Greater brain risks from 'real-world' ecstasy use

Stuff 31 March 2011
For a glimpse into real-world drug use, Australian researchers went to parties where people were using a drug known as ecstasy – and discovered that users’ brains were at far more risk from the drug than anyone had suspected.
The researchers also found that ecstasy pills often contain a variety of other drugs.
“What’s concerning is that most studies looking at toxicity in people or animals look at a single drug,” said Dr Thomas Newton, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine, who was not involved in this study.
“We have no idea what happens when you start mixing like this.”
For this study, 56 people who had taken ecstasy at least five times in the past agreed to invite the researchers to house parties where they took ecstasy once again.
The researchers collected a sample of the pills and measured users’ blood levels of MDMA – the chemical that’s in ecstasy – every hour for 5 hours after people took the drug. At the end of the study, each user received AUS$200 ($NZ273) for participating.
In some people, the amount of MDMA reached levels that cause injury or death in primates.
The researchers found that only half of the pills consisted entirely of MDMA. The other half also contained methamphetamine or chemicals related to MDMA: MDEA or MDA.

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