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  1. Guttz
    Study contradicts previous research on effects of class A drug

    Taking the drug Ecstasy does not impair mental function, according to a new study, which criticises previous research that showed cognitive difference between users and non-users.

    Tests comparing 52 Ecstasy users in the US with 59 non-users show that consumption does not lead to loss of mental ability, according to findings reported in the journal Addiction. Earlier studies that found impairment of brain power were flawed, it says.

    However lead author John Halpern, of McLean hospital in Massachussetts, warned that the drug is still risky. "Illegally-made pills can contain harmful contaminants, there are no warning labels, there is no medical supervision, and in rare cases people are physically harmed or even die from overdosing," he said.

    Denis Campbell
    The Guardian, Tuesday 15 February 2011


  1. Terrapinzflyer
    A horrible article on an interesting study. (full paper has been requested)

    I had seen John Halpern present some preliminary data on this study at the MAPS conference last year, and am looking forward to reading the whole paper.

    A side note- the subjects where found in Utah, mormon country, where drugs tend to be very unaccepted, which allowed then a unique chance to find users in the rave scene who did not have a history of poly drug use, which is rather unique for such studies.
  2. Terrapinzflyer
    Ecstasy study questions drug's longer-term effects

    New research suggests that the drug Ecstasy - used on its own - does not have residual effects on brain performance, according to a study published this week in the journal Addiction.

    The Santa Cruz-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies contributed $15,000 for an initial 2004 study on Ecstasy use. That work led to a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that was spearheaded by John Halpern of Harvard Medical School.
    The association for psychedelic studies has been conducting research to potentially use Ecstasy to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, and researchers said the new study likely would prompt more research and understanding of the drug.

    "I think this really provides some important new information for people to understand," Halpern said from Belmont, Mass. on Wednesday. "This isn't saying the drug is harm free. But let's not oversell what the risks are and what they're not."

    Peter Nichols, chairman of the Santa Cruz County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, said he hoped the study would not encourage people to take Ecstasy or other illegal drugs.

    "If there's a medicinal value in it, I'm sure that it will get sorted out. But hopefully it won't be spun in some way to get youth to try it," Nichols said. "The county has enough trouble trying to help out the addicts that we have already."

    The study started when a member of the association for psychedelic studies from Salt Lake City talked to the association about a group of Ecstasy users involved in all-night dance parties in Utah.

    The users were typically members of the Church of Latter Day Saints or nonmembers who also did not drink or take other drugs, Halpern said. Around Salt Lake City, the study whittled 1,500 prospective participants to 52 Ecstasy users and 59 non-users from age 18 to 45.

    Each participant had taken Ecstasy at least 20 times in their life with a median of 75 times, Halpern said. However, participants had minimal exposure to other drugs or alcohol. Ecstasy was not on a list of forbidden drugs at the time, researchers said.
    The distinction of participants who only used Ecstasy was important because researchers said that previous studies were muddled. Participants had used other drugs, and the studies that showed harmful effects of Ecstasy could have been influenced by other drugs and factors.

    "The vast majority had used cocaine or marijuana, and it was very hard to tell if it was that or Ecstasy that caused the problems," said Burge.

    Also, the control group in the new study attended the same all-night dance parties as the Ecstasy users, so they too were exposed to hydration issues and hours of physical activity.

    Each participant was tested for drug use several times to ensure they were honest about their use or sobriety in the five-year study, Halpern said. A psychiatrist interviewed each person several times and they were tested on problem solving, spatial organization and other topics.

    The study, which was peer-reviewed, concluded that "marked residual cognitive effects" were not found in Ecstasy users.

    The drug can offer a euphoric feeling for three hours or more, but other research points out several hazards in the drug's short-term use.

    The web page of UC Santa Cruz's Student Health Center, for example, states that heatstroke is the most common cause of injury or death related to the drug in recreational use. Users often dance in hot places for hours without rest or fluids.
    Depression can also sink in the day after taking ecstasy as serotonin levels dive, and the drug can be laced with other drugs. It can also be addictive.

    Burge said the new study is likely to be a launching pad for more research on the consequences and potential benefits of Ecstasy. The association of psychedelic studies has been conducting research on potential uses of the ingredients in Ecstasy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other disorders.

    The Addiction story is titled, "Residual neurocognitive features of long-term ecstasy users with minimal exposure to other drugs."

    Burge and others are quick to point out that none of the research is intended to condone recreational drug use. Also, Ecstasy users in Santa Cruz County and elsewhere typically do not use Ecstasy only, so the drug's effects aren't necessarily harmless in the real world, researchers said.

    "We certainly don't want to be promoting recreational illicit drug use," Burge said. "You never know what's in it."

    Burge and Halpern said they valued the $1.8 million grant for the study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Much of the money was spent on the research team's hours of work and lab testing for drug use, Halpern said.

    Addiction is an international academic journal that publishes in London.

    Locally, authorities said Ecstasy use appears to be low compared with other drugs.
    Rudy Escalante, Watsonville police deputy chief and a board member at the drug and alcohol treatment center Janus, said other drugs are more common. Meth, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and heroin are the big five, Escalante said.

    By Stephen Baxter -- Santa Cruz Sentinel
    Posted: 02/16/2011 08:06:58 PM PST

  3. God hates me
    Swim has been reading some books recently and apparently drugs such as methamphetamine are not uncommon in Mormon communities, the theory being because they have already committed some sort of crime that they are then willing to do other acts to make sure they survive... But he doesn't know how substantiated these claims are
  4. jaffacake
    I always thought those "We injected an enormous amount directly into the rats brain every 6 hours for 2 weeks, then cut open it's brain and Look - there's "brain damage" were bullshit. Incredible how easy it is to spread scare stories tho - all it takes is some bullshit about rats brains, a few kids going "Yeah, I took some last night and I feel like really radical brain damage today" and an urban myth is born.

    Hopefully we'll be able to put all the scare story bullshit to bed.
  5. Descartesx
    It is nice to see a larger sample size in such a study. As my fox is aware, there have been problems in the past with gaining reliable information from not having enough participants- given everybody has different body chemistry.
  6. Terrapinzflyer
    full paper is in the archives HERE
  7. Priapism9
    This sounds nice, but if swim is (and many of swiys are) honest with himself, he will acknowledge that his memory was the first thing to go to shit after repeated MDMA use. Swim had a lackluster memory capability before, and literally draws a complete blank on a regular basis after MDMA use ... so ... im not so sure swims experiences match the results of this study.

    Then again, fatigue seems to play a huge role in the whole brain "power" issue. For a solid week, and sometimes a couple weeks after MDMA use, swim is in a brain fog ... and its this lack of "strength" in swims brain that makes him unable to remember things easily. But it really seems to be more of an effect of physical and mental tiredness than anything else. After a week or two, and some nights of great sleep, when swim is alert again, his memory seems fine. MDMA absolutely impairs his brain function temporarily though. But this is why one should only partake once a month at most.
  8. Terrapinzflyer
    Ecstasy dangers 'unclear'

    "Ecstasy does not wreck the mind,” The Guardian reported. According to the newspaper, experts have said that previous research into ecstasy was flawed and that “too many previous studies have made over-arching conclusions from insufficient data”.

    The news is based on a US study in 111 people that compared brain function in ecstasy users and non-users. It differed from other studies as it recruited both sets of participants from nightclubs in order to compare people with similar recreational habits. It also excluded people who took drugs other than ecstasy or drank alcohol excessively to prevent these substances clouding any effects of ecstasy. The study found that ecstasy users and non-users performed equally well in cognitive tests.

    However, the number of participants was low and the researchers highlight that the small sample size may have prevented an effect from being observed. Additionally, the study did not follow the participants over time to assess whether their brains had changed with ecstasy use. While the study was well conducted, illicit drug use can be difficult to research, and this research cannot confirm that ecstasy is a safe drug.

    Where did the story come from?

    The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard University and was funded by a grant from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Addiction.

    The Guardian reported that there is no evidence that ecstasy causes brain damage. While this study was well conducted, it was relatively small and did not follow people over time. Without further research, it is not possible to say conclusively that this statement is correct.

    What kind of research was this?

    In this cross-sectional study, the researchers looked at the effects of ecstasy use on cognitive function. They pointed out that several confounding factors could have plausibly introduced bias into other research in this field, resulting in findings that have over-estimated ecstasy–induced brain impairment or toxicity.

    The confounding factors in these studies may have been behaviours common to people who use ecstasy that have an impact on brain function. For example, naturalistic studies that have looked at cognitive function in ecstasy users may not have compared them to non-users with similar lifestyle experiences, such as sleep and fluid deprivation that occurs from all-night dancing, which may produce long-lasting cognitive effects. The researchers point out that other studies also failed to screen participants for ecstasy, other illicit drugs and alcohol on the day of testing, leaving them open to the possibility of surreptitious drug use. Ecstasy users additionally reported extensive use of other drugs, which may potentially also lead to brain changes.

    In this study, the researchers performed an analysis comparing ecstasy users to non-users sourced from nightclubs. The researchers also attempted to control for possible confounding factors by excluding individuals with significant lifestyle exposure to other illicit drugs or alcohol, and by performing drug and alcohol tests on the participants. In addition, participants were asked to report their drug and alcohol consumption. They also used as a comparison group people who had similar “rave” lifestyles but did not take ecstasy.

    What did the research involve?

    The researchers advertised for participants in all-night dance venues. The participants were screened over the telephone for their use of ecstasy and other inclusion and exclusion criteria. The telephone interview also included irrelevant questions, such as questions about tobacco or caffeine consumption, to try to stop the participants guessing what the study was about.

    The study recruited two sets of participants aged 18 to 45 years old. One group reported either 17 or more lifetime episodes of ecstasy use, and the second group reported that they had never used ecstasy. The participants had all attended at least 10 all-night dance parties, staying awake until at least 4.30am.

    The researchers excluded people who:
    •had used cannabis more than 100 times in their life or any other illicit drug more than 10 times

    •had been intoxicated with alcohol more than 50 times, defined as consuming at least four drinks (12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits) within a four-hour period

    •had a history of head injury with loss of consciousness that was judged clinically significant or a history of other medical illnesses that might affect cognitive function

    •were currently using psychoactive medications (however, participants reporting psychiatric symptoms but not taking medicine were not excluded)

    In their evaluation, the researchers asked about the participants’ history of episodes, doses and settings of lifetime ecstasy use, and took a history of psychiatric disorders from childhood to adulthood, such as ADHD, depression and anxiety. Four weeks after the initial evaluation, the participants underwent a battery of tests to assess their cognitive function (memory, language and mental dexterity) and their current mood. The participants had been asked to refrain from taking ecstasy for 10 days before these tests. The participants additionally underwent drug and alcohol testing.

    For statistical analyses, the ecstasy users were grouped as “moderate” users, reporting 17 to 50 lifetime episodes of ecstasy use, and “heavy users”, who had taken ecstasy over 50 times in their life. The researchers used a statistical technique, called linear regression, to model how ecstasy use influenced cognitive function. In this model, they factored in other variables that may contribute to cognitive function, such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, parental education level, history of ADHD and family history of psychiatric illness or substance abuse.

    What were the basic results?

    The researchers recruited 52 ecstasy users and 59 non-users. Owing to difficulties in recruiting, they relaxed their criteria for six individuals who had taken other drugs.

    The two recruited groups were generally similar, with the only differences being that ecstasy users were more frequently non-white, reported lower levels of parental education and had lower vocabulary than non-users.

    The researchers found no differences in the cognitive test scores achieved by users and non-users.

    When the researchers separately compared moderate and heavy ecstasy users to non-users, they found no differences in their scores for most of the tests. Relative to non-users, moderate ecstasy users scored lower in 3 out of the 40 tests, but the scores of the heavy-use group did not differ from that of non-users.

    How did the researchers interpret the results?

    The researchers suggested their study may show that “illicit ecstasy use, by itself, does not generally produce lasting residual neurotoxicity” (brain damage). They further suggest that, as they took unusual care to minimise factors that might bias results, it is plausible that the results of some earlier studies, which suggested that ecstasy impaired brain function or caused brain damage, could be attributed to these confounding factors.

    However, they also say that the lack of a difference in cognitive function between the groups may be because they were unable to detect an effect rather than because one did not exist. They also highlight that only six participants had very high ecstasy exposure (over 150 episodes). Given these two plausible explanations for not finding a difference, they say that the effect of ecstasy on the brain remains “incompletely resolved”.


    This well-conducted research attempted to eliminate the influence of factors that could have affected earlier research into the effects of ecstasy on the brain. The study assessed ecstasy use in people who did not use any other drugs and compared them to individuals who did not take ecstasy but regularly went out dancing all night.

    Although the researchers took into account these confounding factors, it is not possible to say definitively that ecstasy does not affect cognitive function or cause damage to the brain because of several limitations:

    •This was a cross-sectional study, which means that the assessment of cognitive function was made at one point in time. It is not possible to say from these results whether ecstasy use would affect the brain over time.

    •The study was not randomised. This means that the two groups may have differed in respects other than their use of ecstasy. Therefore, even if a difference in cognitive function had been found, it would not be possible to say that this was definitely due to ecstasy use as differences in factors, such as education, could be responsible.

    •Owing to the strict inclusion criteria (people who only took ecstasy without any other drugs and non-users who attended all-night dancing venues), the number of participants was small. It is, therefore, possible that the sample was too small to detect the differences between the two groups.

    •Some exclusion criteria, such as having fewer than 50 sustained drinking sessions, were relatively restrictive given that the study looked at illegal drug use. Therefore, the participants may not have been representative of typical ecstasy users. It also suggested that participants may not have mixed their ecstasy use with drinking or other drugs, a behaviour that might potentially have some effect on the brain.

    •This study looked at cognitive function using various tests, but did not look at brain structures (such as by using brain scans). As this study was not designed to detect brain damage and did not follow people over time, any differences it might have found in brain function could not have been confirmed as permanent or temporary.

    This study has highlighted the importance of the confounding factors involved in this type of drug research, but has not fully resolved whether ecstasy impairs brain function.

    Tuesday February 22 2011

  9. machinelf
    This is a big news study conducted by Harvard and funded by the NIDA.

    The media and the certain medical professionals have been screaming about the
    dangers of MDMA for years now.

    Look at all the media outlets who have picked up this story --

    I'm not able to link because of forum rules. But search for this story on Google news.
    Ten's of media outlets have picked up the story.

    If this was a negative story, it would be screaming from every newspaper in the country.

    Why are they afraid to touch this story?
  10. Motorhead
    The mainstream media is controlled by politics and big business. Since the early 20th century and the days of 'yellow journalism', it has been the papers job to spread the word about the scourge of drugs. They routinely ignore logical arguments and sound scientific study in efforts to maintain the political party line propaganda of prohibition.

    But thanks to the internet, an increase of smaller independent media outlets and social media, more and more positive, logical information about drugs, prohibition, and alternative drug policies are emerging.
  11. Terrapinzflyer
    I do largely agree- there is still a taboo around recreational use. Yet I will say that really since the MAPS psychedelic sciences in the 21st century there has been a big increase in reporting of the therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

    We have also recently seen the Seattle washington paper come out in favor of marijuana legalization, and more professing support for medical marijuana in their states...

    Things are slowly shifting, but one must realize in most markets the majority of their readership will have much less liberal views about drugs.

    As one of the turtles aardvarks friends used to say: "increments, its all about increments"
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