July 27, 2012
Ecstasy Usage Linked To Dementia-Like Memory Problems
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A new study detailing the dangers of ecstasy claims that taking just 10 pills per year can led to memory problems similar to those occurring during the earliest stages of dementia.
According to Fiona Macrae of the Daily Mail, scientists from the University of Cologne studied younger people who admitted that they had taken the drug, also known by its chemical name, MDMA, in the past and planned to do again in the future.
Each subject was tested on their memory, learning, brain processing speed, and ability to pay attention both at the start of the study, as well as one year later, Macrae reported. At the end of that 12 month span, 23 of them had become regular ecstasy users, having taken between 10 and 62 ecstasy pills during that time.
Those individuals demonstrated "decreased function of their immediate and short-term memory compared with their pre-ecstasy performance," according to the UK newspaper The Telegraph. "The findings are associated with damage of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that oversees memory function and navigation. Interestingly, hippocampal damage is one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, resulting in memory loss and disorientation."
The results of the study were published Wednesday in the journal Addiction.
"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 users were in place before drug use began," lead author Dr. Daniel Wagner said in a statement.
"By measuring the cognitive function of people with no history of 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," he added.
However, in an interview with Sydney Lupkin of ABC News, Dr. Stephen Ross, the director of Addiction Psychiatry at New York University´s Tisch Hospital, said that while the findings were not surprising, and that ecstasy was definitely a "problematic" drug, he did have some issues with the research methods that produced them.
According to Lupkin, Ross believes that "Wagner´s findings should.... be taken with a grain of salt, because Wagner and his team didn´t use any brain imaging to confirm damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays an important role in long-term memory. He said it´s also not clear whether cannabis -- which was not controlled for in the study -- played a role in the memory loss he saw in his patients."