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Long-term neuropsychological effects of ecstasy in middle-aged ecstasy/polydrug users

Thelma Schilt, Maarten W J Koeter, Johan P Smal, Mathilde N Gouwetor, Wim van den Brink, Ben Schmand
Psychopharmacology 2010, 207 (4): 583-91
19823808

RATIONALE: Studies reporting ecstasy-induced serotonin-toxicity and (neuro)psychological dysfunctions have been conducted in young adults. Little is known about ecstasy effects later in life, when serotonin levels and cognition decrease as a consequence of normal ageing.

OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to assess whether harmful effects of ecstasy only add to or also interact with age-related neuropsychological decline.

METHODS: Attention, verbal and visual memory, visuospatial ability, self-reported depression, sensation-seeking and impulsivity were assessed in middle-aged moderate to heavy ecstasy/polydrug users (n = 17) and compared with none or very mild ecstasy using polydrug users (matched for age, gender, intelligence and other drugs; n = 16) and a group of drug-naive controls (n = 20).

RESULTS: Moderate to heavy ecstasy/polydrug users performed significantly worse on a verbal memory task than none or very mild ecstasy using polydrug users and drug naives. Moderate and heavy ecstasy/polydrug users also differed significantly from drug-naives on measures of depression, sensation-seeking and impulsivity but not from none or very mild ecstasy-using polydrug users.

CONCLUSION: This study in middle-aged ecstasy/polydrug users replicated findings of studies in younger ecstasy users, showing a harmful effect of ecstasy on verbal memory. There was no clear support for an interaction between harmful effects of ecstasy use and age-related memory decline or mid-life depression.

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