Taboos are a funny thing. Some have clear, logical or practical reasons behind them. Others don’t. Sometimes, they’re based on fear or tradition, and other times they’re just based on the best evidence available at the time. In any case, I got love for those open-minded scientific researchers out there who continue to push the boundaries and collect the evidence we need to make informed decisions. For those of us who grew up with the post Reagan-era, “ice cream scoops out of your brain” rhetoric, this one might come as a surprise.

A recent study, conducted by Harvard Medical School professor John Halpern, concluded recently that no evidence supported the long-held belief that ecstasy causes brain damage. The study, recently published in Addiction, showed that the subjects who took ecstasy (and no other drugs) showed no significant difference in cognitive function over time. Criticizing past research on the subject, Halpern asserts that “too many studies have been carried out on small populations, while overarching conclusions have been drawn from them”. As always, read this one carefully. At the end of the day, you get to choose how you get down. But it never hurt anyone to be informed. Full story below via The Guardian.

From The Guardian

There is no evidence that ecstasy causes brain damage, according to one of the largest studies into the effects of the drug. Too many previous studies made over-arching conclusions from insufficient data, say the scientists responsible for the research, and the drug’s dangers have been greatly exaggerated.

The finding will shock campaigners who have claimed ecstasy poses a real risk of triggering brain damage. They have argued that it can induce memory loss, decrease cognitive performance and has long-lasting effects on behaviour.

But experts who have argued that the drug is relatively safe welcomed the new paper. “I always assumed that, when properly designed studies were carried out, we would find ecstasy does not cause brain damage,” said Professor David Nutt, who was fired as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by Alan Johnson, then home secretary, for publicly stating alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than ecstasy.

The study was carried out by a team led by Professor John Halpern of Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Addiction last week. Funded by a $1.8m grant from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was launched specifically to avoid methodological drawbacks that have bedevilled previous attempts to pinpoint whether or not ecstasy users suffer brain damage.

Ecstasy – or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA – came into widespread use in the 1980s when taking it was linked to raves and the playing of dance music. Its symptoms include euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others and diminished anxiety and depression. In the US alone, more than 12 million have taken it.

But the taking of ecstasy has also been linked to damage to the central nervous system and research in recent years has suggested that long-term changes to emotional states and behaviour have been triggered by consumption of the drug. Possession of it has been made an offence in most western nations.

However, Halpern was sharply critical of the quality of the research that had linked ecstasy to brain damage. “Too many studies have been carried out on small populations, while overarching conclusions have been drawn from them,” he said. For a start, some previous research has studied users who were taken from a culture dominated by all-night dancing, which thus exposed these individuals to sleep and fluid deprivation – factors that are themselves known to produce long-lasting cognitive effects. Non-users were not selected from those from a similar background, which therefore skewed results. In addition, past studies have not taken sufficient account of the fact that ecstasy users take other drugs or alcohol that could affect cognition or that they may have suffered intellectual impairment before they started taking ecstasy. In Halpern’s study only ecstasy users who took no other drugs and who had suffered no previous impairment were selected.

The resulting experiment whittled down 1,500 potential participants to 52 selected users, whose cognitive abilities matched those of a group of 59 non-users. “We even took hair samples of participants to test whether they were telling the truth about their drug and alcohol habits,” said Halpern. “Essentially we compared one group of people who danced and raved and took ecstasy with a similar group of individuals who danced and raved but who did not take ecstasy. When we did that, we found that there was no difference in their cognitive abilities.” In other words, previous studies highlighted problems triggered by other factors, such as use of other drugs or drink, or sleep deprivation.

But the drug still posed risks, he said. “Ecstasy consumption is dangerous because illegally made pills often contain contaminants that can have harmful side-effects.”

  • TAHTguy

    Ecstasy is a type of meth. Just saying.

  • reed

    X def ain’t meth, but I’m weary of any of these studies. I think they miss the effects drugs have on our “good feelings” and focus on the physical effects. We tend to equate things that don’t harm us physically as healthy, but forget to focus on the lasting impact on our mental state or “soul”. The experience on a drug can’t be wiped from one’s memory.

    Most importantly, I think it’s dangerous to do studies on a select group of people and try to make a blanket judgement. Everyone is different. Everyone’s brain chemistry is different. So, drugs are really a person to person thing in that regard. Some people can handle copious amounts of drugs for years and somehow come out of it. Some people try a drug once and have a breakdown or die.

    It’s all about that balance and having a healthy respect for what it is you’re doing. I am afraid of underestimating anything that alters one’s reality.

  • pre.conscious.though

    @ tahtguy… You’re ‘just saying’, was terribly misconstrued. Just because 3,4 methylendioxymethamphetamine says METH in it does not mean it is so. It is a separate chemical composition that causes different physical as well as emotional effects. And @ reed, true that drugs effect everyone differently but you should really check out Harvard’s site and search Professor John Halpern, who ran the tests. You will find a detailed explanation as to how they chose their subjects, and created as flat of ground as they could for such an experiment.

  • http://www.

    What’s up to every body, it’s my first pay a quick visit of this web site; this blog consists of awesome and in fact
    good data in support of readers.

  • lose weight fast

    I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility
    issues? A few of my blog readers have complained about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Opera.
    Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?

  • marvin anderson

    bookmarked!!, I love your ?log!

    Heere is my web blog – marvin anderson windows replacement screens for windows san francisco