Is Lack of Sleep and Water Giving Ecstasy a Bad Name?

Originally appearing at All-night ravers who take ecstasy might not be harming their brains any more than drug-free party animals. So say John Halpern and colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who argue that many studies apparently showing that ecstasy use can lead to memory loss and depression were flawed as they did not take account of the rave culture associated with ecstasy use. Lack of sleep and dehydration resulting from all-night dancing can cause cognitive problems on their own, they say. Halpern’s team compared ecstasy users with non-users who had a history of all-night dancing with limited exposure to alcohol and drugs. Both groups completed tests for verbal fluency, memory, depression and other factors. The team found no significant differences in cognitive performance between the two groups, even when they compared non-users with heavy users of the drug (Addiction, DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03252). NewScientist summarizes the results of Dr. John Halpern’s latest study finding no evidence of a relationship between heavy recreational Ecstasy use and cognitive damage. While the study did not find a relationship, however, it’s important to emphasize that Ecstasy is not risk-free, and users still need to exercise caution and moderation in their use.