The dangers of taking ecstasy have been exaggerated, and previous studies on the drug favoured by young ravers, have been seriously flawed, British and American psychologists say.
Side-effects could be caused by various factors
Jon Cole and Harry Sumnall, both of Liverpool University, and Charles Grob, a director at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre in California, said studies of ecstasy users were riddled with error, and researchers were biased.
They pointed various factors that could distort previous study findings: psychological problems tend to begin in adolescence anyway; ecstasy users invariably took other drugs as well; and some of the symptoms reported mirrored those caused by staying awake all night and dancing.
Their article, published the Psychologist, the journal of the British Psychological Society, said that the reported adverse effects of ecstasy could even be imaginary, owing to the belief the drug caused long-term harm.
Other experts disagree
Other ecstasy experts writing in the magazine were sceptical.
Michael Morgan, senior lecturer in experimental psychology at the University of Sussex, Brighton, said he had found "overwhelming evidence" that regular ecstasy use causes impulsive behaviour and impaired verbal memory.
And Andy Parrott, an addiction expert from the University of East London who has who has also studied the effects of ecstasy, said: "The deficits are very real and cannot be explained away as artefacts."
Father calls article 'despicable'
British father Paul Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking the drug in 1995, said the article was despicable and accused the authors of having an ulterior motive, possibly wanting to use ecstasy as a therapeutic tool.
"It has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that every single ecstasy tablet destroys parts of the brain. The main thing it destroys is serotonin, and depression follows on from serotonin depletion.
"It has reached such epidemic proportions in America that they talk of Suicide Tuesday. That's because people who have taken ecstasy at the weekend are feeling so suicidal by Tuesday that they kill themselves," he said. – (Sapa-DPA)