Effect of ecstasy use on neuropsychological function: a study in Hong Kong
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Previous studies on the effects of ecstasy on neuropsychological performance have often recruited small sample sizes.
The present study was conducted to validate previous findings regarding the effects of ecstasy consumption on neuropsychological performance.
A comprehensive neuropsychological investigation was conducted in 100 abstinent ecstasy users and 100 matched non-user counterparts on standardized measures of working memory, verbal and non-verbal memory, verbal and figural fluency, and selective and switching attention.
Abstinent ecstasy users were impaired on verbal and non-verbal memory, complex attention, and verbal fluency, but not on working memory, relative to their non-user counterparts. Of particular interest was the fact that abstinent ecstasy users performed better on figural fluency relative to their non-user counterparts. In addition, only cumulative ecstasy consumption correlated with neuropsychological performances among abstinent ecstasy users. Canonical discriminant analysis yielded verbal and visual memory, switching attention, and verbal fluency as potential core neuropsychological variables for differentiating abstinent ecstasy users from non-users. Levels of depression and general non-verbal intelligence, as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory and the test of non-verbal Intelligence, respectively, were not likely to affect these findings, since these measures were matched between ecstasy users and non-users.
These findings suggest that previous ecstasy consumption can affect a wide range of neuropsychological performance, though figural fluency may be subsequently enhanced as a result of the phenomenon of “cortical disinhibition.” Furthermore, measures of verbal and visual memory, switching attention, and verbal fluency may be particularly useful for differentiating abstinent ecstasy users from non-users.