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Ecstasy versus Alcohol: effect on mood

Comparison of alcohol and ecstasy effect on mood

Thesis by Ross Travill, dept Psychology, University College, London, February 1996.
A study of week-end and week-day mood, memory and concentration variation in young adults: Comparing Alcohol and MDMA (3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) users.

A sample of 24 subjects were recruited, 12 of whom had taken MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) and 12 of whom had consumed alcohol.
Both groups were tested over a period of 4 days on 3 separate testing times (days 0-'nightclub setting', 01 and 04-'home setting') in order to assess any differences between groups over days in mood memory and concentration.
Group 1 (MDMA) showed an increase in score on the Beck Depression Inventory over days (<0.001) and when compared to group 2 (Alcohol) there was a highly significant interaction between groups and days (<0.001). This provides evidence for the mid-week depression syndrome anecdotally reported by recreational MDMA users and raises questions as to whether this reflects neurotoxic effects of MDMA in humans, or whether these findings can be explained by other causes.
Concentration scores were lower in group 1 over all three days (<0.050), however, memory differences were not significantly different for immediate recall and only a trend emerged for delayed recall ().092) with group l scoring lower on all three days.
Two mood and bodily symptoms scales were also administered and these consisted of 30 visual analogue scales in total. These were all analysed individually and many scales showed significant differences between groups over days.
The results raise questions concerning people's week-end and week-day state of mind and how two popular recreational drugs can effect this. More importantly, however, they shed some light onto the effects of MDMA and the topical debate as to its possible adverse effects and their social implications.

In conclusion to this study it must be said that MDMA use at the weekend does seem to be a factor influencing mid-week depression. This depression is probably due to a combination of S-HT depletion and the 'boredom factor' which results from an extreme contrast in enjoyment.
No definite explanation can however, be offered due to the lack of control the experimenter has in this kind of study. Despite every effort being made to eliminate external influence this is impossible unless the experiment is conducted in laboratory conditions. This experiment is unique, however, due to the circumstances of the experimenter having access to willing subjects and a VIP room which allows for some control. It is, to my knowledge, the first study to have looked at the consequences of week-end ecstasy use over a period of days.
This study also indicates that MDMA may effect cognitive functioning as well as mood, specifically concentration. We cannot say exactly how this influence occurs as we do not yet fully understand the actions of MDMA and the neurotransmitters it effects. Its (unique) ability to produce empathy cannot be linked to any particular neurotransmitter and therefore until we understand fully how MDMA works, we cannot fully understand its short and long-term effects.