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    How Ecstasy Works In The Brain - And A Possible Therapeutic Use
    By News Staff | January 18th 2014 05:30 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Scholars say they are closing in on how ecstasy, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), produces feelings of euphoria in users and in a new paper say that it might be useful in the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  A small study using MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy reported positive preliminary results.

    The limitation of the new paper; these were brain images and done for a television show a year and a half before it was in a journal.

    Due to its nature as a stimulant that can produce hallucinations, Ecstasy has been a popular recreational drug since the 1980s, but little is known about which areas of the brain it affects. The new study says it is the first to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on resting subjects under its influence. Twenty-five volunteers underwent brain scans on two occasions, one after taking the drug and one after taking a placebo, without knowing which they had been given.

    The images showed MDMA decreases activity in the limbic system – a set of structures involved in emotional responses. These effects were stronger in subjects who reported stronger subjective experiences, suggesting that they are related. Communication between the medial temporal lobe and medial prefrontal cortex, which is involved in emotional control, was reduced. This effect, and the drop in activity in the limbic system, are opposite to patterns seen in patients who suffer from anxiety.

    MDMA also increased communication between the amygdala and the hippocampus. Studies on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have found a reduction in communication between these areas.

    Dr Robin Carhart-Harris from the Department of Medicine at  Imperial College London, who performed the research, said, “We found that MDMA caused reduced blood flow in regions of the brain linked to emotion and memory. These effects may be related to the feelings of euphoria that people experience on the drug.”

    Project leader David Nutt, the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, added, “The findings suggest possible clinical uses of MDMA in treating anxiety and PTSD, but we need to be careful about drawing too many conclusions from a study in healthy volunteers. We would have to do studies in patients to see if we find the same effects.”

    As part of the Imperial study, the volunteers were asked to recall their favorite and worst memories while inside the scanner. They rated their favorite memories as more vivid, emotionally intense and positive after MDMA than placebo, and they rated their worst memories less negatively. This was reflected in the way that parts of the brain were activated more or less strongly under MDMA. Those results were published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.
    Carhart-Harris said, “In healthy volunteers, MDMA seems to lessen the impact of painful memories. This fits with the idea that it could help patients with PTSD revisit their traumatic experiences in psychotherapy without being overwhelmed by negative emotions, but we need to do studies in PTSD patients to see if the drug affects them in the same way.”

    Citation: R.L. Carhart-Harris et al., ‘The Effects of Acutely Administered 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on Spontaneous Brain Function in Healthy Volunteers Measured with Arterial Spin Labelling and Blood Oxygen Level-Dependent Resting-State Functional Connectivity.’ Biological Psychiatry, 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.12.015

    Comments

    Now the religious nutbags in Federal Government MUST be removed to allow the "War Against Drugs" against us, that THEY perpetrated against our very basic human rights (to consume ANY product that WE deem fit), to be brought to an end.
    I personally, would like to see those who perpetuate this "War" against us, to be tried as "War Criminals". They should then be treated as the Nazis were after the Nuremberg Trials.

    That would be correct, scientists in full support for a chemical based drug, so that the pharmaceutical companies can cash in on and patent, which in turn when the "drug" becomes legal, the law can still then prosecute the home based labs (that currently produce the product) for breaching patent laws .
    Whilst cannabis a natural plant which cannot be patented and be grown in anyone's own backyard and will have the same effect to the patient, is deemed not worth promoting.

    It is basically a hybrid of a lactone and ampheramine, practically paradoxical pharmacologically speaking, how many people does it kill a year, oh yeah great idea.

    Do you really believe MDMA is responsible for "ecstasy" related deaths? People are receiving drug cocktails of god knows what which usually contains little, if any, MDMA. To deny this substance has any therapeutic use in the brain is insane.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Scholars say they are closing in on how ecstasy, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), produces feelings of euphoria in users and in a new paper say that it might be useful in the treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.  A small study using MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy reported positive preliminary results.
    The limitation of the new paper; these were brain images and done for a television show a year and a half before it was in a journal. Due to its nature as a stimulant that can produce hallucinations, Ecstasy has been a popular recreational drug since the 1980s, but little is known about which areas of the brain it affects. 
    Its amazing that a drug that is used by between 10 and 25 million people globally at least once in the past year according to a UN 2008 estimate, which may well be more than double that number now, is so poorly understood by scientists, especially as regulatory authorities in several locations around the world have approved quite a few scientific studies administering MDMA to humans over the years to examine its therapeutic potential and its effects. Wikipedia claims that :-
     MDMA acts as a releasing agent of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It enters neurons via carriage by the monoamine transporters. Once inside, MDMA inhibits the vesicular monoamine transporter, which results in increased concentrations of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the cytoplasm, and induces their release by reversing their respective transporters through a process known as phosphorylation.' 
    'MDMA's unusual entactogenic effects have been hypothesized to be, at least partly, the result of indirect oxytocin secretion via activation of the serotonin system. Oxytocin is a hormone released following events such as hugging, orgasm, and childbirth, and is thought to facilitate bonding and the establishment of trust. Based on studies in rats, MDMA is believed to cause the release of oxytocin, at least in part, by both directly and indirectly agonizing the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor. A placebo-controlled study in 15 human volunteers found 100 mg MDMA increased blood levels of oxytocin, and the amount of oxytocin increase was correlated with the subjective prosocial effects of MDMA.'
    'Three neurobiological mechanisms for the therapeutic effects of MDMA have been suggested: 
    1) MDMA increases oxytocin levels, which may strengthen the therapeutic alliance; 
    2) MDMA increases ventromedial prefrontal activity and decreases amygdala activity, which may improve emotional regulation and decrease avoidance, and 
    3) MDMA increases norepinephrine (NE) release and circulating cortisol levels, which may facilitate emotional engagement and enhance extinction of learned fear associations.'
    I have never taken MDMA even though I live in Byron Bay which is a beautiful, coastal holiday and party town on the eastern coast of Australia, where this drug and many other recreational drugs are often freely available in and around the many dance nightclubs and pubs that play live music every night of the week into the early hours for most of the year. 

    This small town has no buildings higher than 3 storeys and the beaches are quite unspoilt and any rich aging hippies that still live here and now own many of these valuable properties will probably keep it that way, until many probably die prematurely from their often drug decadent lifestyles over the past few decades. 

    The reason I have never tried this MDMA 'ecstasy' drug is that firstly it is illegal and there is no certainty that what you are trying is actually MDMA or how much of the drug you are taking. Secondly, I have seen the effect that it has on the people around me who do take it regularly and although they appear to enjoy themselves immensely at the time, they often make fools of themselves by removing their clothes, kissing strangers and talking rubbish to anyone that will listen to them. 
    The person that listens to them is usually me because anyone else that has taken the drug is incapable of listening and concentrating on anything anyone else is telling them for more than a minute max. MDMA users also usually seem to suffer considerably over the following week. 'Suicide Tuesday' or 'Tuesday Blues' is a well known after effect of taking MDMA on a Friday or Saturday night and it is thought to result from depleted serotonin levels. I personally would not take any drug that can potentially damage the part of my brain responsible for my happiness for the following week and maybe for much longer and even permanently damage that vitally important mechanism.
    Upon overdose, the potentially serious serotonin syndrome, stimulant psychosis, and/or hypertensive crisis, among other dangerous adverse reactions, may come to prominence, the symptoms of which can include: Psychological Disorientation and/or confusion Agitation, restlessness and paranoia Hallucinations and/or delusions Thought disorder or disorganized thinking Cognitive and memory impairment potentially to the point of retrograde or anterograde amnesia Physiological Muscle rigidity Convulsions Hyperreflexia or overresponsive or overreactive reflexes Hyperactivity Hypertension or hypotension Tachycardia Tachypnoea or rapid breathing and/or dyspnea or shortness of breathPalpitations Angina pectoris or severe chest pain, as well as pulmonary hypertension (PH) Vasculitis or destruction of blood vessels Cardiotoxicity or damage to the heart Cardiac dysfunction, arrest, myocardial infarction, and/or heart failure Hemorrhage and/or stroke Severe hyperthermia, potentially resulting in organ failure Loss of consciousness Renal failure Coma or death. 
    Wikipedia also describes how 'some studies indicate repeated recreational users of MDMA have increased rates of depression and anxiety, even after quitting the drug. Other meta analyses have reported possibility of impairment of executive functioning. Despite these findings, many factors, including total lifetime MDMA consumption, the duration of abstinence between uses, dosage, the environment of use, multiple drug use/abuse, quality of mental health, various lifestyle choices, and predispositions to develop clinical depression and other disorders, have made the results of many studies difficult to verify.'
    MDMA causes a reduction in the reuptake concentration of serotonin transporters in the brain. The rate at which the brain recovers from serotonergic changes is unclear. One study demonstrated lasting serotonergic changes in some animals exposed to MDMA. Other studies have suggested that the brain may recover from serotonergic damage. Some studies show MDMA may be neurotoxic in humans. Other studies, however, suggest that any potential brain damage may be at least partially reversible following prolonged abstinence from MDMA. Depression and deficits in memory have been shown to occur more frequently in long-term MDMA users....MDMA use has been occasionally associated with liver damage, excessive wear of teeth, and (very rarely) hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. 
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine