Ecstasy 'can cause damage to the brain'

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The Independent Online
Ecstasy, the rave drug which has been described as a "dance with death", can cause permanent brain damage leading to mood disturbances, according to new scientific research, writes Glenda Cooper.

A team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, found that monkey and rat cells damaged by ecstasy re-grow abnormally.

The drug, otherwise known as MDMA, produces a euphoric rush with feelings of exhilaration and the ability to dance for hours. The downside is that body temperature can rise extensively, leading to heatstroke convulsions and death. A small number of people have died [about 50 in Britain since the late 1980s] compared with the numbers who use it. The question of long-term damage from using ecstasy has been a controversial one.

The researchers, whose findings are reported in New Scientist, said the drug damages cells that release the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that facilitates impulses from cell to cell through nerve endings, which is thought to regulate mood and behaviour.