The stereotype of the e-tard, the raver who uses so much ecstasy he becomes mentally defective, might have some basis in fact.
A Vanderbilt University psychiatry professor concludes in recent research that MDMA, the drug favored at parties here in the rave capital of the nation, "causes lasting changes in brain," according to a school statement.
And those changes aren't, apparently, good. Vanderbilt:
The findings, reported online Dec. 5 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, add to the growing evidence that Ecstasy produces long-lasting serotonin neurotoxicity in humans ...
The news comes as research about whether psychedelic drugs, including ecstasy, can be effective for legit medical ailments is seeing a much reported-on resurgence. The Santa Cruz-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been raising funds and lobbying for such inquiry for decades. (This author has written about its efforts since the 1990s).
The group is researching the effectiveness of using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in combat veterans.
Ronald Cowan, the Vanderbilt M.D. behind the study looking into the dangers of E, says it's time to figure out what dosages can lead to permanent brain damage:
It's essential that we understand the risk associated with using Ecstasy. If news keeps coming out that MDMA is being tested therapeutically and is safe, more people will tend to self-administer the drug. We need to know the dose at which this drug becomes toxic.
His work confirms that using the drug regularly seems to deplete serotonin or, as Vanderbilt puts it, ecstasy "produces long-lasting serotonin neurotoxicity."
We like to call the brain chemical serotonin happy juice, and it's no coincidence that ecstasy users can complain of debilitating depression and serious loss of memory.
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Vanderbilt notes that serotonin regulates "mood, appetite, sleep, learning and memory."
So, just beware, kids. Ecstatic happiness today could lead to sad times later. You're using up all your happy juice. Cowan:
Our studies suggest that if you use Ecstasy recreationally, the more you use, the more brain changes you get.