Memory Lapses Linked to Recreational Drug Use
A new study suggests that regular users of recreational drugs suffer memory impairment.
Prior research has indicated that users of Ecstasy or multiple drugs suffer from various cognitive impairments, including impaired performance on verbal and spatial exercise. In this new study, researchers looked specifically at the relationship between drugs use deficits in prospective memory. Prospective memory is, essentially, remembering to remember, like remembering to do something you intended to do. Prospective memory is triggered either by an event (this happened so I remember I must do this other thing) or by time (it is 3:00 so I remember I must do this), with different brain processes used for each type of trigger.
42 users of Ecstasy/multiple drugs and 31 non-drug users were recruited for the study. The participants were given both questionnaires and lab-based memory tests, both of which found memory deficits in time- and event-based prospective memory. The regular use of multiple drugs or the use of Ecstasy affected memory, even when controlled for cannabis, alcohol, or tobacco use. The researchers also found an association between recreational cocaine use and memory deficits, although more research is needed to clarify whether cocaine use by itself results in memory lapses.
What Does This Mean?
Many Ecstasy or multiple-drug users already know that they experience memory lapses, but this study shows that these lapses have an association with drug use. Prospective memory depends on the brain's executive functions, which are also responsible for tasks like planning, organization, and the ability to handle multiple intellectual tasks simultaneously. These memory deficits may indicate other deficits in executive function caused by regular recreational drug use.