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Recreational Ecstasy and Cocaine Use Can Lead to Memory Loss

A new study suggests that people who use Ecstasy or several different drugs are more likely to have memory lapses than non-users. The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, is the first to discover potential links between cocaine and memory deficits.

Florentia Hadjiefthyvoulou, John Fisk, and Nikola Bridges from the University of Central Lancashire and Catharine Montgomery from Liverpool John Moores University wanted to delve deeper into the link between deficits in prospective memory (remembering to remember, or remembering to perform an intended action) and drug use. Prospective memory is the act of remembering to perform an intended action. This memory is triggered by a response to an event or by a certain time.

Previous studies have shown that Ecstasy users or those who use multiple drugs (polydrug use) have impairments in some cognitive tasks, including verbal and spatial exercises. In 2005, a study led by Fisk found that Ecstasy use affected deductive reasoning skills.

For the study, 42 Ecstasy or polydrug users and 31 non-users were asked about their drug habits and given questionnaires that asked about their everyday memory, any cognitive failures, and prospective and retrospective memory, which refers to memory for people, words, and events encountered in the past. The participants were also given lab-based memory tests, some of which required them to remember something several weeks later.

They found that recreational drug use of Ecstasy or regular use of several different drugs affects memory functions. Both the lab tests and self-reports detected deficiencies in prospective memory, which suggests that drug users are slightly self-aware of their memory problems. It is hard to determine which drug is to blame among polydrug users.

The researchers also found a link between recreational cocaine use and memory lapse, though further research is needed to determine whether the cocaine-related deficits are limited to Ecstasy or polydrug use. They also noted that it’s difficult to tell whether memory deficits existed before drug use.

Source: Science Daily, Do Recreational Drugs Make us Fail to Remember?, February 23, 2010

Posted on February 24th, 2010

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