ACU study shows dangerous effects of ecstasy use on memory

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

20 December 2007: Australian Catholic University (ACU) Associate Professor Peter Rendell cites his recently published study on the long term effects of ecstasy use as a warning for potential users during the upcoming holiday period.

In his study, recently published in the journal Psychopharmacology, Dr. Rendell and his colleagues found that even infrequent ecstasy use has a significant negative impact on a part of our memory function called prospective memory.

“When we have to remember actions/intentions for the future, such as remembering to take medicine, make a phone call or turn off appliances, we call that prospective memory.”

“We know that ecstasy has a detrimental effect on our general recall of past events (retrospective memory). But it also has a proven impact on our ability to remember regular and one-off tasks which still need to be done,” said Dr. Rendell.

For the study, Dr. Rendell developed a sophisticated board game called Virtual Week to test different types of prospective memory tasks, such as those needing to be carried out regularly or irregularly, at a set time or in relation to specific event.  In all categories, frequent ecstasy users were the worst performers, followed closely by infrequent users. Non-users consistently remembered more of the common tasks they needed to accomplish.

 “Ecstasy has a harmful influence on our ability to remember day-to-day tasks. In our study, the average participant was aged between 20 and 22. Their use of ecstasy has severely affected their future,” Dr. Rendell added.   

Current trends show that ecstasy use often peaks during the holiday party period, especially near New Year's Eve. Research has shown more than one million Australians have tried the drug, making it our country’s most popular illegal drug after marijuana, with numbers continuing to increase.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.