Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Ecstasy" is not causing brain damage!

After serious research, medical experts from Harvard have come to this shocking discovery.  They have also criticized all previous studies on the subject of harmfulness of MDMA.

Most recent research that has shown that it is not true that "ecstasy" causes brain damage, like it was considered and substantiated with many studies a decade ago, has caused shock and concern. How to tell the public now that "ecstasy" is not bad, given that its use is widespread and that it is the cheapest drug? Will these results encourage more drug use, and will those who had doubts whether to try the "party pill" or not now be persuaded to do so?

Research that proves that the pill, without which rave can not be imagined, is not harmful, is one of the largest that studied consequences of taking MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, official title of this illegal substance) and was conducted by a team led by Professor John Halpern from Harvard Medical School. The results were published last week in a magazine "Addiction".

Experiments from Harvard have shown that cognitive abilities of "ecstasy" users are equal to those that are "clean”.  Until now, the consumption of "ecstasy" was associated with the damage of the central nervous system.  With his results, Halpern openly criticized the quality of all previous studies that linked this drug with the brain damage.

"Too many studies have been carried out on small populations, while overarching conclusions have been drawn from them" - Halpern said, adding that some previous researches did studied users of the rave culture, which includes all-night dancing, lack of sleep and fluids, and which are itself factors that contribute to the negative cognitive effects. But, it wasn’t taken into account that ecstasy users consume and other drugs and alcohol, which can affect cognition, or that some of them might have suffered disruption of intellectual skills before they started taking "ecstasy".

Halpern’s study took into account only those “ecstasy” users who weren’t taking any other drugs and who didn’t suffer any previous brain damage. In his experiment, 1,500 potential participants were reduced to 52 selected users whose cognitive abilities were equal to those of the 59 persons who do not use drugs. Even samples of hair were taken from the participants to find out if they were lying about drugs and alcohol.

"Essentially we compared one group of people who danced and raved and took ecstasy with a similar group of individuals who danced and raved but who did not take ecstasy. When we did that, we found that there was no difference in their cognitive abilities" – Halpern says.

Although the results of previous studies indicated that ecstasy causes memory loss and long-term consequences on behavior, some scientists, like English Professor David Nutt, who was fired as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for publicly stating that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than ecstasy, were not surprised with these results. "I always assumed that, when properly designed studies were carried out, we would find ecstasy does not cause brain damage," said Nutt.

However, Halpern did admit that the use of “ecstasy” has its risks.Ecstasy consumption is dangerous:  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 and even die from overdosing. It is important for drug-abuse information to be accurate, and we hope our report will help upgrade public health messages.  But while we found no ominous, concerning risks to cognitive performance, that is quite different from concluding that ecstasy use is ‘risk-free’."

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