Scientists retract ecstasy drug finding

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore have recanted a controversial report on the dangers of the drug commonly called ecstasy. The scientists reported in the Sept. 27, 2002 Science that one-time use of the mind-altering drug can severely impair the body’s processing of dopamine, an important brain chemical.

The original paper suggested that ecstasy, technically known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine, could cause brain damage and death in lab animals at doses comparable to those taken by some teens.

The team, led by George Ricaurte, formally retracted that finding in the Sept. 12 Science after discovering that most of the drug doses administered to monkeys and baboons in the experiment were methamphetamine, not ecstasy. The researchers attribute the mix-up to mislabeled vials from the supplier of the chemicals.

Even so, ecstasy still can be a bummer. Unchallenged research has suggested that long-term ecstasy use erodes people’s memories (SN: 5/5/01, p. 280: Available to subscribers at Long-term ecstasy use impairs memory).


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