A report published in Britain’s New Scientist found that many of the studies into the effects of MDMA (Ecstasy) were “irretrievably flawed” and inaccurate. New Scientist specifically criticized photos of brain scans which allegedly show that ecstacy destroys nerve cells involved in production of serotonin. These photos are still being used in US federal anti-drug campaigns.
These brain scan photos were produced in 1998 from a study at John Hopkins University, and were produced by using a radioactive chemical probe which latches onto serotonin transporter proteins. These photos are purported to show that the “glow” from the brains of heavy ecstacy users is less than non-users, meaning that the heavy users had less serotonin cells.
Yet New Scientist claims that the photos used were chosen to fit the preconception that ecstacy causes harm. Independent researchers told New Scientist that the way the brain scan worked was heavily variable, that some non-users brains glowed 40 times brighter than others, and many of the ecstasy users’ brains outshone the non-users by a factor of 10 or more.
New Scientist wrote that “despite the poster depiction of ‘your brain on ecstasy’ there never was ? and never has been ? a typical scan showing the typical brain of a long-term ecstasy user”.
New Scientist also claimed that it is an “open secret” that researchers who fail to find that ecstasy is harmful have “difficulty” getting their results published.