Dr Philip Murphy, Reader in Psychology at Edge Hill University, has supported the Government by advising that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.
Dr Murphy criticised the recommendation made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), that the legal status of ecstasy should be downgraded to Class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
He said: “It is my professional opinion that the implications of ecstasy use for memory and related processes have not been properly considered by the ACMD in reaching this recommendation.
“At an open meeting of the ACMD in September 2008, a combined analysis of 45 studies of ecstasy-related memory loss was presented. The conclusion was that the overall harm from such impairments was relatively small. However, these studies represented only a very small proportion of relevant findings in this area.
“Currently I have a paper under review for publication which examines almost the same number of studies concerning just one aspect of memory, rather than memory as a whole which will give a much clearer picture.”
The comparison of ecstasy use to horse riding by Professor David Nutt has also been criticised by Dr Murphy.
Dr Murphy said: “The comparison between the use of Ecstasy and horse riding is misleading to say the least.
Some sports can be dangerous, but generally the benefits to participants can be openly seen to outweigh the problems. However, there is a wealth of evidence linking ecstasy use to mood disturbance and memory impairment and the long-term effects of these as people grow older are still unknown.
“I have suggested in the Lancet that a rough estimate of one ecstasy related death every two weeks can be made on the basis of two published studies in this area. The contribution of ecstasy to such deaths would of course vary from case to case.”
Dr Murphy is the chair of the Psychobiology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS). He has also co-authored 46 scientific papers for journals and conferences in the field of substance misuse, many of them concerned with impairment to memory associated with ecstasy use. His statements about ecstasy represent his own scientific opinion rather than any other body or institution.
Psychobiology looks at the biological aspects of psychological processes and behaviours, and the Psychobiology Section of the BPS promotes this area of knowledge and research through its annual conference and other activities.