Preclinical research undertaken by Pharmacology PhD student Emily Jaehne shows that ecstasy deaths, which are invariably related to elevated body temperature, may be related to drug users' failure to recognise that their body is abnormally hot.
"The fact that these drugs are often taken in warm nightclubs and at rave parties increases the risk of long- term changes in brain function, or even death," Emily said.
In the study, the researcher has spent the past three years investigating how ecstasy can increase body temperature, and to understand how drug users respond when this happens.
"Our bodies usually maintain a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, but in some cases ecstasy can elevate this by up to five degrees, leading to severe brain damage," Emily said.
She added: "Ecstasy is more readily available here than in the U.S. and Europe and more widely used than heroin or cocaine in Australia. It is crucial, therefore, that we make people more aware of the dangers associated with this drug.
"When ecstasy users are taking the drug in nightclubs they tend to blame the surroundings for their elevated body temperature and just ignore the warning signs. That can be fatal."