Though ecstasy is known to cause health risks such as depression, sleep problems, severe anxiety and increasing other drug cravings, there has been a considerable amount of debate questioning whether or not government officials have over-reacted to ecstasy.

Experts like David Nutt, who was dismissed from his position on the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, due to his famous statement, "Horse-riding is considerably more dangerous than taking ecstasy," believe that recreational consumption of the drug is safe, while there are others who argue that ecstasy is dangerous to use.

New research demonstrates that even casual use of the drug in a short period of time may risk the chance of memory impairments. The study involved 149 subjects who were examined during the initial phase of the study, 109 of which returned the following year. During this phase, 43 of the participants had only used marijuana while 23 of the participants consumed more than 10 ecstasy pills over their first year of use.

Results displayed damage in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is responsible for memory function and navigation. The participants exhibited a decreased function in immediate and short-term memory compared to their pre-ecstasy use. Even those, who consumed less than 10 pills over the one year, still displayed signs of memory impairments.

According to lead author Dr. Daniel Wagner, "This study was designed to minimize the methodological limitations of earlier research, in which it was not possible to say whether cognitive impairments seen among ecstasy users were in place before drug use began. By measuring the cognitive function of people with no history of ecstasy use and, one year later, identifying those who had used ecstasy at least ten times and premeasuring their performance, we have been able to start isolating the precise cognitive effects of this drug."

The study was published in the journal Addiction.