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Study: Frequent ecstasy use may lead to brain damage

Ecstasy is especially popular at raves, packed all-night music parties  
October 29, 1998
Web posted at: 9:48 p.m. EST (0248 GMT)

From Reporter Louise Schiavone

BALTIMORE (CNN) -- Frequent use of the street drug ecstasy -- popular with many of today's college students and young professionals because it makes some users feel more sensually aware, less inhibited and less anxious -- may lead to eventual brain damage, according to a recent Johns Hopkins University study.

Researchers used advanced technology to scan the brains of 14 men and women who, on average, had taken ecstasy 200 or more times. Their brains were compared with those of subjects who had never used the drug.

The study showed that ecstasy has an impact on specific nerves in the brain related to the release of serotonin, which has been linked to a number of vital brain functions such as memory, cognition, mood regulation, sleep and eating disturbances.

Research shows long-term use of the drug can lead to brain damage  

Scientists speculate that in the long term, ecstasy use could trigger neuro-psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression.

"One has to be particularly concerned about ecstasy, because the thousands of kids using the drug are not getting any clear indication or warning signal that they're experimenting with a highly toxic drug of abuse," said Dr. George Ricuarte, a Johns Hopkins neurologist.

The study is considered particularly important because previous ecstasy research was based on tests on laboratory animals. Now, scientists have confirmed the link between ecstasy and brain damage in living human subjects.

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