I’ve just noticed this review article that concisely reviews what we know about how the street drug ecstasy (MDMA) affects the function of the brain.
In terms of life-threatening physical damage, MDMA is a great deal safer than most other recreational drugs including alcohol and tobacco, but there is increasing evidence that it impacts on memory, and the effect seems to be related to dose.
In other words, the more ecstasy you take, the more likely memory problems will be worse.
The neuropsychology of ecstasy (MDMA) use: a quantitative review.
Hum Psychopharmacol. 2007 Oct;22(7):427-35.
Zakzanis KK, Campbell Z, Jovanovski D.
A growing number of empirical studies have found varying neuropsychological impairments associated with use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) use. We set out to determine to what extent neuropsychological abilities are impaired in MDMA users. To do so, meta-analytical methods were used to determine the magnitude of neuropsychological impairment in MDMA users across pre-specified cognitive domains. We found that cognitive impairment secondary to recreational drug use may result in what might be described as small-to-medium effects across all cognitive domains with learning and memory being most impaired. We also found that total lifetime ingestion of MDMA appears to be negatively associated with performance on tasks ranging from attention and concentration to learning and memory. Implications and limitations of these findings are discussed.
Sadly, the full-text of the paper isn’t freely available online, but the main punchlines are in the summary.
Link to PubMed entry for paper.