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Both Parkinson's Disease (PD) and the drug Ecstasy (E) are nodes which have been documented individually, but I would like to bring this potential therapeutic link to people's attention.

The effects of PD, and the side effects from L-Dopa, the drug of choice in the treatment of PD, are devastating. PD causes a freezing of the body due to low levels of dopamine. This is initially relieved by giving dopamine in the form of L-Dopa, but after some time the side effects from this cause severe tremor and uncontrolled, abnormal movement.

Tim Lawrence had been a very fit and active young man before the onset of PD, in fact he worked as a stuntman in films such as Braveheart. By the time he found out that he could relieve his suffering by taking E he was hardly able to live an independent life. Within 90 minutes of taking the drug, however, his coordination had returned and his body moved freely. The results were repeated in double blind clinical trials in the lab and proved to be valid. Surprisingly not only did E work while Tim was taking L-Dopa, but also worked alone - after all the L-Dopa had cleared from his body. The conclusion was that either E was causing a release of dopamine in the brain (which turned out not to be the case) or it was working by a completely different route and acting on other chemical receptors. The hunt was on - how to find a drug without the side effects of E (which causes memory blackouts and depression and may also be specifically damaging to people with Parkinson's) which people could safely take every day.

The above is only one man's tale, hardly the basis for a new scientific discovery, and should NOT be taken as being right for everyone. But although scientists couldn't condone the use of illegal drugs there was obviously a moral obligation to pursue this chance finding as they had never seen such dramatic results in the treatment of PD. The result is that scientists, after many years of only looking at dopamine-type drugs, now realise that there might be other neurochemical pathways involved in PD and are therefore persuing completely new lines of research. That pathway is likely to involve serotonin, which is released in very large quantities when under the influence of E.

Ecstasy is a Class A Drug in the UK - the highest classification for illegal drugs. The Parkinson's Disease Society cannot condone the taking of Ecstasy and cannot provide any information on how to obtain it or details of cost.


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