Club Drug Ecstasy Can Damage Memory

By Amir Khan on July 26, 2012 11:43 AM EDT

Ecstasy
Taking ecstasy can seriously damage your memory, according to a new study (Photo: Creative Commons)

Taking ecstasy can seriously damage your memory, according to a new study, published in the journal Addiction on Wednesday. Researchers conducted the first ever study that looks at people before they have used the drug regularly, ruling out alternative causes for memory loss, and found that people who regularly use the drug had deteriorating memories.

Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a popular club drug that comes in pill form and causes feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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"By measuring the cognitive function of people with no history of Ecstasy use and, one year later, identifying those who had used Ecstasy at least 10 times and remeasuring their performance, we have been able to start isolating the precise cognitive effects of this drug," Daniel Wagner, study author and a psychologist at the University of Cologne in Germany, said, according to Fox News.

Long-term effects of ecstasy have been difficult to pinpoint, but research suggests that it could impair memory and other cognitive skills. In order to determine what the effects are, researchers looked at people who had some experience with the drug, but did not use it regularly.

A year after the initial consultation, study participants who regularly used ecstasy had deteriorated memory skills when it came to paired associates learning, a task in which people memorize pairs of words or objects. Heavy users faired much worse than non-users or casual users, researchers said.

"Whether the impairments are permanent or reversible has yet to be investigated," Wagner said.

The findings could have an effect on drug policy, Wagner said.

"Given the specific memory impairments, our findings may raise concerns in regard to MDMA use, even in recreational amounts over a relatively short time period," he said. "On the other hand, we did not find any impairment on other cognitive domains, and we didn't focus on other relevant domains like psychopathology or social problems."

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