Long Term Ecstasy Use Linked To Greater Levels Of Empathy

Let's just get this out of the way first of all, drugs are bad and should be avoided.

However, according to a new study, long term use of the party drug, ecstasy, could be linked to higher levels of empathy.

Scientists analysed the levels of empathy in 25 people who took a multitude of substances, including ecstasy, 19 who used multiple drugs, excluding ecstasy, and 23 people who only drank alcohol.

Other drugs involved in the study were cocaine, cannabis, and ketamine.

Those who took ecstasy said they felt much more empathetic, and were more effective at identifying emotions being displayed by other people during a computerised task, than those people who didn't.

Molly Carlyle, of the University of Exeter, was the lead author of the paper, Greater Empathy In MDMA Users, which has been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Long term users of MDMA were found to have greater levels of empathy. Credit: PA
Long term users of MDMA were found to have greater levels of empathy. Credit: PA

She said: "We recruited long-term but mild users in order to reflect doses that may be used for medical purposes.

"It has been suggested that MDMA, combined with therapy, might be an effective treatment for psychological trauma and alcoholism, but it has previously been suggested that MDMA may cause heightened social distress.

"Our findings indicate that isn't the case in our study, MDMA users were better able to understand the emotions of others and had better emotional empathy than people using other drugs, and on a similar level to those who only drink alcohol."

As well as taking part in the computerised study, all 67 participants had to fill out a questionnaire about their own empathy in order for scientists to measure both cognitive and emotional empathy.

According to reports, the study's findings contradicted previous research that had pointed to ecstasy users demonstrating higher levels of distress.

Professor Celia Morgan, a senior author of the research, did say however, the research was not conclusive that MDMA use was the cause of greater levels of empathy.

She said: "Our study suggests that mild MDMA use is not associated with any problems in how we function socially.

"Instead, it seems to make people better at empathy when compared to drug users who don't use MDMA, with a suggestion of better empathy compared to alcohol users.

"We cant say whether differences in empathy are due to taking MDMA, or whether there were already differences in the people who use MDMA and those who don't before they started taking the drug.

"But importantly this study suggests that MDMA may be used safely as a treatment without side effects on these crucial social processes."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Dominic Smithers

After graduating from Leeds University with a degree in French and History, Dom went onto gain an NCTJ journalism qualification. Since then he has worked as a reporter at the Manchester Evening News and the Macclesfield Express, covering breaking news, court, sports, and politics.

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