Methamphetamine is not MDMA

An excellent article about studies on the effects of methamphetamine, not MDMA, describes findings in rats, not people.

Originally appearing here.

Commentary on “Club Drugs Inflict Damage Similar to Traumatic Brain Injury”

Science Daily, Nov 30, 2007

Despite the headline “Club Drugs Inflict Damage Similar To Traumatic Brain Injury,” that recently appeared in Science Daily, the findings the article go on to describe are for methamphetamine, and not MDMA. Contrary to what this article states, MDMA is not a “type of methamphetamine,” and while the two drugs share similarities in structure, their actions in the brains of rats and people are different.

The difference between the drugs is evident when considering the paper that Ricaurte had to retract after it turned out that he had administered methamphetamine to monkeys instead of MDMA.

People taking ecstasy may be unintentionally ingesting methamphetamine, but in no other way are these particular findings applicable to MDMA.

Even if the studies described referred to MDMA, the findings refer to discoveries concerning protein markers of oxidative stress. It is not news that oxidative stress is one of the main models explaining neurotoxicity after high or repeated doses of MDMA in nonhuman animals.

The researchers presented the data described in this article at a presentation at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. As it happens, they have published previous research with MDMA. One of those papers stated that MDMA produced lesser signs of oxidative stress than methamphetamine, and the other study was a study in cells using a dose of MDMA hundreds of times the size of exposure after a typical human dose.

There already exists a wealth of studies comparing ecstasy users with non-users, and these studies provide a better measure of real-world effects than rat studies, which are done in this case to study models of oxidative stress. Heavy ecstasy users show problems with memory and decision-making, but no one has compared these problems against those in people with traumatic brain injury.