Ecstasy May Cause Long-Lasting Changes in the Brain, Study Suggests

Ecstasy may produce long-lasting changes in brain chemistry, a new study suggests. The drug can cause a drop in the levels of the brain chemical serotonin for up to two years, according to HealthDay. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, learning and memory.

“We’ve always known that ecstasy produced transient effects, but with the suggestion that there would be recovery over time,” study co-author Dr. Ronald Cowan of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s School of Medicine told HealthDay. “But here we find that these effects may be sustained over time with no evidence of reversal.” He noted the study found an association between the drug and the drop in serotonin, but did not prove Ecstasy caused the decrease.

The study included 24 women, including 14 who used Ecstasy between three to four years. The researchers used brain scans to determine the number of brain receptors for serotonin. The receptor levels increase as serotonin levels go down, the article notes. The women who took Ecstasy had higher receptor levels than those who did not take the drug, suggesting women who used the drug had a drop in serotonin levels.

The more Ecstasy the women took, the higher their receptor levels, the researchers report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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