Part of the show Science of Archaeology
How can a drug taken by 500,000 people a week be dangerous ? Quite literally more people have died going fishing than from taking Ecstasy. But scientists are beginning to find that there is a more sinister side to Ecstasy that doesn't become apparent until some years down the line. Ecstasy works by causing nerve cells to produce lots of 2 chemicals that are important for signalling in the brain, serotonin and dopamine. Doctors originally thought that the effects were reversible, but now we are finding that after taking ecstasy, the affected nerve cells may be irreversibly damaged. In fact, they may be damaged more in womens' brains than mens'. The researchers say that this could be because most people take ecstasy tablets containing the same amount of drug, but as women are often smaller than men, they have a smaller body in which to distribute the drug and so it reaches higher levels in the bloodstream. So what are the long term consequences of this kind of brain damage ? - probably depression and mental dulling later in life.