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What Does Ecstasy Do To Your Brain?

If you've read or heard the news you've probably heard about a drug called ecstasy, or "e" for short. What is ecstasy and what does it do to your brain?

ecstasy tablets

Photo: Monique Renne (Flickr)

Ecstasy causes feelings of happiness that are only temporary.

If you’ve read or heard the news you’ve probably heard about a drug called ecstasy, or “e” for short. Favored by users for its intensely pleasurable high, and condemned by the government for the neurological harm it can cause, ecstasy has become the drug of choice for many.

So just what is ecstasy, and what does it do?

Ecstasy directly affects serotonin, a brain chemical involved in many functions, including regulating emotions. Happiness, for instance, is caused in part by the release of serotonin in the brain.

Ecstasy forces brain cells to unleash all their serotonin at once, effectively flooding the brain with a substance that causes intense feelings of happiness. Ecstasy users report feeling incredibly happy and carefree for up to six hours on the strength of one pill.

Non-Addictive? Not True!

Although advocates claim that the drug is non-addictive, in truth it is far from harmless. Overloading the brain with serotonin makes the user feel great for a while, but after all the serotonin is used up and the high wears off, depression can set in.

What’s worse, besides regulating emotions, serotonin also helps control body temperature. Since many ecstasy users attend raves, or all-night dance parties, lack of temperature control can lead to dangerous overheating. And what’s even more troubling is that by forcing cells to secrete serotonin, ecstasy reshapes those cells. Because the change in shape may be permanent, some scientists fear that prolonged ecstasy use causes brain damage.

Temporary Fix

So although ecstasy may sound great, the risks really outweigh the temporary pleasures.

Want to be happy? Great. But you won’t find lasting happiness in a six hour fix.

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