A novel study evaluating the effects of Ecstasy has revealed that first time ecstasy users may suffer impaired memory and damage to the brain, due to reduced blood flow in certain areas of the brain.
'We do not know if these effects are transient or permanent,' said, Maartje de Win at the University of Amsterdam, who led the study. 'Therefore, we cannot conclude that ecstasy, even in small doses, is safe for the brain, and people should be informed of this risk.'
The 2005-06 British crime survey has been an eye opener where it has come to light, that 1.6% of 16 to 59-year-olds in the UK allegedly use ecstasy , amounting to nearly half a million drug users. The damage that the drug causes is attributed to the disturbance in the chemical, serotonin, that is known to play a significant role in mood and memory. Whether these disturbances could cause a temporary problem or whether there are long term implications, is being studied in detail by the scientists.
In their study, Dr de Win's team enrolled subjects for the study - 77 men and 111 women, with average age being 21. The subjects had never consumed the drug before. Blood flow to different areas in the brain was assessed with scans, and the study participants were evaluated by means of many psychological tests. After eighteen months had elapsed, researchers assessed 59 of the original study group who had taken the drug and 56 others who had completely abstained from it.
The users had consumed an average of six pills; when the tests were conduced once again, the researchers found that ecstasy users' performance score was much below non- users and there were evident changes to cell architecture and blood flow in certain brain regions.
The findings of the study was presented on November 27th at the yearly meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago and is the first study to gauge the impact of ecstasy on first time users.