MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a popular psychoactive substance based in the recreational drug ‘Ecstasy’. Despite its frequent mention on tv regarding deaths due to hyperthermia (overheating, frequently as a consequence of dehydration and excessive exercising) or hyponatremia (excessive usage of water, producing death), serious MDMA acute adverse events seem rare – with approximately two a single hundred thousand users creating a reaction producing death. The true health concern it appears, isn’t in the short term hazards of MDMA. But the alarmingly great number of habitual and long-term users of MDMA who regularly knock their neurotransmitters ‘out of whack’, every weekend.
This long lasting abuse is worrying because MDMA is really a somewhat new drug and as such there are no studies on long-term MDMA users. In addition, MDMA includes a very unique foundation mechanism – significantly altering the serotonin systems of the brain. Furthermore, recent research conducted for non-human primates and humans found differences between MDMA user’s brains and satisfaction measures when compared with non-MDMA users. MDMA causes a boost in the concentrations of three neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin (5HT), norepinephrine (NE), and dopamine (DA). Its primary release of serotonin is claimed is the cause of the majority of Ecstasy’s positive unwanted side effects (empathy and euphoria), the depression users feel after while using drug and also the neurotoxic changes present in MDMA user’s brains.
These effects come as no surprise, as serotonin may be the neurotransmitter primarily responsible for regulating emotion, sleep, and mood. Current research on MDMA and the brain has brought conflicting and complicated results. Animal research has shown much research on MDMA and potential damaging effects it’s about the brain. There exists a huge library of literature demonstrating variations in memory, language, and brain functioning between MDMA users and non-users; and non-human experiments showing irregular serotonin axon regrowth in numerous close genetic relatives of ours. However, much of the existing research suffers from poor experimental design and experimental controls which might be central for any study and too heavily associated correlation with causation.
Most research on ecstasy users could be categorized into two regions of study: neurofunctional measures and neurocognitive measures. Neurofunctional is loosely used to indicate measures of methods the brain is working and measures with the concentration or density of neurochemicals. Neurocognitive measures identifies performance on standardized psychological tests of mental abilities. Research on ecstasy users supports associations between MDMA exposure and adjustments to both neurofunctional and neurocognitive measures.