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Ecstasy (MDMA) exposure and neuropsychological functioning: A polydrug perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2005

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, California Veterans Medical Research Foundation, San Diego, California
Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio


Ecstasy (MDMA) is a popular drug that can act as a selective serotonin neurotoxin in several species. The goal of the present study was to examine the relationship between ecstasy exposure and cognitive functioning after controlling for other drug use and demographic variables. Furthermore, we assessed whether gender was a moderator of the relationship between cognitive functioning and ecstasy use. Data were collected from 31 men and 34 women with a wide range of ecstasy use (17 marijuana users with no ecstasy use and 48 ecstasy users ranging from low to heavy use). Participants were interviewed and administered a battery of neuropsychological tests. The primary finding was that ecstasy exposure was significantly related to poorer verbal learning and memory ability in a dose-dependent manner, while no such relationship was observed between ecstasy exposure and executive functioning or attentional ability. Gender was found to significantly moderate the relationship between ecstasy consumption and design fluency. These results suggest primary memory dysfunction among abstinent recreational ecstasy users. This finding is consistent with reports of hippocampal vulnerability, particularly among heavy users. (JINS, 2005, 11, 753–765.)

Research Article
© 2005 The International Neuropsychological Society

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