Ecstasy Use Does Not Decrease Mental Ability

Originally appearing at In contrast to many prior studies, ecstasy users in a new study showed no signs of cognitive impairment attributable to drug use. Lead author John Halpern of the McLean Hospital in Belmont, said, “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 themselves contribute to cognitive impairment. Finally, the experiment corrected for the possibility that any cognitive impairment shown by ecstasy users might have been in place before they started using the drug. The resulting experiment whittled 1500 potential participants down to 52 carefully chosen ecstasy users, whose cognitive function was compared against 59 closely-matched non-users, with tests administered at several stages to make sure participants were telling the truth about their drug and alcohol use. But, still ecstasy is not risk-free. “No. Ecstasy consumption is dangerous: 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. But while we found no ominous, concerning risks to cognitive performance, that is quite different from concluding that ecstasy use is ”risk-free”,” said Halpern. The findings were published in the journal Addiction. Another international media outlet reports on the results of Dr. John Halpern’s latest study overturning years of faulty research into the cognitive risks of Ecstasy use. Dr. Halpern’s MAPS-supported, U.S. government-funded $1.8 million study showed that any cognitive risks involved in long-term Ecstasy use are more likely to be due to other factors than to the drug itself.