A recent study from the University of Cologne in Germany gives another reason why it’s better to stay away from Ecstasy, lest it causes memory problems.
According to lead researcher, psychologist Daniel Wagner, the study involved people who are not regular users of the drug, which helps rule out alternative causes for the memory loss. Wagner and colleagues focused their study on new users of Ecstasy. The participants had to have some experience with the drug — making it more likely that they’d use it in the future — but could not have taken more than five pills in their lifetimes. Of the 149 participants,109 returned 12 months later for a series of psychological tests, many focusing on memory.
“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,” Wagner told LiveScience.
Among Ecstasy users, Wagner’s group found a deterioration in a memory task called paired associates learning. “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,” Wagner explains.
Though the researchers have yet to investigate whether the impairments are permanent or reversible, they are already planning a two-year follow-up study to investigate other effects of the drug
Ecstasy became popular in rave parties and techno clubs. The side effects of the drugs, felt within 20 minutes to 1 hour following consumption, include increased confidence and energy, lowered inhibitions, feelings of closeness to others, floating sensation, and hallucinations. The drug can also cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety, paranoia, loss of appetite, muscle aches and stiffness, irrational or bizarre behavior, vomiting, and poor muscle control.
In 2009, 2.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused Ecstasy (MDMA) at least once in the year prior to being surveyed, according to the Monitoring the Future Study.