– A University of Adelaide study has revealed that the dangerous body temperature dysregulation effects of the club drug ecstasy are compounded when taken in warm environments.

Preclinical research undertaken by Pharmacology PhD student Emily Jaehne shows that ecstasy deaths, which are invariably related to elevated body temperature, may be related to drug users’ failure to recognize their body is abnormally hot.

“The fact that these drugs are often taken in warm nightclubs and at rave parties increases the risk of long-term changes in brain function, or even death,” Emily says.

The 25-year-old student has spent the past three years investigating how ecstasy can increase body temperature, and to understand how drug users respond when this happens.

“Our bodies usually maintain a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, but in some cases ecstasy can elevate this by up to five degrees, leading to severe brain damage.”

Ecstasy is one of the most popular illicit drugs in Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, with almost 24 percent of the population aged between 20 to 29 years admitting to using it in their lifetime. Statistics also show that Australia has one of the highest per capita uses of ecstasy in the world.

“Ecstasy is more readily available here than in the U.S. and Europe and more widely used than heroin or cocaine in Australia. It is crucial, therefore, that we make people more aware of the dangers associated with this drug,” Emily says. “When ecstasy users are taking the drug in nightclubs they tend to blame the surroundings for their elevated body temperature and just ignore the warning signs. That can be fatal” for ecstasy users.

Editorial note: Remember that many proteins and enzymes in the body are exquisitely sensitive to body temperature changes. Imagine an egg white cooking at low heat – the egg white protein gradually turns (permanently!) white because the proteins become “denatured,” as the biochemists say. Elevated body temperatures can cause structural or chemical changes in critical proteins that render them useless, which can lead to the above mentioned brain damage and death from ecstasy use. “Frying your brain” with drugs does not have to involve sustained, heavy use. A quick, light “sautéing” of your brain cells – via ecstasy-induced temperature elevation – can cause plenty of damage as well – Dr. Z.