Search for courses or information

Past Projects

Drugs and Addictive Behaviour Research Group

List of past projects

Psychobiological Effects of Ecstasy/MDMA Projects

(Kirstie Soar; John Turner; Margherita Milani)

The group has worked on a number of research projects at UEL and in collaboration with Professor Andy Parrott (Swansea University) looking at both the acute, sub-acute and long-term psychobiological effects associated with the recreational drug ecstasy (MDMA).

In particular, numerous projects lead by Kirstie Soar have focused upon heavy ecstasy (MDMA) users, who often report a variety of drug-related problems, and investigating the prevalence and nature of these problems, along with their persistence. Cognitive functioning of these more problematic ecstasy users has also been assessed. Margherita Milani has undertaken a large-scale investigation into the psychological health and wellbeing of several hundred Italian and British youngsters, ranging from those who have never taken any psychoactive drugs, to heavy polydrug (multiple-drug) users. She has also investigated the effect of ecstasy polydrug use on attention and memory: in particular, prospective memory.

 Recent Publications

Milani, R.M. (2011). The contribution of ecstasy dependence and stress to ecstasy/MDMA-related psychiatric symptoms. The Open Addiction Journal, 4(1), 28–29. doi:10.2174/1874941001104010028

Soar, K., Parrott, A.C., & Turner, J.J.D. (2009). Attributions for psychobiological changes in ecstasy/MDMA and other polydrug users. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 23(7),745–58. doi:10.1177/0269881108092594

Parrott, A.C., Milani, R.M., Gouzoulis-Mayfrank, E., & Daumann, J. (2007) Cannabis and Ecstasy/MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): an analysis of their neuropsychobiological interactions in recreational users. [research article] Journal of Neuronal Transmission. 114(8),959-68. doi:10.1007/s00702-007-0715-7

Soar, K., Turner, J.J.D., & Parrott, A.C. (2006). Problematic versus non-problematic Ecstasy/MDMA use: the influence of drug usage patterns and pre-existing psychiatric factors. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 20(3), 417–724. doi:10.1177/0269881106063274

Royal Medicine Society (2006). Round Table Series 83: Ergot-derived drugs. Edited by Grosset, D., Schachter, M., Soar, K., Turner, J., Van Camp, G. Royal Medicine Society Press.

John Turner

The Development and Infancy Study (DAISY) is in the emerging field of Behavioural Teratology, exploring the possible effects of in utero exposure to recreational drugs (ecstasy, cannabis, nicotine, etc.) on the subsequent social and cognitive development of the infant. This project is also looking at continued drug use by non-addicted mothers during pregnancy and the possible impact on their health, mental health and interactions with their newborns.

The project was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the US (Grant: DA14910-01) and is an international collaborative study between the Drugs and Addictive Behaviours Research Group and Professor Derek Moore at University of Surrey, Professor Andy Parrott at Swansea University, Professor Lynn Singer and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio, and involving Dr Susan Patterson at Imperial College.

Related publications

Parrott, A.C., Moore, D.G., Turner, J.J.D., Goodwin, J., Fulton, S., Min, M.O., & Singer, L.T. (2014). MDMA and heightened cortisol: a neurohormonal perspective on the pregnancy outcomes of mothers used ‘Ecstasy’ during pregnancy. Human Psychopharmacology, 29(1), 1–7. doi:10.1002/hup.2342

Turner, J.J.D., Parrott, A.C., Goodwin, J., Moore, D.G., Fulton, S., Min, M.O., & Singer, L.T. (2014). Psychiatric profiles of mothers who take ecstasy/MDMA during pregnancy: reduced depression one year after giving birth and quitting ecstasy. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(1), 55–61. doi:10.1177/0269881113515061

Singer, L.T., Moore, D.G., Fulton, S., Goodwin, J., Turner, J.J.D., Min, M.O., & Parrott, A.C. (2012). Neurobehavioral outcomes of infants exposed to MDMA (Ecstasy) and other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 34(3), 303–310. doi:10.1016/

Singer, L.T., Moore, D.G., Min, M.O., Goodwin, J.E., Turner, J.J.D., Fulton, S.E., et al. (2012). One-year outcomes of prenatal exposure to MDMA and other recreational drugs. Pediatrics, 130(3), 407–413. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-0666

Moore, D.G., Turner, J.J.D., Goodwin, J.E., Fulton, S., Singer, L.T., & Parrott, A.C. (2011). In-utero exposure to the popular ‘recreational’ drugs MDMA (Ecstasy) and methamphetamine (Ice, Crystal): preliminary findings. In Preece & Riley (Eds.), Alcohol drugs and medication in pregnancy. Wiley.

Moore, D.G., Turner, J.D., Parrott, A.C., Goodwin, J.E., Fulton, S.E., Min, M.O., … Singer, L.T. (2009). During pregnancy, recreational drug-using women stop taking ecstasy (3,4–methylenedioxy–N–methylamphetamine) and reduce alcohol consumption, but continue to smoke tobacco and cannabis: initial findings from the Development and Infancy Study. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 24(9), 1403–1410. doi:10.1177/0269881109348165

Kirstie Soar, Emma Chapman

There are a number of individual research projects that have addressed the cognitive and psychological functioning of recreational cocaine use. Our group is one of the first in the UK to have focused on relatively pure recreational cocaine users and have demonstrated deficits in neuropsychological functioning; inhibitory control, learning, planning, attention and associative learning as measured by latent inhibition relative to non-cocaine users. In addition to related publications, this work has been presented at a number of national conferences, and Dr Soar was awarded the BPS ‘runner up’ prize for best poster presentation at the Annual British Psychological Society Conference, 2012.

Recent Related Publications

Soar, K., Dawkins, L.E., Page, F., & Wooldridge, J. (2015). Recreational cocaine use is associated with attenuated latent inhibition. Addictive Behaviors, 50, 34–39. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.06.010

Soar, K., Mason, C., Potton, A., & Dawkins, L. (2012). Neuropsychological effects associated with recreational cocaine use. Psychopharmacology, 222(4), 633–643. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2666-4

Soar, K., & Mason, C. (2008). Recreational cocaine use: schizotypy and cognitive performance. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(5), TF06: A66.

Stephanie Lynch, John Turner, Kirstie Soar, Lynne Dawkins

Stephanie Lynch (former PhD student), whilst an undergraduate student at UEL, completed a final year project, with John Turner, looking at this latter area: in particular, the performance of regular cannabis users in tests of associative learning (tasks known to be affected by psychosis and psychosis-like states). Stephanie submitted an abstract of her study to the British Association of Psychopharmacology, and was awarded one of four prestigious annual undergraduate prizes for her work (alongside fellow prize winners from Bristol and Oxford Universities), in July 2006 at the BAP summer meeting in Oxford. Stephanie completed her PhD expanding on this undergraduate-level work, and looked at the roles of genetic markers, previously implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia, in the possible interactions between cannabis use and psychosis-linked behaviours.

John Turner, Amanda Roberts (Lincoln)

John Turner worked with former colleague Amanda Roberts on a Channel 4 survey of young people’s use of pornography and sexual addiction. This was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary ‘Porn on the Brain’ that explored the impact of internet pornography on adolescents’ brains and behaviour, in which the preliminary results of Roberts’ and Turners’ survey were presented. Since then 1000 respondents have completed the survey.