Report of Ecstasy Drug's Great Risks Is Retracted

Jasbird Jasbird#dead-mail-box# at
Sat Sep 6 07:45:07 EST 2003

Report of Ecstasy Drug's Great Risks Is Retracted

A leading scientific journal yesterday retracted a paper it published
last year saying that one night's typical dose of the drug Ecstasy
might cause permanent brain damage.

The monkeys and baboons in the study were not injected with Ecstasy
but with a powerful amphetamine, said the journal, Science magazine.

The retraction was submitted by the team at Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine that did the study.

A medical school spokesman called the mistake "unfortunate" but said
that Dr. George A. Ricaurte, the researcher who made it, was "still a
faculty member in good standing whose research is solid and

The study, released last Sept. 27, concluded that a dose of Ecstasy a
partygoer would take in a single night could lead to symptoms
resembling Parkinson's disease.

The study was ridiculed at the time by other scientists working with
the drug, who said the primates must have been injected with huge

Two of the 10 primates died of heat stroke, they pointed out, and
another two were in such distress that they were not given all the

If a typical Ecstasy dose killed 20 percent of those who took it, the
critics said, no one would use it recreationally.

In an interview yesterday, Dr. Ricaurte said he realized his mistake
when he could not reproduce his own results by giving the drug to
monkeys orally. He then realized that two vials his laboratory bought
the same day must have been mislabeled: one contained Ecstasy, the
other d-methamphetamine.

Dr. Ricaurte's laboratory has received millions of dollars from the
National Institute on Drug Abuse, and has produced several studies
concluding that Ecstasy is dangerous. Other scientists accuse him of
ignoring their studies showing that typical doses do no permanent

At the time Dr. Ricaurte's study was published, it was strongly
defended against those critics by Dr. Alan I. Leshner, the former head
of the drug abuse institute, who had just become the chief executive
officer of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, which
publishes Science.

Dr. Leshner had testified before Congress that Ecstasy was dangerous,
and Dr. Ricaurte's critics accused him of rushing his results into
print because a bill known as the Anti-Rave Act was before Congress.
The act would punish club owners who knew that drugs like Ecstasy were
being used at their dance gatherings.

Dr. Ricaurte yesterday called that accusation "ludicrous."

His laboratory made "a simple human error," he said. "We're
scientists, not politicians." 

Asked why the vials were not checked first, he answered: "We're not
chemists. We get hundreds of chemicals here. It's not customary to
check them."

More information about the Neur-sci mailing list