PMA and PMMA: Physiological effects

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 2:55 pm

Harmful side effects
Ingesting less than 50 mg of PMA without other drugs, alcohol, or caffeine induces mild symptoms of ecstasy ingestion. These symptoms include heightened visual stimulation along with erratic eye movements, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, motion sickness, muscle spasms, rapid and difficult breathing, and an increase in body temperature. This dose may also cause mild euphoric, hallucinogenic, stimulant, and empathogenic effects. Less than 50 mg of PMA ingested in the presence of other drugs, alcohol, or caffeine may have a more intense effect, along with greatly increased toxicity. The dose of PMA by itself may not be lethal, but becomes lethal in the presence of other drugs.
PMA doses of 50 mg or greater are potentially lethal, especially in the presence of other drugs, both illicit and prescription, alcohol, or caffeine. High doses may cause heart palpitations or heart failure, kidney failure, an extreme rise in body temperature up to 115°F (46°C) that causes multiorgan failure, difficulty breathing, vomiting, brain seizures, delirium and hallucinations, sudden collapse, convulsions, coma, and death. Most people assume their symptoms come from ecstasy poisoning, which can be life-threatening. However, PMA is a far more toxic drug than ecstasy and PMA has a much higher rate of lethal complications than ecstasy. PMA toxicity is suspected whenever a user has severe or atypical reactions to the ecstasy pills ingested, and is confirmed through urine drug screens. PMA may also cause low blood sugar, a unique effect not seen with ecstasy.
The main negative effects of ecstasy are related to hyperthermia (highly elevated body temperature). Ecstasy users attempt to use adequate hydration, rest periods, and cold showers as a means to safeguard against hyperthermia after ecstasy ingestion. However, when hyperthermia is a result of PMA, these precautions are not effective. PMA is metabolized by the enzyme cytochrome P450-2D6. This enzyme is genetically polymorphic, which means that different people have different functioning levels of the enzyme in their bodies. People who are slow metabolizers due to low enzyme levels have higher concentrations of PMA in their blood after ingestion because they do not metabolize the drug as quickly. Slow metabolizers are at a higher risk for PMA poisoning than individuals with higher levels of enzyme.
Long-term health effects
PMA and ecstasy are pharmacologically comparable, producing their effects on the body through highly similar or identical bodily systems. While little research has been done on the long-term effects of PMA on humans, they are presumed to be very similar to the effects of ecstasy. The long-term effects of ecstasy are continuing to be assessed. Studies done by NIMH in the year 2001 directly measured the effects of ecstasy on the human brain. The research indicated that recreational ecstasy use mainly damages the neurons making serotonin, leading to an overall reduction of serotonin in the brain. Ecstasy users may develop permanent brain damage of the same nature found in many neurological diseases.
Long-term health effects may include depression, anxiety, loss of memory, learning deficits, deficits of logical reasoning, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. Ecstasy causes the damage immediately, but the long term effects may not be seen until much later. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health of Canada, there are other long-term physical problems that arise long after ecstasy usage is over. These problems may or may not also occur during ecstasy usage. They include periodic muscle spasms in the jaw, neck, and lower back, low blood pressure, poor control by the autonomic nervous system of heart rate and blood pressure, changes in blood flow to the brain, and persistent problems with involuntary tooth grinding. Chronic users of PMA or ecstasy may develop a tolerance to the drug, and require increasingly higher doses to obtain the same high. While psychological dependence may develop, physical dependence is not known to develop to these drugs.

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