ECSTASY consumption, perhaps as little as “one big exposure”, can cause irreversible brain damage, says an international expert on the drug.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor of Pharmacology Rod Irvine said the drug could lead to a generation gripped by early onset of serotonin-depletion diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“One big exposure” to MDMA could be enough to damage the brain permanently  “You probably don’t necessarily have to (be a user) for a very long period of time,” Professor Irvine said.   He said the liver struggled to excrete MDMA from the body after as little as one pill. “So the concentration goes much higher than you expect,” he said.
Brain neurons emitting serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood and memory, are attacked and disabled.   Memory and cognitive harm, and depression – referred to as “Eccie Monday” or “Suicide Tuesday” – were commonly reported by weekend ecstasy users.
“But in the US, tests on monkeys who have been exposed (to ecstasy) and then left drug-free for years . . . when you examine their brains, they’ve still got this loss of serotonin,” Professor Irvine said.  “Even if there is recovery (in the long-term), it’s very slow and the brain doesn’t make the same connections. So it’s unlikely that you’re going to have the same functionality as what you had before.”
According to the 2008 Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System, an average Queensland user is 24 and employed. One in every two has tertiary qualifications, and typically, two pills are “dropped” every fortnight.
While ecstasy does not appear to be highly addictive, a 32-year-old Brisbane caller to triplej radio earlier this month told of swallowing 15 pills one night.  “It took about two days until I came down properly,” he said.
He said that after 15 years of taking the drug, his “short-term memory was shot”.  “Another strange symptom after taking MDMA is . . . paralysis – you wake up mid-REM, hallucinate and hear things. You pretty much can’t move and panic.”

 Source:  30th March 2009

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