Intended for healthcare professionals


Ecstasy and neurodegeneration

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 15 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1493
  1. A Richard Green,
  2. Guy M Goodwin
  1. Unit director and professor of pharmacology Astra Neuroscience Research Unit, London WC1N 1PJ Professor of psychiatry
  2. MRC Brain Metabolism Unit, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh EH10 5HF

    Ecstasy's long term effects are potentially more damaging than its acute toxicity

    Publicity in the popular press and medical journals1 on the dangers of using ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has concentrated almost exclusively on the problems of acute toxicity. While the unnecessary death of any young person is rightly deplored, it is strange that so little attention is being paid to the long term effects of this recreational drug. This lack of attention is particularly surprising because evidence has been available for several years that ecstasy induces neurodegeneration in the brains of experimental animals.2 If young people continue to use the drug socially they should at least be fully informed of the risks.

    Administration of ecstasy to various animals has been shown to cause long term destruction of serotoninergic axons and axon terminals in the brain. This damage occurs in rodents' brains and in several species of primate.2 Some reinnervation may occur …

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