Ecstasy may affect mom-to-be’s baby

Ecstasy, a drug being tested for therapeutic benefits but most often used in raves and clubs, may affect a pregnant woman’s baby, U.S. researchers say.

Lynn Singer of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland said the researchers analyzed data on 96 pregnant women in England, as well as their babies at birth and at 4 months.

Singer said heavy ecstasy users were more likely to have babies who didn’t meet development milestones for such things as coordination and balance. People who use ecstasy said it induces a sense of euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others and diminished anxiety, Singer said.

“The data so far suggests to us that there are effects of ecstasy that are harmful to the developing fetus,” Singer said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, helps the body relax, reduces inhibitions and increases energy and brings feelings of euphoria. Ecstasy also provides a feeling of empathy and, in some users, can lead to emotional healing… though at a price. Ecstasy burst onto the club scene in the 1980s and its use escalated in the 1990s, particularly among adolescents and young adults. In 2005, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that 5 percent of all graduating seniors in the US had tried the drug at least once.

Ecstasy and brain damage
Taking the drug ecstasy, even just a few times, can harm the brain. Brain imaging studies performed in 56 non-users and 59 first-time ecstasy users, who had taken an average of just six tablets, revealed subtle changes in cell architecture and decreased blood flow in some areas of the brain in the young adults. A decrease in verbal memory was also seen in new ecstasy users compared with non-users, Dr. Maartje de Win of Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam reported in 2006 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. It’s not known where these harmful effects on the brain are fleeting or permanent. “There is some evidence, in heavy ecstasy users, that part of the brain recovers,” de Win said, “although we don’t know if brain cells recover, whether their function is the same.” Studies have shown that long-term or heavy ecstasy use can damage neurons in the brain and cause depression, anxiety, confusion, difficulty sleeping and memory impairment. De Win’s study, however, is the first to look at the neurotoxic effects of low doses of ecstasy on first-time users. Ecstasy, which is highly addictive, stimulates the release of the brain chemical serotonin, producing a high that lasts from several minutes to an hour. The drug’s “feel-good” effects vary by the individual, the dose and purity, and the environment in which it is taken.

Risk of death
Fabrizio Schifano of the University of Hertfordshire, believes the so-called “club drug” ecstasy is more likely than other stimulants like speed or crystal meth to kill young, healthy people who are not known as regular drug users. Fabrizio Schifano says deaths from ecstasy are more common in victims who are young, healthy, and less likely to be known as drug users and young people aged between 16 and 24 seem to suffer extreme consequences after excessive intake of this drug.



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