People who use the class A drug ecstasy just once could be risking long-term brain damage, research has shown.
Prolonged use of the drug has long been known to lead to mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, confusion, sleeping difficulties and memory loss, but a new study has shown that even small amounts of ecstasy affect the brain.
The study, which was conducted at the University of Amsterdam, looked at 188 volunteers who had no history of using the drug but admitted that they were likely to do so in the future.
After around 18 months, the volunteers were evaluated for cell integrity and blood flow in the brain and those who had tried ecstasy just once exhibited a reduction in blood flow and adversely-affected cell architecture.
Researcher Maartje de Win said that the volunteers displayed poorer verbal memory and overall mental performance and added that researchers do not yet know whether the effects would be permanent.
"Therefore, we cannot conclude that ecstasy, even in small doses, is safe for the brain, and people should be informed of this risk," he commented.
The results are due to be presented today at the annual conference of the Radiological Society of North America.