February 15, 2011

Mental Capacity Not Damaged By Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy use does not impair a person's cognitive function or diminish their mental ability, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded study compared 52 users of Ecstasy, also known as methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, with 59 non-users.

They found that using the drug, which the NIDA says "is chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline" and "produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences," does not lead to the loss of mental ability.

In a Tuesday press release, Wiley-Blackwell, publishers of Addiction, said that the study "was specifically designed to minimize the methodological limitations of earlier research," and utilized non-Ecstasy-users who were also part of the "rave" subculture that many MDMA consumers participate in.

Thus, both groups of subjects were "repeatedly exposed to sleep and fluid deprivation from all-night dancing--factors that themselves can produce long-lasting cognitive effects."

In addition, all participants were tested to ensure that they had not used any drugs prior to the cognitive testing, and the researchers worked to ensure that no habitual users of other illicit substances that could affect brain function were selected to participate in the research.

Despite the study's findings, lead author John Halpern of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts was quick to point out that it did not mean MDMA use was safe.

"Ecstasy consumption is dangerous," he said in a statement. "Illegally-made pills can contain harmful contaminants, there are no warning labels, there is no medical supervision, and in rare cases people are physically harmed and even die from overdosing."

"It is important for drug-abuse information to be accurate, and we hope our report will help upgrade public health messages," Halpern added. "But while we found no ominous, concerning risks to cognitive performance, that is quite different from concluding that ecstasy use is 'risk-free'."


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