Ecstasy could help people with Parkinson’s disease, a study suggests.
Researchers in the UK have found the drug can help to reduce the uncontrollable arm and leg movements associated with the condition.
They said tests on monkeys had shown the drug is effective.
But they said fears over the safety of ecstasy meant they had no plans to carry out further studies on humans.
They also warned patients against taking the drug themselves.
Instead, they suggested their findings could help scientists to develop new treatments for Parkinson’s based on MDMA, the chemical name for ecstasy.
Dr Jonathan Brotchie and colleagues at the University of Manchester gave MDMA to monkeys with Parkinson’s disease.
The monkeys had each received daily doses of L-dopa, which has been used to treat patients with the disease for decades.
However, one of the side effects of the drug is uncontrollable movement.
Prior to receiving the drug, the monkeys moved their arms and legs around in a repetitive and uncontrolled way virtually all the time.
However, within six hours of receiving MDMA those movements stopped or were drastically reduced.
“The magnitude and quality of the effect took us by surprise,” Dr Brotchie told New Scientist magazine.
Dr Brotchie, who now heads biotechnology company Motac, said he believed the effects were linked to the fact that ecstasy boosts levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
The UK charity DrugScope warned patients with the disease from taking ecstasy.
A spokesman said: “Ecstasy can be a dangerous drug. There needs to be much more research into the short and long term effects of the drug.”
A study published in September suggested that the drug could trigger Parkinson’s disease.
Scientists in the United States found the drug could cause long-lasting damage to key areas of the brain associated with movement.