HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 'Killer' Ecstasy Claim Was False
Pubdate: Tue,  9 Sep 2003
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2003 BBC
Alert: Bad Science Drives Drug War Hysteria
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


Research suggesting just one Ecstasy tablet could harm humans was
based on a laboratory mistake, it has been revealed.

US experts found that four out of 10 monkeys died or were severely
damaged after a small dose of a drug, at first believed to be Ecstasy.

In fact, a far more potent drug had been given to the animals by

The Johns Hopkins University team were forced to withdraw their paper
from eminent research journal Science.

Experts have expressed amazement as to how the flawed research ever
managed to get published in such a well-respected publication.

Obvious Flaw

Colin Blakemore, a Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, said
that the sheer number of primates left dead or severely damaged
already seemed implausible.

He told the BBC: "Whatever we think about the toxicity of Ecstasy, 40%
of people using it each weekend do not die."

The original study suggested that even a single episode of Ecstasy use
might be enough to produce long-lasting drops in the brain's ability
to produce the vital chemical dopamine.

This, they suggested might be enough to trigger conditions such as
Parkinson's Disease.

The doses used on the monkeys, they said, were similar to those used
by clubbers, Two of the monkeys died after drug treatment, and two
could not continue in the trial due to severe brain damage.

The problem with the study came to light when the researchers, led by
Professor George Ricaurte, tried to repeat it using Ecstasy in tablet
form rather than in the form of an injection.

The results achieved bore no relation to the earlier

Label Error

In his retraction, published on the journal's website, Professor
Ricaurte admitted that their Ecstasy sample had arrived at the
laboratory in the same package as another, more potent form of

There had been a mix-up between the two, perhaps due to a labelling
error, and the wrong drug had been given to the monkeys instead of

Tests on brains taken from the monkeys which died confirmed the

However, Dr Ricaurte said: "This apparent labelling error does not
call into question the results of multiple previous studies
demonstrating the neurotoxic potential of MDMA (Ecstasy) in various
animal species."

Professor Blakemore said that the error was likely to damage the
credibility of other scientists carrying out perfectly valid
experiments on the long-term effects of drugs such as Ecstasy.

He told the BBC: "It degrades respect for science and I think will
have a very dangerous and damaging effect on the attitudes of young
people towards scientific evidence and advice about drugs."

He said he was unsure how the normally-rigourous "peer-reviewing"
procedure - in which other leading scientists are asked to look over
research papers prior to publication looking for mistakes - had failed
in this instance.
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