Long-term changes in brain chemistry can result from the recreational use of the illegal drug commonly known as Ecstasy.
AVanderbilt University Medical Center study found that the drop in serotonin levels as a result of consuming the “rave” drug can last as long as two years.
This U.S. Health News report highlighted the research that focused on women. The female gender was selected for this study on Ecstasy and its impact on serotonin levels due to its role in the regulation of sleep, appetite, mood and memory.
Dr. Ronald Cowan, an associate professor with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center School of Medicine, shared that Ecstasy has long been known to produce transient effects, but it was assumed that recovery would result over time. This study suggests the effects could be instead sustained over time.
Dr. Cowan also stressed that this study was merely observational, producing only suggested causation. Despite that fact, he still suggests the study provides strong evidence that there is a chronic change in the levels of serotonin for those who use the drug.
This study is important to gain a better understanding the effects ecstasy can have on the body, given that nearly 16 million Americans, aged 12 and older, have been recorded as using the drug at some point in time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes this drug as a psychoactive stimulant that structurally resembles mescaline and methamphetamine.
Ecstasy has the ability to increase serotonin levels in the brain and users experience a feeling of euphoria and emotional warmth, spurring a positive reaction to the drug. This use also prompts an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to sleep problems and feelings of depression, confusion and even anxiety.