Background: MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine; "Ecstasy") is an amphetamine derivative with mild hallucinogenic and stimulant qualities. MDMA leads to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) neurotoxicity and has been linked to cognitive impairments. It remains unclear whether these impairments are due to MDMA versus other drug use.
Method: Neurocognitive functioning was measured in a sample of abstinent polydrug users (n = 52) with a range of MDMA use and healthy nondrug controls (n = 29). Participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery and self-report measures of drug use.
Results: Polydrug users performed worse than controls on spatial span and spatial working memory (ps < .05). Among polydrug users, lifetime marijuana use significantly predicted verbal learning and memory performance (p < .01), while MDMA use was not predictive of cognitive impairment.
Conclusions: This study and our previous report (Hanson, Luciana, & Sullwold, 2008) suggest that moderate MDMA use does not lead to persistent impairments above and beyond that associated with generally heavy drug use, but polydrug use may lead to dose-related temporal and frontoparietal dysfunction. Marijuana use may be particularly problematic. Cause-effect relations are unclear.