Ecstasy fans beware: long-term use of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) may lead to memory loss or impairment, according to findings reported today in the journal Neurology. Over the course of a year, researchers studied 15 ecstasy users ranging in age from 17 to 31 who took the drug 2.4 times a month on average. They found that tests linked the use of ecstasy with different aspects of memory decline. The ability to recall a story after a brief delay, for example, dropped by about 50 percent between the first and second evaluations.
Konstantine Zakzanis of the University of Toronto, a co-author of the report, warns that the study relied on self-reporting by patients, which can yield misleading results. He further notes that the makeup of street drugs is variable. Still, "for those who use ecstasy repeatedly, there is preliminary evidence to suggest memory processes can be impaired with continued use of the drug," he remarks. "For those that use ecstasy once or twice in a lifetime, to date, there is no evidence suggesting impairment of memory function that is progressive or permanent in nature, although the jury of ecstasy researchers are still deliberating the matter."