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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 April, 2004, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Ecstasy users 'can't give up'
Ecstasy tablets
Taking ecstasy can damage social relationships
Hard-core ecstasy users may be aware of the risks involved in taking the drug, but enjoy it too much to stop, new research suggests.

Warning such long-term users about the harmful effects of taking ecstasy is futile, psychologist Dr Phil Murphy told a conference on Saturday.

His team questioned 328 ecstasy users, who had an average age of 22.

Those taking ecstasy for more than six years remained positive about it, the British Psychological Society heard.

Maybe they've learned ways of coping with the negative effects, such as taking different drugs
Dr Phil Murphy

Dr Murphy said explaining that ecstasy can cause paranoia, depression or anxiety to these hard-core users was a waste of time.

The results of his survey showed that while the young people involved saw taking ecstasy as a positive experience at first, the feelings of euphoria and closeness to others it produced became less pronounced.

Some gave up the drug, finding its after-effects too unpleasant, but it was noticeable that those who had been taking ecstasy for more than six years continued to view the drug positively.

'Part of lifestyle'

Dr Murphy was speaking at the British Psychological Society's annual conference at Imperial College, London.

He said there could be a positive balance to the results.

"Maybe they've learned ways of coping with the negative effects, such as taking different drugs, for example," he said.

"They still think it's worthwhile and part of their lifestyle."

Instead of telling such users about the downside to the drug, Dr Murphy said it was better to emphasise the kind of social damage ecstasy could inflict - such as broken relationships and its impact on a person's employment prospects.

Health aspects the users might not be aware of could also be highlighted, such as memory impairment.

Giving these warnings earlier would also help, he added.

Another study led by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University showed that taking ecstasy damaged long-term memory.

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