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Decision-making in chronic ecstasy users: a systematic review

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Different cognitive impairments have been reported as a result of long-term MDMA/ecstasy use. Increased impulsivity and altered decision-making have been shown to be associated with the development and maintenance of addictive disorders pointing towards the necessity to understand a potential impairment of decision-making due to MDMA use. Thus, assessing the long-term effects of MDMA is crucial in order to evaluate its controversially discussed therapeutic use. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize the scientific literature on potential effects of chronic MDMA use on higher order decision-making processes in humans. Therefore, a systematic search for controlled trials relevant to the topic has been performed. Only studies using specific tasks on decision-making were included that involved subjects in the drug-free interval with drug-naïve, and/or polydrug control groups. A total of twelve studies could be identified that met the inclusion criteria, all of which were cross-sectional studies. The findings on decision-making disturbances in MDMA users were heterogeneous. Seven studies reported increased risky decisions, whereas five studies did not find MDMA-specific influences on decision-making. Increased impulsivity was observed both in MDMA groups and in (poly)drug control groups in almost all studies. Thus, the current state of research does not allow for the conclusion that long-term use of MDMA affects decision-making behavior in general. More detailed specifications as well as further investigations of the relevant processes are needed. Significant tendencies towards risky decision-making among long-term MDMA use have been observed, but need to be confirmed by studies using a longitudinal design.

Betzler, F., Viohl, L., & Romanczuk‐Seiferth, N. (2016). Decision‐making in chronic ecstasy users: a systematic review. European Journal of Neuroscience. 10.1111/ejn.13480
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