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Recreational use of the drug 'Ecstasy' causes new kind of brain damage

ate the neurotoxic risks posed by Ecstasy to humans, said Ricaurte.

To measure the adverse effects of Ecstasy, also known as MDMA or 3,4-methylene-dioxymethamphetamine, the researchers gave squirrel monkeys three sequential doses of Ecstasy at three-hour intervals. Following this regimen, which is similar to that used by recreational Ecstasy users at all-night parties, they found that in addition to serotonin deficits, which the drug has been known to cause for some time, the monkeys unexpectedly developed severe, long-lasting brain dopamine deficits.

Then, using a variety of techniques to look at a region of the brain called the striatum, they found that 60 percent to 80 percent of the dopaminergic nerve endings were destroyed. To determine if these results were unique to squirrel monkeys, the researchers performed the experiments again, this time with baboons, and obtained similar findings of neuronal injury.

"We do not yet know if our findings in nonhuman primates will generalize to human beings but, needless to say, this is a major concern," said Ricaurte.

"The message seems clear," added Ricaurte. "The neurotoxic potential of MDMA is high, and use of several sequential recreational doses could have serious, long-term consequences."

Glen R. Hanson, Ph.D., D.D.S., acting director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, adds, "This study underscores the need for more research about the extent and nature of the damage that Ecstasy may cause. Clearly, the implications of these findings are cause for concern and should serve as a warning to those thinking about using Ecstasy."


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Contact: Trent Stockton
tstockt1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
26-Sep-2002


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