Preventing problems in Ecstasy users:
reduce use to reduce harm

Baggott MJ.
J Psychoactive Drugs 2002 Apr-Jun;34(2):145-62


Increasing use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") has been accompanied by concern about acute and possible long-term toxicity. This article discusses acute serious toxicity, chronic toxicity, and common problems associated with Ecstasy use, as well as the implications of these areas for prevention programs targeted at current Ecstasy users. The low incidence of serious adverse events in users creates difficulties for attempts to develop harm reduction recommendations. Many hypothesized risk factors for serious adverse events cannot be confirmed or denied and may not be associated with dramatic elevations in risk. Research on chronic toxicity in users provides strong evidence of neurophysiological changes and suggestive evidence of possible neurocognitive changes. Because these worrisome changes are clinically subtle, users may not be influenced by concerns of neurotoxicity. In contrast, common Ecstasy-related complaints are relatively well documented and have identified risk factors, including factors relating to extent of Ecstasy use (such as "binges"). Common complaints include modest acute and subacute adverse effects,some lasting several days, and problems in life. The apparent willingness of users to modify drug use and other behaviors to decrease these common problems could be used by harm reduction or other prevention programs to encourage users to decrease the extent of Ecstasy use.

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