How Ecstasy Destroys the Brain

How Ecstasy Destroys the Brain

The designer drug known as Ecstasy comes from a chemical cocktail known as Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).  Popular among teens, young adults and followers of electronic dance music, Ecstasy is being abused more and more as drugs continue to overtake the population.  Just how toxic is this drug, and what are the consequences?

The Latest Ecstasy Research

A series of studies on rhesus monkeys revealed the potential neurotoxic hazard of MDMA in humans.  One study administered a small dose of the drug twice daily for four days.  Another study injected high doses of MDMA over the same period.  Both studies revealed drastic alteration to brain chemistry, particularly in the area of the brain related to serotonin release and uptake.  High doses of MDMA caused a destruction of serotonin uptake sites.  Serotonin is a brain chemical involved in sleep, memory and mood.

To confirm whether the brain damage was related to the specific dose or the neurotoxins, a subsequent study was administered for two weeks.  All MDMA-treated animals produced similar results, whereas the saline-injected control animals did not.  MDMA actually destroys serotonin uptake sites.  You can imagine what kind of effect this creates on sleep, memory and mood.

The chemical structure of MDMA is similar to MDA and methamphetamine, two other synthetic drugs that are known to cause brain damage. 

Side Effects of Ecstasy

Ecstasy produces hallucinogenic and stimulant effects.  The high produces heightened perceptions and euphoria, which is why EDM (electronic dance music) fans use it.  However, the National Library of Medicine reports that the hazards are similar to cocaine and amphetamine users and include:

  • Confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Psychological problems
  • Paranoia
  • Severe anxiety
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Cravings
  • Muscle tension
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Faintness
  • Chills or sweating
  • Liver damage
  • Overdose and death

Those suffering from circulatory or heart disease are at a high risk of fatal side effects because the drug increases heart rate and blood pressure.  [For more information see video on: Is Ecstasy Safe.]

Inhibitions Released

Another well-known effect of Ecstasy is its ability to remove inhibitions.  Users capitalize on this effect to ease social situations and “let themselves go”.  However, the dangers in this are manifold.  People high on Ecstasy are more likely to engage in risky behavior such as unprotected intercourse and driving under the influence.  They have also been known to display shocking acts of violence including rape, abuse and suicide attempts.

Ecstasy Addiction 

As with all drugs, coming down from Ecstasy is uncomfortable, to say the least.  In fact, more than sixty percent of people who use MDMA say they experience withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings and trouble concentrating.  In many cases, these symptoms are unbearable, and the only solution appears to be use of the drug again.

This is the Pandora’s Box of Ecstasy.  What begins as “just one hit” to have a good time quickly spirals out of control.  Before long, it doesn’t matter if the user knows the dangers involved–he will do whatever it takes to get his hands on more X.  Brain damage or not, Ecstasy–like all drugs–robs the individual of any thread of self-control.

And when the “regular” dose no longer produces the same effect (an inevitable consequence), the user begins to get creative.  Not only does he increase the dose, he combines Ecstasy with other drugs like ephedrine (a stimulant), dextromethorphan (DXM, a cough suppressant with PCP-like effects at high doses), Ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians), caffeine, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.  Mixing drugs with MDMA is very dangerous and puts users at higher physical risk.