A 2006 case report tells the story of a 37-year-old man identified only as Mr. A who admitted himself to a group of doctors at the London Psychiatry Centre because he was having issues with his short-term memory, depression and anxiety. He told his doctors he suspected they were a result of his taking 40,000 ecstasy pills while in his twenties.
According to the report, written by Dr. Christos Kouimtsidis and his University of London Colleagues and published in the journal Psychosomatics, Mr. A. claimed that he had consumed a total of 40,000 tablets of ecstasy from the ages of 21 to 30.
He said his MDMA addiction began as a weekend-only habit of five tabs at a time while at parties, but that it had expanded to 3.5 pills daily after he turned 23. At 26, his addiction ballooned and he began averaging 25 pills a day. Four years later, at the age of 30, he stopped taking ecstasy after three episodes of “collapsing” at parties.
Mr. A. also mentioned that he had used other drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroine and LSD in the past, but that MDMA was his biggest addiction.
Despite not having taken MDMA for seven years, Mr. A. said he still felt mentally depleted and was experiencing other side effects. Kouimtsidis wrote of Mr. A.’s symptoms in the report:
“[H]e felt as if he was still under the influence of ecstasy and suffered several episodes of ‘tunnel vision.’”
“[…] He eventually developed severe panic attacks, recurrent anxiety, depression, muscle rigidity (particularly at the neck and jaw levels), functional hallucinations, and paranoid ideation.”
The doctors reported that while there was obvious cognitive impairment, Mr. A’s brain scans showed no signs of physical abnormalities.
The medical team admitted Mr. A to a brain-injury unit at a hospital, where they helped improve his memory skills with the use of “compensatory strategies.”
In the comments section of Mr. A.’s case report, Kouimtsidis writes in conclusion:
“The neurocognitive profile here described was very similar to that shown by current heavy ecstasy users; it has been suggested that the extent of memory decline positively correlates with intensity or frequency of ecstasy consumption.
“It is also confirmed here that selective impairments of neuropsychological performance associated with regular ecstasy use are not reversed by prolonged abstinence.”
While there is still no definitive answer to the wide-reaching question of whether MDMA use causes long-term mental impairment, Mr. A’s case suggests it might. Furthermore, a 2013 study found that those who take 10 or more ecstasy pills in a year are more likely to experience short-term memory impairment those who take no MDMA at all.