December 03, 2006
Light Ecstasy Drug Use May Cause Brain Damage

MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more popularly known as Ecstasy) probably does damage to your neurons and brain vasculature even after a small amount of usage.

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.”

Note that Dr. de Win is in the Netherlands and therefore probably not under the control of what some paranoids see as a US government plot to produce lots of false propagandistic drug research which supposedly has corrupted all drug research in America. But who knows. Maybe the CIA does international work for the US National Institute on Drug Absue

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.

So we know that MDMA in longer term users causes damage. But these researchers wanted to find out how quickly the damage appears to show up. So they recruited malleable young minds who were just about to tune in, turn on, and drop out (anyone else remember that drug documentary with Timothy Leary?).

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 ecstasy users experienced decreased blood flow in some brain regions and decreased verbal memory performance.

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.

Unless you happen to have the body and face of a Mischa Barton or a Paris Hilton your brain is probably your most valuable asset. Damaging it for transitory kicks does not seem like a wise strategy. Even Mischa and Paris will reduce their earnings potential if they damage their brains. Please Mischa, be careful. You too Jessica Alba.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 December 03 10:41 AM  Brain Addiction

Joe said at December 3, 2006 11:54 AM:

Um, isnt it more likely that subjects who recently decided to get into MDMA were stoned at the time of the tests, or hungover, or slee derived...

Just a thought...

Id like to see the controls

Joshua Allen said at December 4, 2006 7:18 PM:

Naturally, people with extremely high IQs and productive lives who do such things regularly and chronically over decades would not be likely to jump in and challenge the speculation about long-term life effects. People with external locus of control should go nowhere near drugs (or other people, for that matter).

Randall Parker said at December 4, 2006 10:02 PM:


The problem is that if illicit drugs are legalized for the people who can handle them they are also legalized for the people who can not handle them.

As for high IQ people: They have more capacity to lose before the losses begin to cut into their effectiveness. We should not design society's laws for them. We should design society's laws for those who have far less capacity.

ramster said at December 5, 2006 10:59 AM:

Fair enough, doing E may damage your brain. But how does this damage compare to the effect on your brain of drinking 10 beers (or any other form of alcohol). Unless we can do a relative harm comparison with legal options for brain damage, this information doesn't tell us much.

Bob Badour said at December 7, 2006 7:59 AM:


It tells you that it causes brain damage. How much more do you need to know? Are you suggesting that brain damage is ever desirable?

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