Something Bout Those Little Pills…

Back in September of last year a group of researchers led by George Ricaurte published a study sponsored by the US federal government showing that ecstasy was far more dangerous than previously thought. Indeed, only three doses of MDMA over a nine hour period caused massive damage in both seratonin and dopamine producing neurons. Two of the ten study animals even died after being dosed….

Wait a second. Three doses over nine hours and one fifth of them died? Oh well, you know what these “rave parties” are like. Those kids drop like flies! And the study did appear in Science. I’m sure it was carefully performed and reviewed….

Or not.

We write to retract our report “Severe dopaminergic neurotoxicity in primates after a common recreational dose regimen of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)” following our recent discovery that the drug used to treat all but one animal in that report came from a bottle that contained d-methamphetamine instead of the intended drug, racemic MDMA. Notably, d-methamphetamine would be expected to produce the same pattern of combined dopaminergic/serotonergic neurotoxicity as that seen in the animals reported in our paper.

The Ricaurte study was among the justifications used in the US when anti-ecstasy laws were toughened over the past year. You can read more about this retraction (including an account of the researchers changing their story about how many animals died) here or read quite a good summary of the myths about ecstasy neurotoxicity here (scroll down to “Why I don’t Believe in MDMA Neurotoxicity”).

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