Subjective ratings of prospective memory
deficits in MDMA ('ecstasy') users

Heffernan TM, Ling J, Scholey AB.
Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit,
Division of Psychology, University of Northumbria,
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
Hum Psychopharmacol 2001 Jun;16(4):339-344


Chronic use of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), or 'ecstasy', is associated with significant cognitive impairments, particularly in laboratory and field tests of memory for previously encoded material. Less is known about the effects of a history of MDMA use on aspects of everyday cognitive functioning-of which prospective memory (typically characterised as 'remembering to do something at some future point') is an important aspect. Self-ratings of prospective memory among 30 regular ecstasy users (taking the drug 10 or more times per month) and 31 ecstasy-free controls were compared. Each participant completed the Prospective Memory Questionnaire, which measures self-rated error frequencies relating to three aspects of prospective memory (short-term habitual, long-term episodic and internally cued); the scale also records the use of strategies to aid remembering. Compared with non-users, ecstasy users reported significantly more self-rated errors in prospective memory, an effect which was evident after co-varying levels of other drug use. There were no significant differences in the use of strategies to aid memory. These findings provide new insights into prospective memory dysfunction in recreational drug users. Prospective memory deficits may be related to the reported serotonergic and frontal lobe deficits in chronic MDMA users. It is necessary to use more objective tasks to assess putative prospective memory deficits in ecstasy users.
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