Professor Andy Parrott claimed it was a "very powerful" substance that could cause major physical and social harm. He presented his argument to a Government advisory council which is considering whether MDMA - the chemical name for the clubbers' drug - should be reclassified from Class A to Class B.
Prof Parrott, from the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, said: "It's not a weak drug. It is one of the most powerful of the recreational drugs." He said that over the course of 14 years researching the issue, a number of problems had been reported by users, in particular those who took ecstasy regularly over a long period of time. In the immediate term, the stimulant damaged the brain and body by affecting neurotransmitters, causing the release of serotonin and leading to an increase in levels of the stress hormone cortisol while long term effects could include immune system problems, functional deficits in cognitive tests, altered information-processing, sleep disorders, memory problems, sexual dysfunction, as well as overheating (hyperpyrexia)-related deaths, liver and heart problems, according to Prof Parrott.
Users found it took several days to recover from the weekend high created by ecstasy, with some experiencing "mid-week blues", increased aggression and loss of appetite. The new chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, Professor David Nutt, has previously suggested ecstasy is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. Prof Parrott gave a scathing criticism of two articles written by Prof Nutt in the last two years, one of which ranked ecstasy as 18th out of 20 drugs in terms of "harm".
Nutt et al's rational scale for drug-related harm was published in 2007 in the Lancet and put heroin in number one position, followed by cocaine in second while tobacco was ninth.
However, using evidence which he said Prof Nutt should have included, Prof Parrott's findings placed ecstasy in fifth place. "I have been fairly conservative," said Prof Parrott. "I was trying not to overstate it. But ecstasy is up there with the other Class A drugs as the fifth most dangerous drug.
"My proposal is it should remain a Class A drug.
"The proposal to downgrade MDMA should be withdrawn."
Prof Parrott, who said he had already given Prof Nutt his views, also called for the Lancet article to be retracted because it was "full of factual errors". Prof Nutt said the ACMD would consider all evidence on the issue of reclassifying MDMA/ecstasy before it prepared a report to go to ministers in January. After the public session of today's meeting in central London, council members continued discussions on the subject in private.
Source: Metro News; http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article...ims_expert&in_article_id=417721&in_page_id=34