Long-Term Users of Ecstasy and Thizz Risk Hardcore Brain Damage – New Study

I have a number of angry, male, teenage clients who use ecstasy, or thizz (which is a combination of ecstasy and PHP/cocaine/meth).  I’m always on the lookout for new studies that highlight the physical, cognitive and emotional effects drugs have on people. Yesterday, I found out about a brand new study from www.ScienceDaily.com.

Ecstasy MDMA Thizz in Danville CA

Ecstasy (Thizz, MDMA) Seems Prevalent in Danville, CA

‘ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2011) — Long term users of the popular recreational drug ecstasy (MDMA) risk structural brain damage, suggests preliminary research published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Other research has suggested that people who use ecstasy develop significant memory problems, so the Dutch researchers wanted to find out if there was any clinical evidence of structural changes in the brain to back this up.

They focused on the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for long term memory.

They measured the volume of the hippocampus using MRI scans in 10 young men in their mid 20s who were long term users of ecstasy and seven of their healthy peers in their early 20s with no history of ecstasy use.

Although the ecstasy group had used more amphetamine and cocaine than their peers, both sets of young men had used similar amounts of recreational drugs, bar ecstasy, and drank alcohol regularly.

The ecstasy group had not been using on average for more than two months before the start of the study, but had taken an average of 281 ecstasy tablets over the preceding six and a half years.

The MRI scans showed that hippocampal volume in this group was 10.5% smaller than that of their peers, and the overall proportion of grey matter was on average 4.6% lower, after adjusting for total brain volume.

Ecstasy use on the rise

This indicates that the effects of ecstasy may not be restricted to the hippocampus alone, say the authors

“Taken together, these data provide preliminary evidence suggesting that ecstasy users may be prone to incurring hippocampal damage, following chronic use of this drug,” they write.

They add that their findings echo those of other researchers who have reported acute swelling and subsequent atrophy of hippocampal tissue in long term ecstasy users.

And they point out: “Hippocampal atrophy is a hallmark for diseases of progressive cognitive impairment in older patients, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”‘


It’s my deep-seated belief based on experience and a pretty good  (really, just pretty good, memory is NOT my strength!) understanding of the literature that most substance use is a means to escape the emotional mind – feelings such as ennui, embarrassment, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, loneliness, alienation, excitement, disappointment, and heartache. One of the problems with ecstasy, or MDMA, is that it changes the way in which the brain perceives pleasure. Over time, the brain loses the ability to perceive pleasure without the addition of ecstasy. Without the ability to feel pleasure, chonic ex users lose the ability to ‘approach’ things they desire and increasingly ‘avoid discomfort.’

Anger in teenagers seems to be on the rise 2011 April

Lacking the ability to approach things they desire means that fulfilling activities are non-existent. So goal-setting and, more importantly, goal achievement, a major source of meaning and personal satisfaction, do not happen.

On the bright side, research has shown that the brain can recover rapidly, creating new neurons and new pathways. Changes in the brain occur every minute of every day. Your brain is always growing, developing, learning, and recreating itself!

My goal is to help you realize where you are, what you are missing (the hardest part), and to take small steps in a constructive, meaningful direction.

This is done through teaching tools such as self-forgiveness, mindfulness (sounds weak but is tremendously powerful), compassion, challenging catastrophic thinking, reframing, best possible self and more. By layering these tools one atop the other, there is a cumulative, additive effect wherby my clients become less filled with negative emotions (e.g., anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness) and more open to positive emotions (e.g., curiosity, awe, hope, courage, pride, and contentment).

All the best,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can download a FREE copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought. It is awesome! Just visit, www.GuideToSelf.com click on the picture of the yellow book on the left side of the screen and enter your name and email address in the required fields. This will also give you access to a bunch of free anger management online video classes. What could be better in this day and age of falling economies, changing breadwinner roles, and political correctness and incorrect polititicians?!

Also, be sure to check out John’s offering on the latest proven tools for anger management at http://webangermanagement.com.

Positive Psychology In Anger Management

Hello! My name is John Schinnerer, Ph.D., founder of Guide to Self in Danville, CA.

I teach clients the latest proven tools to turn down the volume on anger. 

A perfect client for me is a man between the ages of 15 and 65 whose anger and irritation is driving his coworkers up a wall.

I use a novel positive psychology approach to anger management which means my clients take away feelings of hope and inspiration rather than guilt and shame. It also means that I teach clients proven tools to increase positive emotions as well as ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide to Self

Turning down the volume on anger with positive psychology!

For a free copy of John’s award-winning self-help book ‘Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought’ visit www.GuideToSelf.com and enter your name and email for a free PDF version!

Mindfulness Training Changes Brain Structure in As Little As Eight Weeks

Mindfulness is a 2500-year-old practice that focuses on the nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings, sensations and state of mind. Mindfulness is a staple of many positive psychology programs due to it’s wide-ranging positive health benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to be significantly helpful in reducing symptoms of depression, anger, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even speeds the healing of physical ailments such as psoriasis. Mindfulness rests on a mountain of research spanning over 30 years demonstrating its effectiveness in such areas.

Mindfulness as resting rocks

Most recently, active participation in an 8-week mindfulness program was shown to make noticeable physical changes in brain areas associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a new study coming out in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, spearheaded  by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers share the results of their study, the first ever to demonstrate mindfulness-produced improvements over an 8-week period in the brain’s grey matter.

Mindfulness – One of the Best Tools Available for Stress, Anxiety, Anger & Depression

“Although the practice of mindfulness is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that mindfulness also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study’s lead author.

Prior studies found structural differences between the brains of experienced mindfulness practitioners and individuals with no history of mindfulness, with thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with awareness and emotional intelligence. But those studies were unable to conclude that those differences were truly produced by the practice of mindfulness.

In this study, magnetic resonance images were taken of the brains of sixteen (16) participants two weeks before and after they took part in the 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. In addition to weekly meetings that included the practice of mindfulness — which focuses on nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations — participants received audio files to use for daily guided mindfulness practice. Participants tracked the amount of time they practiced mindfulness each day. A set of MRI brain images were also taken of a control group of people who did not practice mindfulness over the same 8-week period.

Mindfulness, stress management, anger management tools

Mindfulness group participants spent an average of 27 minutes daily practicing mindfulness exercises. Their answers to a mindfulness questionnaire showed significant improvements in mindfulness and meta-cognition compared with pre-study responses.

Physical Changes In Brain Due to Mindfulness Practice

The analysis of brain images found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, which is associated with new learning and long-term memory, as well as in brain regions associated with self-awareness and empathy.

Decrease in Stress & the Amygdala

Those who reported a decrease in stress also had a decrease in grey-matter density in the amygdala, which is associated with the presence of anxiety, depression and stress. Interestingly, no such changes were seen in the control group, indicating that the brain changes were not a result of the inevitable passage of time.

“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing mindfulness, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being, reduce stress and quality of life.” says Britta Hölzel, PhD, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. “Other studies in different patient populations have shown that mindfulness can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.”

John Schinnerer, Ph.D., Founder of Guide to Self, Inc.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is in private practice in Danville, CA teaching clients the latest tools to manage emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression. Using positive psychology, he helps clients achieve happy, thriving, meaningful lives. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. John hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a prime time radio show on positive psychology, in the San Francisco Bay Area.   He wrote the award-winning book, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.’ He sits on the Advisory Board of PsychCentral.com, one of the top psychology sites on the web. He may be reached via email at John@GuideToSelf.com.  His award-winning blog on positive psychology, Shrunken Mind is at http://drjohnblog.guidetoself.com. His newest blog on positive psychology and anger management can be found at http://webangermanagement.com.
Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.

Journal Reference:
1. Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangel, Christina Congleton, Sita M. Yerramsetti, Tim Gard, Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 2011; 191 (1): 36 DOI: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006

How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health

How Positive Emotion Protects Against Poor Health in Later Life

The new issue of the journal ‘Current Directions in Psychological Science’ includes an article entitled,
‘Pathways Linking Positive Emotion and Health in Later Life.’

Positive psychology and free online anger management class 

The author is Anthony D. Ong.

The article begins as follows…

‘There is growing empirical evidence that positive emotion protects against poor health outcomes in later life.

Two recent reviews have documented a robust association between positive emotion and improved health (Chida & Steptoe, 2008; Pressman & Cohen, 2005).

Across experimental and large-scale prospective studies, significant aspects of adult health predicted by positive emotion include self- reported health, physiological responses, physical functioning, disease severity, and mortality.

In this article, I review the biobehavioral and psychosocial pathways that may account for the relationship between positive emotion and health in later adulthood.

Although the literature is not without theoretical gaps and methodological inconsistencies (see Pressman & Cohen, 2005, for a discussion), overall, the data suggest that positive emotions have demonstrable health benefits in later life, the net effect of which may be to slow or delay the rate of functional decline in resilience.’

The article concludes like this…

‘Three decades ago, Lazarus, Kanner, and Folkman (1980) suggested that under intensely stressful conditions, positive emotions may provide an important psychological time-out, help to sustain continued coping efforts, and replenish vital resources that have been depleted by stress. Until recently, there has been little empirical support for these ideas. Foundational evidence for the adaptive function of positive emotion is now beginning to accrue, however. Taken together, the available data indicate that there is no single answer to the question of how positive emotion influences health outcomes in later adulthood. Instead, findings suggest that health behaviors, physiological systems, stressor exposure, and stress undoing may be among the key pathways underlying disparities in physical health, psychological well-being, and even longevity in later life.

Future work building on these findings will require greater attention to the interaction between increasing positive emotion and the presence of decreasing resilience with aging. Targeted prevention and intervention strategies that enhance positive emotions, particularly among the most vulnerable, are likely to play an important role in preventing serious physical illness, minimizing the burden of stress, and improving overall functioning in older adults.’

In addition to the reference section, there’s a small bit on ‘Recommended Reading’:

Charles, S.T., & Carstensen, L.L. (2009). Social and emotional aging.
Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 383-409. A comprehensive, highly accessible overview of what is known about socioemotional development.

Fredrickson, B.L. (2003). The value of positive emotions. American Scientist, 91, 330-335. A clearly written review for readers who wish to expand their knowledge on positive emotions.

Ong, A.D., Bergeman, C.S., & Chow, S.M. (2009). Positive emotions as a basic building block of resilience in adulthood. In J. Reich, A. Zautra, & J. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience: Concepts, methods, and applications (pp. 81-93). New York, NY: Guilford. A highly accessible overview of what is known about positive emotions and resilience in later life.

Zautra, A.J. (2003). Emotions, stress, and health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. A thorough, far-reaching theoretical analysis of the relationships between stress, emotions, and health.

The author note provides the following contact information: Anthony D. Ong, Department of Human Development, G77 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-4401; <ado4@cornell.edu>.

Increasingly, science is proving the necessity of positive emotions (e.g., pride, love, curiosity, interest, passion) for a thriving, meaningful, happy life. Currently, there are more than 70,000 empirical studies looking at these very topics (e.g., self-compassion, mindfulness, love, life satisfaction, curiosity, engagement, the zone, passion, strengths, purpose and meaning) under the umbrella term positive psychology.

For more information on ways to cultivate more positive emotions in your life, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com to get a free copy of Dr. John’s award-winning self-help book, ‘Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought.’ It has the latest in positive psychology and tools to make you more aware of and ways to create more positive emotions in your life.

Positive emotions are an instrumental part of any top-notch anger management program as well for the same reasons (e.g., they act as a hidden Reset button for negative physiological effects of destructive emotions, they make us feel more connected and they build enduring resources within). For more information on the best anger management programs which include a positive psychology perspective and ways to create more positive emotions in your life, visit Dr. John’s recently developed online anger management course at http://www.webangermanagement.com. There you will find several free videos sharing the latest tools to turn down the volume on anger AS WELL AS the latest tools to turn up the volume on positive emotions.

Happy holidays!!!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.
Award-winning author, blogger and mental health coach

Positive psychology - the joy of bubbles

The simple joy of bubbles!

P.S. Also be sure to check out John’s other fantastic blog on free online anger management classes at http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com.

The Need for Compassion in Today’s World

Fantastic and uplifting reminder about the unifying power and necessity of compassion in today’s world. Compassion is the antidote to anger.

Have a compassionate weekend!

To life, love and laughter,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder Guide to Self, Inc.