Why does MDMA/Ecstasy cause some people stomach upsets?

Your brain has a stored amount of a chemical called serotonin which it will release when something that you like happens to you, and the serotonin is what makes you feel ‘happy’.

MDMA causes your brain to just release this chemical regardless of the nice thing happening to you (e.g. getting married).

However, 95% of your bodies stored serotonin is in your gut where is has a very different function of causing smooth muscle contractions of your intestines or “pushing the poo through” and making sure the poo is well lubricated.

  • Serotonin is released in the brain and the intestines
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This is why users of the drug sometimes experience an urgency to use the toilet on the onset of feeling the drug’s effect.

The problem with MDMA is it releases an excess and depletes this chemical in your body so you then get the opposite effects for a while, nothing makes you feel happy and you may become quite badly constipated.

  • Users of the drug sometimes experience “butterflies” and an urgency to use the toilet on the onset of feeling the drug’s effect
    Click on image for more info

In 2007 Professor David Nutt, was famously fired from the advisory council for the misuse of drugs for claiming cannabis, LSD, and ecstasy were less harmful than tobacco and alcohol. In recent interviews and lectures he claims that legislation has stunted research into illegal drugs.

This may be why general practitioners can sometimes seem slightly out of touch or uninformed when it comes to the topic of recreational drug use. But ultimately it’s a difficult topic to research and even just discuss.

References

Sam Fitzpatrick Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

Pocock, 4th Edition, Chapter 13, Physiology of the digestive system (Chapter 13.9, Motility of the small intestine).

M Gershon 1998. The Second Brain: The Scientific Basis of Gut Instinct and a Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestines. Harper Collins.