Ecstasy, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is a synthetic drug that affects perception and mood, producing euphoria, increased energy, and increased sociability. A recent study on ecstasy and memory loss found that this drug can have long-term effects on memory, even in people who use it short term. Our substance abuse treatment center in Stuart, FL, couldn’t help but look into this ourselves.
Otherwise known as Molly, ecstasy or MDMA is chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens, meaning it can not only produce euphoria and alertness, but it can also produce hallucinations and other distortions in perception. Due to its side effects, Molly gained its popularity in the club scene, at music festivals, and raves. However, the practice of doing Molly has since expanded to other groups and social settings.
The MDMA memory loss claims have a lot to do with how this drug affects the brain and users’ curiosity regarding other drugs of abuse. People usually take ecstasy as a capsule or tablet, although it sometimes comes in liquids that can be swallowed or as a powder that can be snorted. “Molly” is the popular nickname for the supposedly “pure” crystalline powder version of MDMA, which usually comes in capsules.
Ecstasy affects three chemicals in the brain: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. When someone takes Molly, they may experience side effects like euphoria, increased energy and activity, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, sexual arousal, and impaired judgment. Like other drugs of abuse that affect dopamine. Molly can also act in the brain’s reward system to reinforce drug-taking behaviors, making a person who takes Molly more likely to use this drug or other ones.
Yes, MDMA (ecstasy) can cause memory loss. One study found that MDMA caused memory loss in ecstasy users, aged 17 to 31, who used the drug an average of 2.4 times a month. All study subjects stopped taking the drug for two weeks (which was confirmed by blood tests), so measurements of mental function would be accurate.
In the end, results showed that ecstasy users’ memories had declined over the years, particularly the areas of memory associated with recalling new memories. Users’ vocabulary, their ability to remember names, and their ability to remember how to get from one place to another were also affected.1
In another study on Molly drug abuse and memory loss, 23 new users were compared to 43 people who didn’t use any illicit drugs aside from cannabis. The study ran for 3 years, with 12-month check-ups. On average, the participants of the study who used ecstasy took 33 pills in one year. The results concluded that new ecstasy users who took 10 or more Molly tablets in their first year showed a decline in their immediate and long-term memory.2
Well, one of the lasting effects of Molly abuse is low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a key hormone in stabilizing mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. It impacts the entire body, enabling brain cells and various areas of the central nervous system to communicate with each other. It’s also been found to play a huge role in memory.
Low serotonin levels are associated with memory loss and depressed mood, and even mental illnesses like depression. MDMA affects serotonin levels in the brain by stimulating its constant release, depleting the brain of this important neurotransmitter. As a result, long-term ecstasy abuse can lead to psychological aftereffects, including memory loss.
Studies on MDMA and memory loss also show that impairment in memory can occur as a result of Molly’s impact on the amygdala, cingulate cortex, and hippocampus. These are three brain regions that are heavily involved in learning, memory, and processing emotions.
PET imaging has also shown that even a low dose of MDMA decreased cerebral blood flow in the motor and somatosensory cortex, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, and thalamus, each of which is involved with processing and forming emotions, behavioral learning, and motor and sensory function.3
Although many people believe that MDMA is harmless, this isn’t the case. It’s just one of the many illegal drugs that cause memory loss. You should also keep in mind that ecstasy long-term brain damage can lead to other side effects like mental illness, liver disease, and drug use of other kinds. There’s also been a rise in counterfeit ecstasy that contains harmful chemicals that can impact the brain and organs.
Any drug that impacts dopamine and the reward system in the brain has the potential for abuse and addiction. Additionally, anything that you find yourself unable to stop using can also be considered addictive.
The best way to recover from Molly is with the help of addiction treatment specialists. Due to its various ingredients and side effects, ecstasy comedown effects can be difficult to manage without the help of a medically monitored detox. Our Florida drug detox center offers medical withdrawal treatment that can help you safely withdraw from Molly or other drugs and improve your chances of recovery.