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5-HTP & MDMA: Curing a comedown

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Disclaimer: brain feed does not recommend drug use. This article is for advice purposes only.

Good music, sense of freedom, and social bonding are some reasons why people enjoy festivals. They are associated with a sense of excitement and belonging. Festival goers often turn to recreational drugs to enhance those feelings. A 2019 study found that almost 50% of festival goers reported taking MDMA [1]. 

Your brain on MDMA 

MDMA, also called ecstasy, is popular due to the feelings of euphoria experienced by those using it. When taken in tablet form, its effects can be felt after 45 mins and last for about 3 hours [2]. Its side-effects are observed for many days after. MDMA floods your brain with serotonin and forcefully prolongs its effect [3]. Since serotonin is your feel-good chemical messenger and regulates your mood, MDMA skyrockets its levels causing the experience of being “high”. This high is followed by a “low” due to serotonin depletion. This forms part of the comedown where mood and sleep are affected, with 83% reporting low mood for days following MDMA use [7].

5-HTP: a comedown cure?

Serotonin is naturally produced in the brain from tryptophan (protein building block) found in protein rich foods. Upon intake, tryptophan faces challenges before it can enter the brain, where it is converted to 5-HTP. 5-HTP is then converted to serotonin. 5-HTP is found in supplemental form, and it is an efficient option for those with low intake of tryptophan or those looking to safely increase serotonin levels. Taking 5-htp after MDMA comedown is a good way to increase serotonin levels in harmony with the brain’s balance of serotonin needs. 

Brain feed offers a 100mg natural 5-htp supplement starting from £13.99. If you are interested, Brain feed is offering a 10% discount for new customers with code '5HTPCD10'. More about this here.

How to cure a comedown?

  • Rehydrate correctly: MDMA increases body temperature [8]. That accompanied by excessive sweating and dehydration reported by 80-90% of MDMA-using clubbers and dancers [6] reinforces the need for adequate hydration. There is also an increase in sodium losses, with a 2010 study reporting that over 25% of MDMA users at a rave party had low sodium levels [9]. The correct way to rehydrate is to consume adequate amounts of electrolyte rich drink, which is rich in nutrients to replenish water and sodium levels. 
  • Fix your sleep: MDMA leads to decrease in restful sleep [12]. Almost 40% of MDMA users report needing sleeping aids to regulate their sleep [7]. Serotonin is converted to melatonin at night. Melatonin is the brain chemical responsible for restful sleep and it can only be produced from serotonin. Ensuring adequate serotonin levels can improve sleep quality. 
  • Get moving: Exercise can be a tool in your MDMA recovery plan. An animal study found that exercise can extend protection to your energy producing areas of brain cells, which are damaged by MDMA [10]. Increasing serotonin levels by supplementing with 5-HTP can aid in increasing willpower to exercise. Higher serotonin levels increase the perceived value of the end reward, further motivating you to work out [11]

References

  1. Palamar, J. J. et al. (2019). Adverse drug-related effects among electronic dance music party attendees. The International journal on drug policy73, 81–87.
  2. NIDA. 2021. "What is MDMA?." National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  3. Huether, G. et al. (1997). Causes and consequences of the loss of serotonergic presynapses elicited by the consumption of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") and its congeners. Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria : 1996)104(8-9), 771–794.
  4. Hatzidimitriou, G. et al. (1999). Altered serotonin innervation patterns in the forebrain of monkeys treated with (+/-)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine seven years previously: factors influencing abnormal recovery. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience19(12), 5096–5107.
  5. McCann, U. D. et al. (1998). Positron emission tomographic evidence of toxic effect of MDMA ("Ecstasy") on brain serotonin neurons in human beings. Lancet (London, England)352(9138), 1433–1437.
  6. Parrott A. C. (2001). Human psychopharmacology of Ecstasy (MDMA): a review of 15 years of empirical research. Human psychopharmacology16(8), 557–577.
  7. https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/Natasha%20Sindicich%20-%20poster.pdf
  8. Liechti M. E. (2014). Effects of MDMA on body temperature in humans. Temperature (Austin, Tex.)1(3), 192–200.
  9. van Dijken, G. D. et al. (2013). High incidence of mild hyponatraemia in females using ecstasy at a rave party. Nephrology, dialysis, transplantation: official publication of the European Dialysis and Transplant Association - European Renal Association28(9), 2277–2283.
  10. Taghizadeh, G. et al. (2016). Protective effects of physical exercise on MDMA-induced cognitive and mitochondrial impairment. Free radical biology & medicine99, 11–19.
  11. Klempin, F., et al. (2013). Serotonin Is Required for Exercise-Induced Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(19), pp.8270–8275. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.5855-12.2013.
  12. Allen, R. P., McCann, U. D., & Ricaurte, G. A. (1993). Persistent effects of (+/- )3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") on human sleep. Sleep16(6), 560–564.
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