Pubdate: Fri, 23 Sep 2005
Source: Businessworld (Philippines)
Copyright: 2005 BusinessWorld
Author: Reuters
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


DUBLIN -- Clubbers using ecstasy to keep them dancing through the
night may damage their immune systems while those suffering from
depression induced by the drug could be more difficult to treat, a
neuroscientist said recently.

Developed as an appetite suppressant but now used at raves and night
clubs to reduce inhibitions, ecstasy has been linked to psychiatric
illnesses but Dr. Thomas Connor of Trinity College Dublin believes it
may also put physical health at risk.

"Ecstasy has potent immuno-suppressant qualities which have the
ability to increase an individual's susceptibility to disease," Mr.
Connor told journalists at the British Association for the Advancement
of Science annual festival in Dublin.

The environment in which ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is taken further
increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases, he said.

"People ingest these drugs in crowded night clubs full of young people
with lots of bugs [germs] going around."

Mr. Connor said evidence so far suggested somebody taking two tablets
during a night out would experience a weakening in the body's natural
defenses lasting up to 48 hours.

Scientists have yet to study the long-term impact on the immune system
but the potential was there for damage in hardcore users, he added.

Mr. Connor pointed to anecdotal evidence suggesting a higher risk of
illness such as websites used by clubbers advising that they eat
plenty of fruit and vegetables in order to boost their immune systems
before taking the drug.

There had been instances of unusual illnesses in young users such as
shingles of the eye and cases of meningitis, which causes inflammation
of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord, shortly after
ingesting the drug, he said.

In the face of evidence that MDMA can lead to depression, anxiety and
psychosis, Mr. Connor said there were growing signs the physical
damage done by the drug reduced the effectiveness of antidepressants
such as Prozac.

"In ecstasy users the proteins that Prozac works on are greatly
diminished in number," he said, cautioning however that results so far
were based on studies on animals rather than clinical trials.
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