• Ecstasy;
  • AVLT;
  • confabulation;
  • immediate recall;
  • delayed recall


Drug-free Ecstasy polydrug users have shown impairment on tasks of verbal working memory and memory span. Current research aims to investigate how these deficits may affect the learning of verbal material by administration of the Auditory Verbal Learning Task (AVLT) (Rey, 1964). The task provides a learning curve by assessing immediate memory span over multiple trials. Learning strategies are further analysed by tendencies to confabulate as well as demonstrate either proactive or retroactive interference elicited by a novel ‘distractor’ list. Three groups completed the task: two groups of 14 Ecstasy users (short- and long-term) and one group of 14 polydrug controls. Compared with controls both Ecstasy groups recalled significantly fewer words and made more confabulation errors on the initial three recall trials as well as a delayed recall trial. Long-term users demonstrated increased confabulation on the initial trials and the novel ‘distractor7’ trial, compared with short-term users. Only following repeated presentations were both short- and long-term users shown to perform at control levels. As such, deficits in verbal learning may be more related to storage and/or retrieval problems than problems associated with capacity per se. No interference errors were demonstrated by either of the Ecstasy groups. However, a high level of intrusion errors may indicate selective working memory problems associated with longer-term use of the drug. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.