Memory performance in polyvalent MDMA (ecstasy)
users who continue or discontinue MDMA use

Gouzoulis-Mayfrank E, Fischermann T, Rezk M,
Thimm B, Hensen G, Daumann J.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy,
University of Cologne,
Kerpener Strasse 62,
D-50924 Cologne,
Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Jun 1;78(3):317-23


BACKGROUND: The popular dance drug ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine=MDMA) is a serotonergic neurotoxin in animal studies. Several cross-sectional investigations reported low memory and learning performance in ecstasy users, particularly in those reporting heavy patterns of drug use. Since, serotonin has a recognized role in memory processes, these findings were mostly interpreted as evidence for ecstasy-related neurotoxicity in humans. However, studies with user populations and controls suffer from many inherent methodological problems. Moreover, longitudinal data on memory performance after continued or discontinued ecstasy use are scarce. METHODS:: In the present longitudinal study, we examined memory performance in 38 MDMA users over the course of 18 months. RESULTS:: Subjects who stopped MDMA use after the baseline examination (n=17) did not improve, and subjects who continued MDMA use (n=21) did not deteriorate in terms of test performance. CONCLUSIONS:: Our data do not support, but they also do not rule out memory decline following use of the serotonergic neurotoxin MDMA. In light of the popularity of ecstasy among young people, further investigations are needed. In our view, research strategies should now move to prospective designs in order to shed more light on the course of possible adverse cognitive effects of ecstasy use.

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