I have been having this long (and interesting) debate with my teenage daughter about whether or not drugs should be legalised. She is adamant that MDMA is harmless. The Daily Mail think otherwise…..
Controversial claims that Ecstasy may not be dangerous and that its adverse effects could be imaginary caused outrage yesterday.
A research team criticised ‘biased’ studies which said the drug causes long-term brain damage and mental problems.
But other experts and parents of Ecstasy victims were horrified by the claims, made in The Psychologist magazine, pointing out that dozens of people die after taking the drug every year.
Paul Riddell, whose 23-year-old son Graham died last year after taking the drug, said their conclusions are ‘ridiculous’.
‘Ecstasy boils the blood and organs,’ said Mr Riddell, 48, of Normanton, West Yorkshire.
‘If it is doing that to the organs, what is it doing to the brain? My son lost his life after taking it on a night out – how can it possibly not be dangerous?’
In July, the Daily Mail told how deaths from the Class A drug have doubled to 56 in the past year, with some young people dying after a single tablet.
The shocking figures, compiled by the independent drug monitoring unit at St George’s Hospital in London, came as Ecstasy claimed its youngest victim, ten-year-old Jade Slack, from Lancaster. She accidentally swallowed five pills she found at a friend’s house.
But researchers Dr Jon Cole and Harry Sumnall, of Liverpool University, and Professor Charles Grob, a director in psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA medical centre in California, claim the adverse effects of Ecstasy could be imaginary and brought about by the widely held belief that the drug causes long-term harm.
They say this belief has come about through flawed research.
They say that many psychological problems begin in adolescence anyway, that Ecstasy users often take other drugs and some of the symptoms could be down to staying up all night and dancing.
They also claim many research participants are biased and taking part in studies to confirm their own beliefs that they had suffered sideeffects from the drug.
In addition, they say, some studies have ignored negative data, focusing only on positive data.
Ecstasy, which is used regularly by up to one million clubbers at weekends, is said to affect cells in the brain which produce the chemicalserotonin, known to influence mood. But Dr Cole and his colleagues say the cell bodies themselves are not affected, just nerve fibres which can be re-grown.
They say that Ecstasy users might think they have suffered long-term side-effects because of what they have been told by researchers and the media.
But other experts writing in The Psychologist, published by the British Psychological Society, attack the suggestion that longterm effects are all in the mind.
Dr Michael Morgan, senior lecturer in experimental psychology at the University of Sussex, said he had found ‘overwhelming evidence’ that regular Ecstasy use causes impulsive behaviour and harms verbal memory.
Dr Rodney Croft, a research fellow at the Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia, said: ‘There is strong converging evidence that Ecstasy does cause impairment.
‘I believe that the strength of this evidence makes “danger” the most reasonable message for the researchers to be broadcasting.’
Paul Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking one tablet in 1995, said there was a hidden motive behind the research.
‘Whenever someone tries to say a drug is not as bad as people think it is, there’s an ulterior motive.’