Aims: Recreational use of +/-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy') is widespread. The present study aimed to examine both the acute and residual effects of this drug on users' mood and cognitive function.
Design and participants: A parallel group design was used to compare 12 participants who reported having taken MDMA with 12 participants who reported having consumed only alcohol, on the relevant night (day 1). These same participants were then re-assessed the following day (day 2) and again mid-week (day 5).
Findings: Acute effects of MDMA broadly replicated previous findings. MDMA users rated elevated mood on day 1 but significantly low mood on day 5, at which point some participants scored within the range for clinical depression. In contrast, the alcohol group showed less pronounced changes, which followed a U-shaped curve over days with the lowest point being day 2. The MDMA group also showed significant impairments on an attentional/working memory task, compared with alcohol users.
Conclusions: Weekend use of MDMA may lead to depressed mood mid-week. Possible mechanisms underlying the findings are discussed in terms of temporary depletion of serotonin, serotonergic neurotoxity and psychological aspects of mood change.