? Seems pretty far-fetched to me.
  2. Bajeda
    A Prospective Cohort Study on Sustained Effects of Low-Dose Ecstasy Use on the Brain in New Ecstasy Users

    Thats the study in question, and given that he was a contributor towards this study I find it surprising that there is no mention of Gerry Jager's dissertation on long-term effects of cannabis and MDMA use on memeory. Maybe because it hasn't been released in its entirety yet. Still, the abstract shows the results are leaning towards that of the similar cannabis study I uploaded to the archive, where no negative effects were observed after a period of abstinence.

    BajEdit: To NatureBoy, I wouldn't worry about the mention of the NIDA too much. While they are stupid assholes, this study appears legitamite. Scientists can be notoriously overanalytical when looking at things, its their job. Wait for the other studies to be released to get a better picture of the results, especially since its many of the same researchers working on mulitple studies.
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