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Self-reports of Executive Dysfunction in Current Ecstasy/Polydrug Users

Hadjiefthyvoulou, Florentia PhD*; Fisk, John E. PhD; Montgomery, Catharine PhD; Bridges, Nikola PhD

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: September 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 3 - p 128–138
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e318261459c
Original Studies

Objectives/Background: Ecstasy/polydrug users have exhibited deficits in executive functioning in laboratory tests. We sought to extend these findings by investigating the extent to which ecstasy/polydrug users manifest executive deficits in everyday life.

Methods: Forty-two current ecstasy/polydrug users, 18 previous (abstinent for at least 6 months) ecstasy/polydrug users, and 50 non-users of ecstasy (including both non-users of any illicit drug and some cannabis-only users) completed the self-report Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function-Adult Version (BRIEF-A) measure.

Results: Current ecstasy/polydrug users performed significantly worse than previous users and non-users on subscales measuring inhibition, self-monitoring, initiating action, working memory, planning, monitoring ongoing task performance, and organizational ability. Previous ecstasy/polydrug users did not differ significantly from non-users. In regression analyses, although the current frequency of ecstasy use accounted for statistically significant unique variance on 3 of the 9 BRIEF-A subscales, daily cigarette consumption was the main predictor in 6 of the subscales.

Conclusions: Current ecstasy/polydrug users report more executive dysfunction than do previous users and non-users. This finding appears to relate to some aspect of ongoing ecstasy use and seems largely unrelated to the use of other illicit drugs. An unexpected finding was the association of current nicotine consumption with executive dysfunction.

*Division of Psychology, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham

School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston

School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

All the authors contributed equally.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: John E. Fisk, PhD, School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE, UK (e-mail:

Received December 6, 2011

Accepted February 1, 2012

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.