MDMA Study Botched
September 7, 2003 12:50 PM   Subscribe

A widely-reported study that showed recreational use of MDMA to cause Parkinson's diesase was found to be botched and has now been retracted. The results were not skewed, the margin of error wasn't miscalculated--the primates were given the wrong drug.
posted by brittney (19 comments total)
OK. Now, hands up anyone who thinks that any anti-drug campaigner who spouted out the usual overblown horror stories and used this report as a basis for them are going to own up to maybe getting it wrong? Anyone? Anyone? Mr. Lewis? Mr. Randall?
posted by kaemaril at 12:55 PM on September 7, 2003

The wrong drug being methamphetamines...
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:05 PM on September 7, 2003

Yes, this is great to hear. ecstasy doesn't cause brain damage, it's just propagandha made up to try to- oh, look something shiny
posted by shadow45 at 1:10 PM on September 7, 2003

"man prefers to belive what he prefers to be true" - francis bacon
posted by carfilhiot at 1:13 PM on September 7, 2003

This has to be an embarassment of epic proportions. ("What, that anti-cancer drug was actually taco sauce? Who knew?!"). If the basic properties of two such totally different drugs were not apparent in the course of this study, then how confident should anyone now be about the accuracy of any published finding from Johns Hopkins Medical School??
posted by at 1:27 PM on September 7, 2003

"While it is unfortunate the labeling error occurred, this in no way undermines the results of numerous previous studies performed in multiple laboratories worldwide demonstrating the serotonin neurotoxic potential of recreational doses of MDMA in various animal species, including several primate species," the university said in a statement."
posted by 4easypayments at 1:48 PM on September 7, 2003

Yes, but "The labeling error was discovered after Ricaurte tried repeatedly to duplicate the results he published in the September 2002 study, the retraction said. He could not achieve the same brain damage in the primates in further research, so he became suspicious that something was amiss." [emphasis added]
posted by todds at 2:14 PM on September 7, 2003

Ricaurte ... said his lab did not administer ecstasy, or MDMA, but methamphetamine, to the primates.

Well, as at least half of the ecstacy for sale has quantities of methamphetamine in it anyway, I think the study is still relevant. Oh, the irony; you can imagine the conversation in the monkey cage:

Monkey #1: Dude, how was that E you scored last week?
Monkey #2: It was f*cking speed. Again.
Monkey #1: Bummer, dude.
posted by carter at 2:21 PM on September 7, 2003

carter: Hahaha!

At least they didn't use fish tank cleaner or asprin coated with hairspray...
posted by i_cola at 2:56 PM on September 7, 2003

to me this seems like damn good work. the investigator tried to reproduce results, couldn't, and to his great credit must have slogged away for ages trying to work out what was wrong. i suspect many scientists would have simply "forgotten" the study and "moved on" rather than finally tracking down the source of the error and posting a retraction. in my opinion that's excellent work by ricaurte.

on the other hand you've got "president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies" spewing a pile of crap: it's hardly "over-zealous promotion" to check, re-check and finally retract your work.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:11 PM on September 7, 2003

In other drug news: Church likely to prevail in dispute over hallucinogenic tea
posted by homunculus at 4:29 PM on September 7, 2003

Well, as at least half of the ecstacy for sale has quantities of methamphetamine in it anyway

Is there any basis for this statement?
posted by ook at 6:34 PM on September 7, 2003

what about MDA and other synthetic cousins often found in ecstasy tablets?

and the PMA incident in Orlando, FL...
posted by shadow45 at 6:41 PM on September 7, 2003

Is there any basis for this statement?

ook: It was on off-the-cuff remark, intended to humorously hint at unspecified anecdotal evidence - but anyway - Yes.

Of the last 25 pills tested by dancesafe, only 10 were 100% MDMA. One was MDMA cut with MDA. The other 14 contained little or generally no MDMA. The largest ingredient in each the 14 non-MDMA pills was: methamphetamine (3), caffeine (2), acetominophen (aspirin) (2), DXM (2), BZP/TFMPP (1), MDA (1), ketamin (1), unknown (1). (Oops missed one there somewhere but you get the picture).

If you go back through dancesafe's tests, the proportions will vary, but there will always be a lot of non-MDMA 'ecstacy' in there. Ecstacy did start as pure MDMA but after a while became a generic name for any cocktail dealers wanted to push, and which eager punters were willing to buy.
posted by carter at 7:02 PM on September 7, 2003

Bad news for those of us who like speed, though.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:18 PM on September 7, 2003

Bad news for the test subjects too.
posted by lobakgo at 10:13 PM on September 7, 2003

From the article: The supposed bottle of MDMA was already empty, but some frozen monkey brains left over from the study remained.

Let this be a lesson: Always freeze the monkey brains.
posted by samuelad at 12:25 AM on September 8, 2003

From the article: "He said yesterday that his laboratory made 'a simple human error', adding: 'We're scientists, not chemists.' Asked why the vials of liquid were not checked before being used on the animals, he replied: 'We're not chemists. We get hundreds of chemicals here - it's not customary to check them.'"

anyone else see a problem here?
posted by Uncle Ira at 5:24 AM on September 8, 2003

Regarding bad ecstasy, I strongly suggest that anybody who doesn't like surprises (but does enjoy MDMA) invest in a dancesafe ecstasy adulterant screening kit, and never buy drugs at a concert or in a nightclub.

The test doesn't use a large amount of the substance, and in my experience dealers have no issue with the testing, and are proud when the reagents show that the pill is good.

After all, you wouldn't buy alcohol by walking into a liquor store and blindly grabbing the first bottle you see... why should you be less choosy with other intoxicants?
posted by mosch at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2003

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