Researchers have long known that Ecstasy users experience memory loss, but Dutch researchers recently explored whether or not changes in the brain structure may also take place – especially in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that manages the capacity for longer-duration memory.
Perhaps even more alarming are study results that suggest the loss of long-term memory capacity for Ecstasy users appears similar to that of older patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.
Using MRI imaging, researchers studied the brain hippocampus activity of ten young adult males who had used Ecstasy for several years, then compared the results to imaging from seven young adult males who had not experimented with the synthetic stimulant drug.
According to the findings, as highlighted in recent news reports, the men who were consistent users of Ecstasy had a brain hippocampus capacity that was reduced by 10.5%, compared to the men who had not used the drug.
Study findings, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, suggest that Ecstasy affects more than just long-term memory capacity. The drug, with properties similar to amphetamines and known to produce hallucinations, also appeared connected to overall loss of grey matter. In the Ecstasy users, gray matter levels were around 4.6 percent less than their peers.
Researchers said that the loss of hippocampus capacity noted in the Ecstasy users is also present in patients with diseases like Alzheimer’s, a progressive disease that reduces a person’s capacity for thinking, memory and managing behavior.
Ecstasy is a stimulant-like drug that can cause nausea, extreme perspiration, dangerous rises in blood pressure or seizures. Deaths related to Ecstasy have been linked to heat stroke, heart problems or dehydration.