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Hampton’s Pharmacy School Receives $2 Million to Study Ecstasy

Hampton’s Pharmacy School Receives $2 Million to Study Ecstasy


The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Hampton University School of Pharmacy recently received a $2.1 million award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at National Institutes of Health to study the causes of the symptoms associated with the drug MDMA (Ecstasy).

MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Street names for MDMA include Ecstasy, Adam, XTC, hug, beans and love drug.

The grant, part of the Minority Institutions’ Drug Abuse Research Program, is a five-year project directed by Dr. Hugh M. McLean and assistant program director Dr. Simone Heyliger.

“MDMA is rapidly becoming a problem of monumental proportions,” McLean says. “Its current popularity is inextricably linked to its use at all night parties called raves, at which the drug is taken to produce euphoria, energy and a desire to socialize. Although the drug has developed the reputation as a safe drug, several studies in rats and humans have established unequivocally that MDMA induces a myriad of deleterious effects, including a variety of psychopathological states.”

The major focus of the grant is to interpret the biochemical mechanisms associated with the neurotoxicity produced by MDMA. Its chemical structure is similar to methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs known to cause brain damage. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research links MDMA use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory.

“People in their mid-twenties who have been on Ecstasy for a while are developing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” McLean says.

Seven researchers in the School of Pharmacy and one researcher from the School of Science will undertake four projects that tackle the problem from different directions. They anticipate the results of the studies will enhance the existing body of knowledge on the effects of Ecstasy and provide insight on problems associated with other drugs of abuse and misuse.

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