8/2/2000 – Learning about SSRI dangers from the Ecstasy epidemic

Thanks to George Ellis for bringing the following report on Ecstasy to
our attention and for his voice of sanity in this insane serotonin drug
situation. Be sure to note the comment “First patented under a differnet name
as an appetite suppressant, ecstasy releases a neurotransmitter called
serotonin, which heightens energy levels. The drugs short-term side effects
include muscle pain, impaired sexual performance and depression.”

Ecstasy – yet another prescription medication gone bad. With the same end
effect being an increase in serotonin and the side effects being so similiar
to the SSRI antidepressants why is the Ecstasy use considered an “epidemic”
when one eighth of the population of America is on SSRIs?

Ann Blake-Tracy

Watching ABC World News tonight, I was watching a segment on the
interception of a million Ecstasy tablets by Customs officials when I saw
an absolute Lewis Carroll absurdity. Peter Jennings narrated that many
people don’t think Ecstasy is harmful, but that others warn of the “Suicide
Tuesday” that follows a weekend Ecstasy high. He then explained, with an
illustration, how Ecstasy works by increasing seratonin production,
flooding the synapses with seratonin. It looked so familiar.

Excuse me, but isn’t this a case of the government putting an alarm label
on Ecstasy while the SSRIs get a clean bill of health for doing exactly the
same thing? I mean, isn’t the real difference a matter of whether a company
and its army of lawyers and paid researchers have spent what it takes to get
FDA approval vs. someone who skips all that and just makes the pills and
sells them to partygoers? So who’s really being protected here, the public or
the pharmaceutical companies? If Ecstasy is so bad for flooding the brain
with seratonin, and Prozac does the same thing, Why is one the target of
federal law enforcement and the other pushed by doctors and HMOs? Does the
difference consist of continuing to pop the pills (can you spell “mandated
addiction”?), and Suicide Tuesday is perhaps moved to a Friday?

Huh? I just don’t get it.

George Ellis
Chief Copy Editor

Here is the ABC news report:

First patented under a different name as an appetite suppressant,
ecstasy releases a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which heightens energy
levels. The drugs short-term side effects include muscle pain, impaired
sexual performance and depression.

Dangers of Ecstasy

Designer Drug Holds Unknown Health Risks

U.S. Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly holds up a bag full of Ecstasy
during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday before the Senate Caucus on
International Narcotics Control in Washington. (James R. Tourtellotte, U.S.
Customs/AP Photo)

By Bill Blakemore

July 26 On Saturday, federal agents intercepted 2.1 million tablets, nearly
1,100 pounds, of the drug MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy at Los Angeles
International Airport. Valued at $40 million, officials said it is the
biggest Ecstasy bust in history and it marked the high point of a 10-month
investigation by the Southwest Border Initiative, a multi-agency task force.
That™s 2.1 million tablets of Ecstasy that won’t go to our kids this
year, Stephen Wiley, FBI special agent in charge, said during a news
conference today.
Three men were arrested Tuesday. Authorities were still searching for
Tamer Ibrahim, 26, of Los Angeles, the alleged ringleader of the operation.
They arrested Ryu Steve Jiha, 35, Mark Edward Belin, 28, and Damon Todd
Kidwell, 29, all of the Los Angeles area.
The group has been linked to several other large seizures around the
world, including 700 pounds found by U.S. Customs agents in December 1999,
authorities said.
The cache confiscated Saturday was found in 15 boxes on an Air France
flight from Paris and represented one-fourth of the 8 million tablets of
Ecstasy seized in the United States this year, officials said. By comparison,
only 400 tablets of the drug were seized in the United States three years

Unknown Risks Across the Board

Ecstasy, a synthetic drug manufactured mostly in Europe, is a hallucinogenic
stimulant that gives its users a feeling of euphoria.
The popular drug has spread beyond rave parties to college campuses and
even into middle-class, professional America.
Its growing pervasiveness is troublesome because the prevailing belief
is that it’s perfectly safe in part because some scientists think it might
have therapeutic effects. Also, it does not produce extreme behaviors as some
other illegal drugs do. It just seems to make you feel good.
My experience has been very safe with it, and everyone around me has
been safe, says one 29-year-old professional who runs her own business and
choose not to use her name. I don’t know anyone who’s addicted to it or
problems with it.
But a number of users do report a depression they call Suicide
Tuesdays. Dozens of people are reported to have died after Ecstasy raised
their body temperature to extreme levels. And scientists who study how
Ecstasy works in the brain say there is a great deal of evidence that should
make us worry.

Irreversible Brain Damage

Repeated Ecstasy exposure has been shown to lead to clear brain damage and
that brain damage is correlated with behavioral deficits in learning and
memory processes, says Alan Leshner, the director of the National Institute
on Drug Abuse, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health. This is
not a benign, fun drug.
Normally, your brain controls mood partly by passing the chemical
serotonin in small amounts from one brain cell to another. But Ecstasy
forces lots of serotonin across the gap. Some new research suggests it leaves
brain cells weakened and may cause irreversible brain loss.
We know from primates, non-human primates, that the damage lasts for
years, says Una McCann, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University.
Some scientists, on the other hand, report Ecstasy may have benefit in
strictly limited cases.
One group were interested in studying are individuals with end-stage
cancer who have severe depression and anxiety and physical pain which have
not responded to conventional measures, says Charles Grob, a psychiatrist at
Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
If medical use is ever allowed, it is far off. For now, government
agents are battling the spread, and the myths, of a pill called Ecstasy,
which for them, at least, is anything but.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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