Drug users, like smokers, people who drink too much coffee or alcohol, will latch onto any notion that their excess is good for them, or at least harmless. So when a dispute arose over whether Ecstasy is really bad for you, the legions of E users gloated and gurned at the idea.
But new evidence published in the journal Science shows that only a couple of E tablets can cause brain damage and can even lead to Parkinson's disease in later life.
Why? It seems, according to researchers in the US, that E wreaks havoc with an important array of brain cells known as dopamine neurons.
It's been known for some time that E causes a drop in the levels of serotonin in the brain - serotonin regulates mood, emotion, appetite and sleeping patterns.
But new tests show that E also causes pronounced and prolonged drops in the levels of dopamine, the chemical that helps control the ability to feel pleasure, as well as emotion and even physical movement.
What worries researchers at Johns Hopkins University was that a substantial drop in dopamine levels can trigger the onset of Parkinsonism.
The finding ties in with the twitchiness and tremors that many heavy users of E suffer. Combined with the widespread use of E as a cornerstone of club culture worldwide, the researchers say there's reason for concern.
Many clubbers take more than one E tablet per night, putting them well over the dangerous dosage rate established by the researchers. Their conclusion? Think twice before getting off your face this weekend.
(William Smook, Health24, October 2006)