Monday, 24 November 2014

Ecstasy and mental health

In What are your 'ecstasy years' doing to you today? Clem Bastow reports on an ABC short documentary exploring links between mental illness and ecstasy use in The Agony Of Ecstasy.
Other friends were certainly not so shy, nor was Lise, now 28, whose former ecstasy use is the subject of the short ABC2 documentary The Agony Of Ecstasy.

Having used ecstasy regularly - “every weekend, for two years” - in her younger days, Lise soon found herself dealing with detrimental effects to her mental health that went beyond the accepted ‘comedown’ period after each party: psychosis, anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The Agony Of Ecstasy explores the possibility that regular use of the drug could contribute to long-term detrimental effects to mental health, memory, motor skills, and even the ability to learn.
As it turns out, many of the potential long term effects of ecstasy use are tied to what makes it such a popular drug in the first place: its stimulation of the hormones serotonin and oxytocin, and the ensuing depletion of the former, which can take days to replenish.

In Agony, Lise visits Prof. Ian McGregor of Sydney University, who has been conducting research into the effects of the drug: he has found evidence of long term depletion of serotonin, and increased rates of depression and anxiety, in even casual users. In rats that had been exposed to small amounts of MDMA, Prof. McGregor also found long term depletion of oxytocin, which is essential for day-to-day social functioning. Compellingly, he says there is also evidence to suggest that users who experience “terrible Tuesday” could be displaying a predisposition to mental illness.

It is, as Lise puts it during her Agony journey, “a chicken and the egg” scenario: it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether she was already prone to anxiety, depression and poor judgment before she began taking the drug, or if the drug left her in that state.
“Absolutely,” agrees Lucas, “a harm reduction approach that focuses on safe use has been proven to be more  effective in terms of reducing the risk to individuals and society. Of course there will always be a demand for drugs because young people will always want to try new experiences, but making sure they are making informed choices around drug taking, and the risks involved, is really what we want to contribute to.”

No comments:

Post a Comment