|Ask Dr. Shulgin Online
ARCHIVE: October 30, 2001
MDMA (Ecstasy) and Holes in the Brain?
Dear Dr. Shulgin:
Lately I've been hearing a lot of talk about how every time you take ecstasy it does permanent damage to the brain. I've also heard that ecstasy puts holes in the brain. Are these statements true?
-- Road Dog
Dear Road Dog:
No, they are not. The "permanent brain damage" is based totally on studies done with experimental animals, with the findings extrapolated to encompass the human subject. In a simple statement, there have been no studies in man that have indicated brain damage.
The "holes in the brain" is an even more outrageous deception. These popular holes are areas in brain scans that appear less active in attracting radiolabelled agents that are agonists for certain receptor site areas. The pictures that are shown for comparison are not of the same person with or without MDMA in them, but of different people, one of whom has used a lot of ecstasy and the other one without any such history. The quintessence of this line of mythology is an article that appeared recently in the Willamette Week. It not only assured the reader that there were holes generated by serotonin loss, but that they became flooded with dopamine (the default neurotransmitter) and, being attacked by hydrogen peroxide, produced rust.
Sorry, drug warriors. No damage, no holes, no rust.
-- Dr. Shulgin