Repeated Drug Use Dulls The Memory

Ecstasy and cannabis can cause memory loss and impair a person’s ability to conduct a conversation, research shows. A study found drug users often drifted off in the middle of sentences and would repeat a joke or story they had told already. The more cannabis people used, the more they lapsed in their everyday memory, scientists conclude. The findings come from one of the largest studies carried out into the impact of recreational drugs on psychological function. However, it is not representative of all drug takers and involved more than 700 people taking part in an online questionnaire. The snapshot survey looked at drug taking habits and whether they affected people’s ability to remember simple tasks.

Ecstasy users reported similar memory lapses to those taking cannabis. Dr Andrew Scholey, a psychologist from the University of Northurabria, said: The more they had taken ecstasy in the past, the more their long term prospect of memory failed. “This was down to the amount they had used, not the frequency. “The other thing we recorded was the number of errors they made when submitting the questionnaire. “The more people had taken ecstasy, the more errors they made on the form.”

Brain damage
The research team suggest ecstasy targets the frontal lobes of the brain, which are related to memory and organising responses. People with frontal lobe damage caused by accidents often find difficulty concentrating and are More easily distracted, research shows. Psychologists are intrigued that ecstasy users continue to take the drug, despite knowing it is damaging their brain. Dr Scholey said: “It’s bizarre. People are aware of what’s happening to them in terms of deteriorating mental function and don’t seem to do anything about it.” The team recognises the weaknesses of the study. Scholey said: “We have to be cautious in interpreting these types of data. “We are relying on self reports of memory failures in groups with memory problems.

‘However, it’s difficult to see why cannabis and ecstasy users would try to exaggerate these psychological problems.” The study was devised and conducted by UK scientists from the universities of Newcastle, Northumbria, Teeside, East London and Westminster. The majority of those who took part in the questionnaire (75%) were aged between 21 and 25. About 80% came from Europe and 16% were from the USA.

Source: BBC News, 14 March 2002

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