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US Ecstasy study retracted after drug mix-up

Mon Sep 8 2003

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A study that claimed regular users of the drug Ecstasy run the risk of severe brain damage has been retracted by its authors following a mix-up of their laboratory samples.

The authors of the study published in September 2002 by the journal Science claimed regular users of Ecstasy (MDMA) could seriously damage the working functions of their brains.

However, in an embarrassing turnaround, the same authors said Monday: "We write to retract our report...following our recent discovery that the drug used to treat all but one animal in that report came from a bottle that contained methamphetamine instead of the intended drug (Ecstasy)."

The retraction is due to be published in Science on September 12.

The experts said they reached their findings by using a bottle of methamphetamine when they thought the bottle had contained Ecstasy.

They discovered their mistake when they tried to obtain the same results with different samples of actual Ecstasy.

The study was originally conducted at Johns Hopkins University, and it described the grave damage and irreversable effects that Ecstasy use could have on the brain.

The authors had also claimed in their now-retracted findings, that regular Ecstasy use could lead to the similar effects as Parkinson's disease (news - web sites).

In their retraction, the authors reaffirmed nonetheless that "this apparent labelling error does not call into question the results of multiple previous studies demonstrating the serotonin neurotoxic potential of MDMA (Ecstasy) in various animal species, including several nonhuman primate species."

"Moreover...some humans with a history of MDMA abuse have developed Parkinsonism," the authors stressed.

Ecstasy, commonly taken by clubbers in the form of a small pill, is favored by ravers because its makes them more energetic and excited, and gives them greater euphoric sensations.

However, the highs experienced by Ecstasy or MDMA users can sometimes be followed by bouts of depression.