WEDNESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term users of the
illegal drug ecstasy are at risk for brain damage, warns a new
Brain scans showed an approximate 10 percent shrinkage in the
volume of the hippocampus and a lower proportion of overall gray
matter among long-term ecstasy users, the researchers found.
Previous research has suggested that people who use ecstasy can
develop serious memory problems, so a team of Dutch researchers
decided to investigate whether the drug caused structural changes
in the brain.
They used MRI scans to measure the volume of the hippocampus in
10 men in their mid-20s who were long-term ecstasy users and seven
men in the same age group who had never used the drug.
The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for
On average, the ecstasy users had not taken the drug for more
than two months before undergoing the MRI scans, but had taken an
average of 281 ecstasy tablets over the previous six and half
The scans revealed that ecstasy users had an average of 10.5
percent less hippocampal volume than non-users. The users also had
an average 4.6 percent lower overall proportion of grey matter in
the brain, which suggests that the effects of ecstasy may not be
limited to the hippocampus.
"Taken together, these data provide preliminary evidence suggesting that ecstasy users may be prone to incurring hippocampal damage, following chronic use of this drug," the researchers wrote in a journal news release.
The study appears online in the
Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
The researchers noted that atrophy of the hippocampus "is a
hallmark for diseases of progressive cognitive impairment in older
patients, such as Alzheimer's disease."
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about