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Neurotoxic effects of ecstasy have been reported, although it remains
unclear whether effects can be attributed to ecstasy, other recreational
drugs or a combination of these.
To assess specific/independent neurotoxic effects of heavy ecstasy use
and contributions of amphetamine, cocaine and cannabis as part of The
Netherlands XTC Toxicity (NeXT) study.
Effects of ecstasy and other substances were assessed with
1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging,
perfusion weighted imaging and
([123I]β-CIT) single photon emission computed tomography
(serotonin transporters) in a sample (n=71) with broad
variation in drug use, using multiple regression analyses.
Ecstasy showed specific effects in the thalamus with decreased
[123I]β-CIT binding, suggesting serotonergic axonal damage;
decreased fractional anisotropy, suggesting axonal loss; and increased
cerebral blood volume probably caused by serotonin depletion. Ecstasy had
no effect on brain metabolites and apparent diffusion coefficients.
Converging evidence was found for a specific toxic effect of ecstasy on
serotonergic axons in the thalamus.
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