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New study finds no cognitive impairment among ecstasy users
Date:2/15/2011

The drug known as ecstasy has been used by 12 million people in the United States alone and millions more worldwide. Past research has suggested that ecstasy users perform worse than nonusers on some tests of mental ability. But there are concerns that the methods used to conduct that research were flawed, and the experiments overstated the cognitive differences between ecstasy users and nonusers.

In response to those concerns, a team of researchers has conducted one of the largest studies ever undertaken to re-examine the cognitive effects of ecstasy, funded by a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and published today in the journal Addiction. The study was specifically designed to minimize the methodological limitations of earlier research.

In contrast to many prior studies, ecstasy users in the new study showed no signs of cognitive impairment attributable to drug use: ecstasy use did not decrease mental ability.

Lead author John Halpern is quick to point out that this group of researchers is not the first to identify limitations in prior studies of ecstasy users. "Researchers have known for a long time that earlier studies of ecstasy use had problems that later studies should try to correct. When NIDA decided to fund this project, we saw an opportunity to design a better experiment and advance our knowledge of this drug."

The researchers fixed four problems in earlier research on ecstasy. First, the non-users in the experiment were members of the "rave" subculture and thus repeatedly exposed to sleep and fluid deprivation from all-night dancing -- factors that themselves can produce long-lasting cognitive effects.

Second, participants were screened for drug and alcohol use on the day of cognitive testing, to make sure all participants were tested while 'clean'.

Third, the study chose ecstasy users who did not habitually use other drugs that might themsel
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Contact: Jean O'Reilly
jean@addictionjournal.org
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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