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PSYC FPX4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

Literature Review

The topic of my interest for the given assessment is the neurobiology of ecstasy (MDMA) abuse. I will analyze various peer-reviewed articles from different resources to discuss and gain multiple perspectives on biological psychology. The neurobiology of ecstasy (MDMA) abuse is a critical area of research due to the increasing prevalence of MDMA use and the potential negative consequences of its abuse. MDMA, also known as 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a psychoactive drug commonly used recreationally to produce euphoria and increase social bonding. However, MDMA also has a complex pharmacology that has led to its investigation for various therapeutic applications, including treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

PSYC FPX4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

Regarding library databases, some options include PubMed, ScienceDirect, Capella Library, and PsycINFO. These databases contain a wealth of research articles and other resources on various scientific and medical topics, including the neurobiology of MDMA abuse. I chose these databases because they are well-respected scientific and medical research sources and likely have many relevant articles on the topic of interest. Using these databases and the keywords identified should allow for a comprehensive search of the literature on the neurobiology of MDMA abuse.

Scholarly Research Findings 

The neurobiology of MDMA abuse is a complex and multifaceted topic that scientists have extensively studied. A significant theme that has emerged from the research is its effects on brain chemistry. MDMA has been shown to alter neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which can contribute to its effects on mood, behavior, and cognition. MDMA abuse has been shown to have a range of effects on cognitive function, including impairments in memory, attention, and decision-making.

A research article by Lin et al. (2013) investigates the effects of MDMA on cognitive function (Lin et al., 2013). The article reports that MDMA has been shown to have various acute effects on cognitive function, including impairments in memory, attention, and decision-making (Lin et al., 2013). These effects may be due to the drug’s ability to alter neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which are involved in various cognitive processes. The article also notes that the severity of these effects may depend on factors such as the dose and frequency of MDMA use and individual differences in brain chemistry. Overall, the findings of this article support the idea that MDMA abuse can significantly impact cognitive function.

Another research article by Mercer et al. (2017) examines the potential neurotoxic effects of MDMA on serotonin neurons in the brain (Mercer et al., 2017). According to the study, MDMA cause neurotoxicity to serotonin neurons (Mercer et al., 2017). This neurotoxicity may manifest as reductions in the density of serotonin-containing neurons and axons, as well as impairments in the function of these neurons. The article also discusses the potential long-term consequences of serotonin neurotoxicity, including mood and cognitive function impairments. These findings support the idea that MDMA abuse can have significant and potentially lasting impacts on brain chemistry and function (Mercer et al., 2017).

Strengths and Weaknesses

The existing research on the neurobiology of MDMA abuse provides important insights into the effects of the drug on the brain and behavior. The studies reviewed above suggest that MDMA abuse can alter neurotransmitter levels, lead to neurotoxicity, and have significant and potentially lasting impacts on cognitive function, mood, and other physiological processes (Spillane et al., 2013).

One strength of the existing research is that it utilizes a variety of research methods, including animal studies, human studies, and neuroimaging techniques, to explore the complex neurobiological mechanisms underlying MDMA abuse. This allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of the drug on the brain and behavior. The Neurobiology of MDMA: An Overview is a review article that provides a comprehensive overview of the neurobiology of MDMA. The article discusses how MDMA can affect brain function, including its effects on neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (Spillane et al., 2013). It also notes that MDMA can alter the structure of neurons and can have both acute and long-term effects on brain function. The article also discusses the behavioral effects of MDMA, including its ability to alter mood and cognition. Overall, the findings of this article support the idea that MDMA abuse can have significant and multifaceted impacts on the brain and behavior (Spillane et al., 2013).

According to the article “MDMA and PTSD treatment: “PTSD: From novel pathophysiology to innovative therapeutics.,” the neurobiology of MDMA abuse involves changes in the brain’s levels and function of certain neurotransmitters and hormones (Sessa, 2017). Specifically, MDMA increases the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which can lead to the drug’s mood-elevating effects (Creagh et al., 2018). However, chronic MDMA abuse has been linked to significant reductions in serotonin transporter binding and density and altered serotonin receptor function, which may contribute to the development of negative emotional states and cognitive problems (Müller & Homberg, 2015). Additionally, MDMA has been found to alter the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a critical component of the body’s stress response system and contributes to the development of adverse mental health outcomes in individuals who abuse the drug.

PSYC FPX4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

However, there are also several weaknesses in the existing research that highlight the need for further investigation. For example, many of the studies reviewed above have focused primarily on the acute effects of MDMA abuse, rather than long-term effects (Tao et al., 2017). Additionally, there may be individual differences in brain chemistry that influence the severity and duration of the drug’s effects, which have not been fully explored in the existing literature. The article “Environment Influencing Serotonin Syndrome Induced by Ecstasy Abuse” highlights the role of the neurobiology of MDMA abuse in developing serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by high serotonin levels in the brain (Tao et al., 2017). The article discusses research indicating that MDMA increases the release of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can lead to the drug’s mood-elevating effects (Tao et al., 2017). However, when MDMA is taken in large amounts or in combination with certain other substances, it can lead to a dangerous buildup of serotonin, resulting in symptoms such as agitation, confusion, and tremors (Meyer, 2013). The article also notes that certain environmental factors, such as heat exposure and physical activity, may increase the risk of developing serotonin syndrome in individuals who abuse MDMA.

Furthermore, in “Ecstasy (MDMA) and its effects on kidneys and their treatment: A review,” MDMA abuse can have significant effects on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood and regulating the body’s electrolyte balance (Bora et al., 2016). The article discusses research indicating that MDMA can cause several changes in the kidneys, including an increase in the production of the hormone vasopressin, which can lead to the retention of water in the body and an increase in blood pressure (Bora et al., 2016). Additionally, MDMA has been found to alter the activity of certain kidney enzymes, which can affect the body’s ability to metabolize drugs and other substances (Abuse, 2017). These changes in kidney function can contribute to the development of adverse health outcomes in individuals who abuse MDMA, including kidney damage and impaired kidney function.

Psychological Theory

One psychological theory that can be applied to the neurobiology of MDMA abuse is the Self-Medication Hypothesis, which proposes that individuals use substances to alleviate negative affective states or symptoms of mental illness (Lawrence et al., 2022). According to this theory, individuals who abuse MDMA may be using the drug as a form of self-medication to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders.

One study that supports the Self-Medication Hypothesis in the context of MDMA abuse is a study by Lawrence et al. (2022), which found that individuals who reported a history of depression or anxiety were more likely to use MDMA than those who did not report such symptoms. Additionally, the study found that individuals who used MDMA reported experiencing more positive mood states and fewer negative mood states than those who did not use the drug. These findings suggest that individuals who use MDMA may be doing so to self-medicate for negative mood states associated with mental health disorders (Lawrence et al., 2022).

Another psychological theory that can be applied to the neurobiology of MDMA abuse is the Incentive-Sensitization Theory, which proposes that repeated drug use leads to changes in the brain’s reward system that make drug use more rewarding and attractive over time (Hellberg et al., 2018). According to this theory, individuals who abuse MDMA may develop an incentive sensitization to the drug, leading them to continue using it despite negative consequences.

One study that supports the Incentive-Sensitization Theory in the context of MDMA abuse is a study by Hellberg et al. (2018), which found that individuals who reported more frequent MDMA use had lower levels of serotonin transporter binding, a marker of serotonin neurotoxicity. The study also found that individuals who reported more frequent MDMA use had higher levels of positive subjective effects from the drug, suggesting that they may have developed an incentive sensitization to the drug. These findings support the idea that repeated MDMA use can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system that make drug use more attractive over time (Hellberg et al., 2018).

Conclusion

The neurobiology of MDMA abuse is a complex and multifaceted topic that has been extensively studied. The research has demonstrated that MDMA can significantly impact brain chemistry and function by altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These alterations can have various acute and long-term effects on cognitive function, mood, and behavior. The potential neurotoxic effects of MDMA on serotonin neurons in the brain also raise concerns about the potential long-term consequences of MDMA abuse on mental health. The use of specific psychological theories, such as the social learning theory and the cognitive-behavioral theory, can help to understand the underlying factors contributing to MDMA abuse and inform effective interventions for preventing and treating MDMA addiction. Further research is needed to deepen our understanding of the neurobiology of MDMA abuse and to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies for reducing its negative impact on mental health.

PSYC FPX4310 Assessment 3 Literature Review

References

Abuse, N. I. on D. (2017, September). What are the effects of MDMA? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-are-effects-mdma 

Bora, F., Yılmaz, F., & Bora, T. (2016). Ecstasy (MDMA) and its effects on kidneys and their treatment: A review. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, 19(11), 1151–1158. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126214/ 

Creagh, S., Warden, D., Latif, M., & Paydar, A. (2018). The new classes of synthetic illicit drugs can significantly harm the brain: A neuro imaging perspective with full review of mri findings. Clinical Radiology & Imaging Journal, 2(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048967/ 

Hellberg, S. N., Russell, T. I., & Robinson, M. J. F. (2018). Cued for risk: Evidence for an incentive sensitization framework to explain the interplay between stress and anxiety, substance abuse, and reward uncertainty in disordered gambling behavior. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 19(3), 737–758. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13415-018-00662-3 

Lawrence, T. I., Mcfield, A. A., Byrne, M. M., S.Tarver, S., & Stewart, T. K. (2022). Depression and substance use as consequences of exposure to family violence: A moderation mediation and self-medication hypothesis study. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-022-00464-3 

Lin, C.-S., Cai, Q.-X., Huang, Z.-L., Lin, B.-L., Chong, Y.-T., Zhao, Z.-X., & Gao, Z.-L. (2013). Diethylene glycol poisoning and liver function following accidental diethylene glycol injection. EXCLI Journal, 11, 98–107. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920036/ 

Mercer, L. D., Higgins, G. C., Lau, C. L., Lawrence, A. J., & Beart, P. M. (2017). MDMA-induced neurotoxicity of serotonin neurons involves autophagy and rilmenidine is protective against its pathobiology. Neurochemistry International, 105, 80–90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2017.01.010 

Meyer, J. (2013). 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA): Current perspectives. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 83. https://doi.org/10.2147/sar.s37258 

Müller, C. P., & Homberg, J. R. (2015). The role of serotonin in drug use and addiction. Behavioural Brain Research, 277, 146–192. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.04.007 

Sessa, B. (2017). MDMA and PTSD treatment. Neuroscience Letters, 649, 176–180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2016.07.004 

Spillane, M., Ketschek, A., Miranda, Tanuja T., Twiss, Jeffery L., & Gallo, G. (2013). Mitochondria coordinate sites of axon branching through localized intra-axonal protein synthesis. Cell Reports, 5(6), 1564–1575. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2013.11.022 

Tao, R., Shokry, I. M., & Callanan, J. J. (2017). Environment influencing serotonin syndrome induced by ecstasy abuse. Annals of Forensic Research and Analysis, 4(1), 1039. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5931730/ 

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