Prospective memory impairment in "ecstasy" (MDMA) users

  • Rendell P
  • Gray T
  • Henry J
 et al. 
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RATIONALE: Considerable research indicates that "ecstasy" users perceive their memory for future intentions (prospective memory) to be impaired. However, only one empirical study to date has directly tested how this capacity is affected by ecstasy use, and this study provided relatively limited information regarding the extent, scope, or implications of problems experienced. OBJECTIVES: The present study assessed prospective performance on a laboratory measure of prospective memory that closely represents the types of prospective memory tasks that actually occur in everyday life and provides an opportunity to investigate the different sorts of prospective memory failures that occur ("Virtual Week"). METHOD: Ecstasy user group (27 current users and 34 nonusers) was between participants, and prospective memory task (regular, irregular, time-check) was within participants. A measure sensitive to specific aspects of psychopathology was also administered. RESULTS: Ecstasy users were significantly impaired on Virtual Week, and these deficits were of a comparable magnitude irrespective of the specific prospective memory task demands. The pattern of results was unchanged after controlling for marijuana use, level of psychopathology, and sleep quality. Further, prospective memory was shown to be significantly impaired for both relatively infrequent and relatively frequent ecstasy users, although for the latter group the magnitude of this deficit was greater. CONCLUSIONS: Prospective memory performance is sensitive to regular and even moderate ecstasy use. Importantly, ecstasy users experience generalized difficulties with prospective memory, suggesting that these deficits are likely to have important implications for day-to-day functioning.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine
  • Cognitive performance
  • Ecstasy
  • MDMA
  • Memory for intentions
  • Prospective memory impairment
  • Substance abuse

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  • Julie HenrySchool of Psychology, University of Queensland

  • Peter G. Rendell

  • Timothy J. Gray

  • Anne Tolan

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