Evidence for selective executive function deficits in ecstasy/polydrug users

Fisk, John orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2981-0870 and Montgomery, C. (2009) Evidence for selective executive function deficits in ecstasy/polydrug users. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 23 (1). pp. 40-50. ISSN 0269-8811

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881108089815


Previous research has suggested that the separate aspects of executive functioning are differentially affected by ecstasy use. Although the inhibition process appears to be unaffected by ecstasy use, it is unclear whether this is true of heavy users under conditions of high demand. Tasks loading on the updating process have been shown to be adversely affected by ecstasy use. However, it remains unclear whether the deficits observed reflect the executive aspects of the tasks or whether they are domain general in nature affecting both verbal and visuo-spatial updating. Fourteen heavy ecstasy users (mean total lifetime use 1000 tablets), 39 light ecstasy users (mean total lifetime use 150 tablets) and 28 non-users were tested on tasks loading on the inhibition executive process (random letter generation) and the updating component process (letter updating, visuo-spatial updating and computation span). Heavy users were not impaired in random letter generation even under conditions designed to be more demanding. Ecstasy-related deficits were observed on all updating measures and were statistically significant for two of the three measures. Following controls for various aspects of cannabis use, statistically significant ecstasy-related deficits were obtained on all three updating measures. It was concluded that the inhibition process is unaffected by ecstasy use even among heavy users. By way of contrast, the updating process appears to be impaired in ecstasy users with the deficit apparently domain general in nature.

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