Study links ecstasy, long-term memory loss
January 16 2004 1:00 AM ET
People who take the drug ecstasy are more likely to suffer from long-term memory loss, according to a U.K. study published Thursday. The study, which surveyed ecstasy users in Europe, the United States, and Australia, found that those who regularly took the club drug, which is popular with gay men, were 23% more likely to report problems with their memory than nonusers. Ecstasy users who also use marijuana were facing a "myriad of memory afflictions," the report said, which could represent "a time bomb" of cognitive problems for later life. The report, led by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, said short-term memory was affected by cannabis; using both ecstasy and marijuana can impair both short- and long-term cognitive function. "Users may think that ecstasy is fun and that it feels fairly harmless at the time," said lead researcher Jacqui Rodgers of Newcastle University. "However, our results show slight but measurable impairments to memory as a result of use, which is worrying."
The survey team based their findings on responses from 763 participants, but they also looked closely at a subgroup of 81 "typical" ecstasy users who had taken the drug at least 10 times. The typical users showed their long-term memory to be 14% worse than the 480 people who had never taken ecstasy and 23% worse than the 242 who had never taken drugs at all. Additionally, the typical users made 29% more mistakes on the questionnaire form than the people who did not take drugs. The full study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.