MDMA primarily causes the release of serotonin (“the happy chemical”) in the brain.
The issue with this is serotonin plays an important role in regulating sleep (See “How your phone is impacting your sleep cycles” article) and feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
The risk is, the drug may expose you to feelings of sleeplessness and sadness that you may not have experienced had you never taken the drug, and it seems these feelings can persist in users.
There may be scientific backing for this. In animal models, they found a permanent decrease in serotonin releasing neurones (brain cells) of monkeys, even at a 7 year follow up.
More recent studies that PET scanners to look at the brains of human MDMA users did actually see a reduction of serotonin releasing neurones in parts of the brain. However, the results were inconclusive.
One study found that there was a more significant decrease in the number of neurones in girls than boys.
MDMA also runs the risk of overheating and over-hydration (due to it supressing the ability to urinate but also cause thirst), so users please take care!
Sam Fitzpatrick Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.
Mechan, A., Yuan, J., Hatzidimitriou, G., Irvine, R., McCann, U. and Ricaurte, G. 2005. Pharmacokinetic Profile of Single and Repeated Oral Doses of MDMA in Squirrel Monkeys: Relationship to Lasting Effects on Brain Serotonin Neurons. Neuropsychopharmacology 31(2), pp. 339-350.
Cowan, R. 2006. Neuroimaging research in human MDMA users: a review. Psychopharmacology 189(4), pp. 539-556.
Dafters, R.I.; and Lynch, E 1998. Persistent loss of thermoregulation in the rate induced by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy") but not by fenfluramine. Psychopharmacology 138:207-212
Schierenbeck, T., Riemann, D., Berger, M. and Hornyak, M. 2008. Effect of illicit recreational drugs upon sleep: Cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Sleep Medicine Reviews 12(5), pp. 381-389.