Ecstasy Amphetamine Raises Serotonin: Organ Failure, Memory Loss
With the increased popularity of raves has come increased consumption of drug stimulants, most notably methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) an amphetamine substance also known as Ecstasy or 'E', which can be deadly.
The illegal drug Ecstasy has been implicated in at least 14 Canadian deaths in the past two years: 10 in Ontario, 3 in British Columbia and one in Nova Scotia. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 43, but most victims were in their 20s.
Ecstasy Overheats (Hyperthermia): Organ Death
Ecstasy-related deaths are caused by organ failure resulting from severe body overheating (hyperthermia), which subsequently leads to the organ exhaustion.
The over-heating effect of the Ecstasy drug is exacerbated by the conditions in which Ecstasy is often used. Overcrowded clubs or parties where people dance, heat up, and become dehydrated make them more susceptible to ecstasy-induced hyperthermia.
One of the latest victims was a 21-year-old business student at Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnic University, who collapsed last October at a rave held in a dance space that used to be a former shoe factory. The coroner's examination found MDMA traces in his body.
Natural Ecstasy Herbal High Just as Deadly
Natural Ecstasy known as Herbal Ecstasy or ‘herbal highs’ are part of a new wave of drugs proclaimed as safer, healthier and legal alternatives to illegal drugs. However, studies show that semi-natural or all-natural compounds simulating the effects of MDMA can be just as dangerous as chemically-made compounds.
On July 2, 2008, a 55-year-old man collapsed at a popular Toronto club after taking Herbal Ecstasy and later pronounced dead in hospital. The next day, at the same venue, a Toronto woman took the same drug and collapsed and was rushed to hospital in critical condition.
MDMA and Serotonin Release
MDMA in Ecstasy affects the way brain cells handle the neurotransmitter serotonin. Ecstasy can cause the degeneration of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The cells in question are rooted near the brain's base, but have long nerve fibres that fan out into higher brain regions. These fibers signal other nerve cells to release serotonin.
MDMA makes nerve cells release their entire load of serotonin rather than releasing it in controlled doses and the cells are slow to reabsorb serotonin due to the inhibiting presence of proteins.
Scientists believe that this altering of the brain chemistry helps the body relax, reduces inhibitions, increases energy and brings feelings of euphoria - all the sensations that ravers seek.
Ecstasy and Memory
Researchers at the University of Toronto at Scarborough demonstrated that people who used Ecstasy containing the chemical MDMA experienced a decline in their memory over a one-year period. The 15 participants reported using the drug from 3 to 225 times over the course of the year.
The researchers looked at the same 15 people after another year had passed. Seven were still using the drug, while8 had abstained. The worst impairment was in episodic memory - the attempt to remember short events or intervals, like a news story on TV. MDMA has also been tied to depression.