For the past few decades, there are those who think that ecstasy is ‘getting a bad rap’ by drug enforcement officials. Many users suggest that the effects are relatively harmless and the only problem with XTC is the fact that it is illegal. However, a recent study published in the journal Addiction proves that there are problems that are far more serious than originally expected. The study demonstrates the causative effect of the drug and provides scientific evidence that even recreational use can lead to changes in the brain.
What The Study Did And How It Was Different
The reason that this recent study is significant is because of the different methodology that it used. Previous studies on the subject have been notoriously hard to interpret. The reason that they were difficult to interpret is that the brain differences between non-users and ecstasy users may have been present long before the person ever started using XTC. This meant that in those studies, it was probable that the drug led to specific problems, but there was no scientific basis that provided infallible proof. Add in the fact that people who use XTC tend to use other illicit substances as well; you may understand why the effects of ecstasy on the brain were so hard to determine.
This study was set up so as to determine how the brain may change when using ecstasy, meaning that the team of scientists had to find people that had used MDMA five times or less in their entire lives. The research team found 149 individuals that met that criteria and made them undergo a litany of brain tests. These brain tests were in place to look for signs of mental deficits. A year later, the scientists tested patients again. Out of the people tested, 43 had not used XTC since the previous test and 23 people used ten or more ecstasy pills during that year. On average, those who used ecstasy pills reported having used 33.6 within those 12 months.
The two groups performed similarly on most laboratory tests. However, it was a particular memory test in which those participants who had used MDMA scored significantly worse. The people with problems demonstrated difficulty in remembering what distinguishing border framed a specific picture. They had complications remembering right away and an hour later. This demonstrates that memory problems can occur within a year, even with a moderate amount of MDMA use. This makes it clear to scientists and hopefully makes it clear to people around the world, that this drug is not as harmless as previously suspected.
What Are The Common Side Effects Of The Drug?
For most people that take a single “hit” of XTC, the effects will last anywhere between three and six hours. Once the person swallows the pill or tablet, it takes approximately 15 minutes before the ecstasy dissolves and enters the bloodstream. From there, it moves rapidly to the brain. Within 45 minutes, the person will start to experience the “high” associated with MDMA use. People who use it report feeling hyperactive and very alert. That is the reason it is often used in the nightclub scene, people can dance for hours at a time without needing to take a rest. During this high, some users will experience changes in perception (for example, they may have an enhanced sense of touch) or lose sense of time.
However, the effects are not pleasant for everyone taking the drug. Some users become agitated or anxious; others may experience chills or sweating and some feel dizzy or faint. There are a number of other physical signs, such as increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, blurred vision, nausea and muscle tension. Many users experience a forceful clenching of the teeth. The emotional side effects include depression, anxiety and sadness. While the euphoric sensations of the drug may last several hours, these negative side effects can last for days.
Physical Dangers Associated With The Drug
Because the users of MDMA are often engaging in vigorous activity in a relatively narrow and warm environment, dehydration can become a serious problem. Even though dehydration may not seem like a serious issue at first glance; considering that ecstasy already interferes with our body’s own ability to regulate temperature, it could lead to dangerous overheating. This dangerous overheating can lead to kidney or heart problems – it may even prove to be fatal. Because the user tends to feel sad or depressed after the effects begin to wear off, users take multiple small doses within a short period in order to keep the euphoric effects going. This may impede the heart’s ability to maintain its normal rhythms and also increases the risk of seizures.
Increased Risks To The Brain
In order to understand why XTC may damage the brain, it is important to understand that messages from our brain and the rest of our bodies travel through neurons (nerve cells). Scientists believe that ecstasy may affect those nerve cells that use the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin, in order to send messages to other nerve cells. The serotonin system is an important factor in our sensitivity to pain, sleep patterns, sexual activity, aggression and overall mood.
More studies need to be done to determine whether the brain damage caused by XTC is permanent or whether the patient can reverse the effects by no longer using. Animal studies determined that the damage done to the brain that occurred after a mere four days of exposure to high dosages of ecstasy was still present six or seven years later. The one silver lining in that situation is that scientists noted that some nerve fibers started to grow back in the same place that those damaging toxic reactions had taken place. However, even if the nerve fibers were repaired, scientists are not sure if they worked in the same capacity as the damaged nerve fibers. It should be obvious by now that XTC is not the harmless drug that people once believed it was.