Ecstasy is Bad for the Memory

Methylenedioxymeth amphetamine affects the visual memory

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) What exactly does ecstasy do to the brain? Everyone has a different answer, but now science provides some clarity.

A recent study followed a group of ecstasy users for three years and controlled for multiple factors. Results showed that visual memory is the area that methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine (MDMA) really hurts.

"Do not use ecstasy - it impairs your memory."

Dr. Daniel Wagner, from the department of psychiatry and psychotherapy at the University of Cologne in Germany, led a study that looked at the function of memory when a person is on ecstasy.

Ecstasy is the designer party drug methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine. Its medical and mental health side effects have been widely debated over the last decade.

Dr. Wagner’s study focused on cognitive impairment and functional memory for a group of people who experimented with MDMA for up to 12 months.

Between 2006-2009, a total of 149 participants took MDMA and submitted to testing.

Of the original group, 40 dropped out after a year and 109 continued with the study for more than a year. During the second year, 43 people did not use any other drugs except marijuana and only 23 people used more than 10 pills of MDMA in that year.

Authors were able to conclude that visual pairing memory was negatively affected by MDMA use. This ability to remember visual pairs comes from the hippocampal region of the brain.

The concern with these results is that damage in the hippocampal region is also associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Authors noted that participants who used 10 or more pills in a year compared to the control who took no MDMA had significant delays in their recall in the visual pairing task.

No significant differences were reported in any of the other tests given to the MDMA users and the drug-free controls.

Dr. Wagner said, “This study was designed to minimize the methodological limitations of earlier research, in which it was not possible to say whether cognitive impairments seen among ecstasy use and, one year later, identifying those who had used ecstasy at least ten times and remeasuring their performance, we have been able to start isolating the precise cognitive effects of this drug.”

This study was published in the July issue of the journal Addiction. The study was funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation, no conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 26, 2012
Last Updated:
March 22, 2013