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  Ecstasy
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MDMA can be discovered by a drug testOverview

MDMA, called "Adam," "ecstasy," or "X-TC" on the street, is a synthetic, psychoactive (mind-altering) drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties.  Its chemical structure (3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is similar to two other synthetic drugs, MDA and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage.

Health Hazards

Beliefs about ecstasy are reminiscent of similar claims made about LSD in the 1950s and 1960s, which proved to be untrue. According to its proponents, MDMA can make people trust each other and can break down barriers between therapists and patients, lovers, and family members.

Many problems users encounter with MDMA are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine. They are:

bulletPsychological difficulties, including confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety, and paranoia - during and sometimes weeks after taking MDMA (even psychotic episodes have been reported).
bulletPhysical symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth-clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating.
bulletIncreases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease.

MDA, the parent drug of MDMA, is an amphetamine-like drug that has also been abused and is similar in chemical structure to MDMA. Research shows that MDA destroys serotonin-producing neurons, which play a direct role in regulating aggression, mood, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. It is probably this action on the serotonin system that gives MDA its purported properties of heightened sexual experience, tranquility, and conviviality.

MDMA also is related in structure and effects to methamphetamine, which has beendiscover Ecstasy use with an American Drug Testing drug test shown to cause degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine. Damage to these neurons is the underlying cause of the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease.

In laboratory experiments, a single exposure to methamphetamine at high doses or prolonged use at low doses destroys up to 50 percent of the brain cells that use dopamine. Although this damage may not be immediately apparent, scientists believe that with aging or exposure to other toxic agents, Parkinsonian symptoms may eventually emerge. These symptoms begin with lack of coordination and tremors and may eventually result in a form of paralysis.

Source: National Institutes of Health

Link to Brain Damage

Heavy users of ecstasy, a synthetic drug that is structurally similar to methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline, may be risking brain damage that remains long after the high has worn off.

workplace drug testing can prevent MDMA useIn a series of studies conducted with rats and nonhuman primates, Dr. George Ricaurte and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions first determined that a single dose of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), only slightly higher than the size of doses taken by humans, significantly damaged brain cells called neurons that produce serotonin. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, in the brain that is thought to influence mood, appetite, sleep, and other important functions. Then Dr. Ricaurte reported that 12 to 18 months after the brains of squirrel monkeys had been damaged by MDMA, serotonin-producing nerve fibers had regrown abnormally in some brain regions and failed to regrow at all in others.

Unlike methamphetamine, which damages brain neurons that produce both serotonin and another important chemical messenger called dopamine, "MDMA selectively damages serotonin neurons in virtually all species examined to date," Dr. Ricaurte says.

"With MDMA, the doses that people take very closely approach the doses known to produce neurotoxic effects in animals," Dr. Ricaurte says.

"At this point, the major question is whether the neuronal changes we see in animals from methamphetamine and MDMA exposure occur in human beings who use these drugs," he says.

To help answer that question, he is conducting separate clinical studies using brain imaging techniques to evaluate the possibility of long-term brain damage in humans who have previously used either methamphetamine or MDMA. These studies also are assessing the potential functional consequences of such neuronal damage on aspects of mood, movement, memory, impulse control, aggression, and sleep cycles.

Source: Fischer, C.; Hatzidimitriou, G.; Wlos, J.; Katz, J.; and Ricaurte, G. Reorganization of ascending 5-HT axon projections in animals previously exposed to recreational drug 3,4-methelenedioxymetham-phetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy"). Journal of Neuroscience 15:5476-5485, 1995.

 

   

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