Ecstasy increases sleep apnea risk

Originally published in Insidermedicine

Repeated use of the club drug MDMA, which is known on the street as “ecstasy” increases the risk of the breathing disorder known as sleep apnea, according to research published in journal Neurology.

Here is some information about sleep apnea:

• It is a common disorder in which several episodes of shallow breathing or pauses in breathing occur during sleep

• It occurs most commonly among middle-aged and older men, especially if they are overweight

• Serious forms of sleep apnea can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and death from heart disease or stroke

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore conducted sleep studies in 71 habitual users of ecstasy who reported that they had tried the drug at least 25 times in the past. These volunteers had typically abused several other street drugs, so the investigators compared the findings of their sleep studies with those of 62 other volunteers who had a similar pattern of drug abuse but who had never used ecstasy.

While rates of mild sleep apnea were similar between both groups, eight ecstasy users had moderate sleep apnea, and one had severe sleep apnea. None of the volunteers who did not use ecstasy had either the moderate or severe form of the condition. The more the individuals had used ecstasy, the more severe their sleep apnea was likely to be. Overall, 22 of the 24 ecstasy-users with sleep apnea were aged 31 or younger and had no known significant medical problems.

Today’s research links repeated use of ecstasy with sleep apnea in young, healthy adults. This is a condition that can increase the risk for several serious medical conditions.

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