Ecstacy - Read about scientific study
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Ecstasy risk tests used wrong drug
8 September 2003
Scientists have been forced into a humiliating climbdown after it emerged that a high-profile study into the dangers of ecstasy was bungled.
Research showing that taking the drug for just one evening could cause irreversible brain damage and trigger the onset of Parkinson's disease was wrong.
The US study, published in the eminent journal Science, provoked a wave of alarm, with anti-drug crusaders speaking of a 'neurological time bomb' facing the young.
But it emerged this weekend that ecstasy was not used in the experiments. A labelling mix-up instead saw laboratory monkeys and baboons injected with methamphetamine, or speed.
The blunder will re-ignite the debate about ecstasy, taken by 1million clubbers in Britain each weekend.
George Ricaurte the chief researcher at Maryland's Johns Hopkins University, where the study was conducted said 'a simple human error' was made by his team, adding: 'We're scientists, not chemists. We get hundreds of chemicals here - it's not customary to check them.' The study, published last September, said laboratory animals had a severe reaction to small doses of the drug, with two out of ten dying quickly.
But, when follow-up tests gave conflicting results, the mistake came to light.
A retraction of the study will be published in this week's Science.
Prof Joe Collier, of St George's Hospital Medical School in London, said: 'It is embarrassing. A lot of self-questioning will be going on over there but it's important we learn from this.'
The following article is the original news item reproduced from The Dominion Post, Saturday September 28 2002. The original article was reported incorrectly (as reported above). Ideal Health have substituted the word "Methamphetamine", rather than "Ecstasy" as was used incorrectly in the original news item.
A single night of taking the drug Methamphetamine can cause serious brain damage and hasten the onset of Parkinson's disease, scientists say.
Just two or three Methamphetamine tablets - a quantity that thousands of night clubbers take during raves - can permanently destroy brain cells that affect movement and reasoning, according to American research that links the drug to Parkinson's for the first time.
The finding creates a neurological timebomb for a generation of clubbers, who will not know till middle age whether they are to pay such a high price for an evenings excitement.
A study involving squirrels, monkeys and baboons found that both species of primate suffered irreversible damage to key cells called dopamine neurons, which are lost in Parkinson's, after receiving three low doses of Methamphetamine at three-hour intervals.
The findings, by a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, suggest that Methamphetamine may be raising the possibility of thousands of cases of early-onset Parkinson's, as well as a milder version known as Parkinsonism, George Ricaurte, who led the research, said that abuse of the drug may already be claiming victims of such neurological damage.
"It is possible that some of the more recent cases of suspected young - onset Parkinson's disease might be related but that this link has not been recognised," he said. "The most troubling implication is that young adults using Methamphetamine may be increasing their risk for developing Parkinsonism as they get older."
Shortage of Dopamine, a crucial brain signalling chemical, interferes with movement-causing the characteristic Parkinsonian tremor-and also affects emotional and cognitive responses. Symptoms more usually appear in old age, emerging once about 90 per cent of the brain's supply of the chemical has been lost.
If the primate findings apply to humans-as has been the case with most previous Methamphetamine research-researchers fear that the drug will increase users' chances of developing Parkinson's and lower the age at which its effects are first felt.
In the study, details of which were published yesterday in the journal Science, the drug was given to squirrels, monkeys and baboons at three hourly intervals, to mimic the effects of clubbers "topping up" their high during an evening. Brain scans found that between 60 and 80 per cent of the dopamine neurons had been destroyed.
Peter Stern, neuroscience editor of Science, said if the study was right, instead of developing Parkinson's disease at 85, there was a danger that it may be much earlier. "Even if it starts at 55, that's very serious for someone's quality of life.
Alan Leshner, a former director of the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the study emphasised the damage Methamphetamine could do to users. "We've long known that repeated use damages serotonin brain cells. This study shows that even very occasional use can have long-lasting effects on many different brain systems. It sends an important message to young people: don't experiment with your own brain."
Professor Adrian Williams of Birmingham University, a medical adviser to the Parkinson's Disease Society, said that the results were interesting by not conclusive.
"This is a study on primates and cannot be directly related to the effects on humans. If the drug were responsible for the young onset of Parkinson's disease, we might have expected to see some early evidence of this."
An earlier recreational drug, MTMP, a heroin substitute which did cause Parkinsonism in humans, was detected quickly when users presented with severe symptoms, Professor Williams said. Dr Ricaurte said that the lack of evidence linking Methamphetamine to Parkinson's may be explained because scientists have not previously had a good reason to look for it.
If you truly care for your loved one who is addicted to drugs, explore the option of private rehabilitation. While the drug treatment cost may be higher, quite often the elevated level of care can be the difference between success and failure in addiction recovery.
A footnote from Ideal Health.
Ideal Health have put together the Party Pack This will assist clubbers to help raise their levels of Dopamine and Seratonin. Pre loading is an attempt to enhance the good effects of party drugs and reduce the negative ones.
The Pre-Loading Vitamins and Amino acids are all available from Ideal Health by phoning 0800 HEALTH or you can purchase these on our web site by using the links.
Many people who have tried Pre-Loading say that it helps a great deal. The most important supplement to take is 5 HTP, which is a precursor of Serotonin.
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