Brain and Body

MDMA May be More Dangerous For Women than Men, According to Scientists

November 9, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: tanjila ahmed/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Women are 2-3 times more likely to seek emergency medical treatment, and it may boil down to body chemistry.

According to the findings of the 2016 Global Drug Survey, the last three years saw a four-fold increase in British female clubbers ending up in emergency rooms after taking MDMA.

In fact, female MDMA users are now two to three times more likely to seek emergency treatment than men, tipping off researchers that there may be a physiological explanation for this gender difference.

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Research suggests that MDMA may pose a higher risk for women because of the way the drug interacts with female body chemistry.

A possible explanation may lie in the fact that MDMA causes the body to retain more water, which can lead to dangerous brain swelling, reports The Guardian. Women are particularly at risk from these effects due to the female hormone estrogen, which impairs cells’ ability to get rid of the excess water.

“What I would say to female ecstasy users is that you need to more careful than men,” said Dr. Adam Winstock, the founder of the Global Drug Survey. “Women appear to be more at risk of harm. Everyone has to be careful, but I think women need to pay extra attention to things like how much they are using, how they are mixing, where they are and who they’re with.”

Winstock says that MDMA can have more unpredictable effects on the body than other drugs, even in small doses. In the wrong set of circumstances, a small dose might actually kill a user, but he clarifies that this risk can be reduced by careful use.

While MDMA may pose some unsettling risks when taken recreationally, there is a growing body of research highlighting the drug’s beneficial therapeutic potential. When administered in medical settings, MDMA has been found to help soldiers overcome life-debilitating PTSD.

However, the Global Drug Survey warns that it is the “worst time in a generation” to be using MDMA. For a breakdown of what actually goes on in the brain and body on MDMA, check here.

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