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Ecstasy-related memory impairment can be permanent

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, Mar 23 (Reuters) Taking the drug Ecstasy can impair memory and learning, but giving up the drug can stop the slide in mental capacity, a new study shows. However, researchers also found evidence that in heavy Ecstasy users, the effects on memory may persist even after they quit.

''The message should be loud and clear that if you're using a lot, you're not going to recover learning and memory,'' Dr.

Konstantine K. Zakzanis of the University of Toronto at Scarborough, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.

Zakzanis and his colleagues had previously shown that people who used Ecstasy, also known by the chemical name MDMA, experienced a decline in their memory over a one-year period.

The 15 study participants' reported using the drug from 3 to 225 times over the course of the year.

The researchers looked at the same 15 people after another year had passed. Seven were still using the drug, while eight had become abstinent. The researchers evaluated their memory and learning using three tests, including the Rivermead Behavioral Memory Test, which is designed to evaluate everyday memory function.

In all of the former users who had been abstinent for at least 32 weeks, test scores improved compared with their scores one year previously. However, some individuals' scores stayed the same. Current users showed continued decline, with more frequent and longer-term use of the drug tied to greater loss of memory and learning function.

The worst impairments were seen in episodic memory, meaning the sort of memory a person uses while watching a news story on television and then trying to describe it to another person later.

''The general conclusions that one can make are that if you stop using, your memory won't get worse,'' Zakzanis said.

''Depending on how much you've used, your memory may or may not recover.'' Zakzanis pointed out that damage to memory and learning is just one harmful aspect of Ecstasy use, which also has been tied to depression.

REUTERS SK KP0843

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