Does the use of MDMA (ecstasy) cause short term memory loss?
MDMA or Ecstasy is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet, and sometimes even snorted through the nose. It was initially popular among adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at weekend-long dance parties known as raves. More recently, the profile of the typical MDMA user has changed, with the drug now affecting a broader range of ethnic groups (John 2005). The big question still remains if this mostly recreational drug is affecting the brains memory abilities. Scientists debate whether Ecstasy is a drug that brings euphoria, boundless energy and heightened sensory experiences can actually harm the brain in part by screwing with cells that produce the chemical messenger serotonin (Kraner 2010). Past studies have been notoriously hard to interpret because brain differences seen between Ecstasy users and nonusers could have existed long before the drug use began (Evans 2007) People who use Ecstasy frequently tend to use other drugs too, making it hard to tease out Ecstasy’s effect. Evidence from both animal, and human, studies suggests that the repeated administration of MDMA will produce lasting decreases in serotonergic activity; serotonin also has an important role in memory in the brain, as stated before. In a study using monkeys, exposure to Ecstasy for four days caused brain damage to serotonin nerve terminals that could still be seen up to seven years later(Buddy 2012), providing evidence that people who take Ecstasy may be risking permanent brain damage. There are also recent reports that poly-drug users, who have used ecstasy recreationally, exhibit selective impairments in memory. However, just like all of the studies, there is a big problem because these studies did not compare ecstasy users with poly-drug users who had not taken ecstasy, leaving open the possibility that the memory deficits may be associated with a history of use of other illicit drugs. Research published online by the Scientific Journal Addiction shows that even in recreational amounts over a relatively short time period, ecstasy users risk specific memory impairments. It also says that the nature of the impairments may not be immediately obvious to the user, and it is possible people wouldn't get the signs that they are being damaged by drug use until it is too late. A more scientific explanation of how MDMA affects the brain is by exerting its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical (or neurotransmitter) serotonin to communicate with other neurons. MDMA binds to the serotonin transporter, which is responsible for removing serotonin from the synapse (or space between close by neurons) to terminate the signal between neurons; thus MDMA increases and delays the serotonin signal. MDMA also enters the serotonergic neurons via the transporter where it causes excessive release of serotonin from the neurons. MDMA also releases dopamine, but to a much lesser extent (Cottler & Womack 2003) MDMA is very similar to the 2nd generation anti-depressant drugs or SSRI's (serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors); both drugs block the reuptake of serotonin into the neuron. The reason I am mentioning these drugs are because there have been a lot of reports of people who have been taking SSRI’s that have experienced long and short-term memory loss. The purpose of the study I am performing is to further extend and maybe find an actual answer to see if the drug usage of MDMA (scientifically known as 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) causes short-term memory loss to the brain. In my experiment, I will be proposing series of free recall tests among three different groups of young adults (ages 18-25) each group will have a different relationship with the drug MDMA. Based on the research I have found, I feel that after performing the experiment on these different groups, the results will come out positive for short term memory...
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