The Guardian carries a story about a man who took 40,000 Ecstasy pills over nine years. The man sounds a wreck – paranoia, hallucinations, depression and extreme short-term memory loss, despite not having taken Ecstasy for seven years.
The story provides a good illustration of some of the methodological problems with proving that MDMA use is dangerous
This was an extreme case – does normal recreational use of ecstasy have the same effects, but less, or is the amount consumed by most people well within their ability to safely process the drug? Many animal studies which show harmful effects of MDMA use similarly extreme procedures – giving monkeys the equivalent of 50 pills over three days, for example. Although this demonstrates that MDMA can be harmful, the implications for ‘normal’ drug use among humans are not clear. Other research, published today, but not mentioned in the Guardian article until towards the end, suggest that the side-effects of ecstasy use are temporary. The research mentioned failed to find a significant difference between users and non-users in either amount of depression or in neuroanatomical differences revealed by brain scans. But this can’t prove that there’s isn’t an effect (because absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence). The man was also a heavy cannabis user (and probably other things too), although this also isn’t mentioned until the end of the article. It is hard to be sure which drug(s) caused his problems. Finally, what kind of man would take 40,000 ecstasy pills?! His psychological and, potentially neurological, make-up was probably unusual before he went anywhere near the E