Psychopathological, neuroendocrine and autonomic effects of 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDE), psilocybin and d-methamphetamine in healthy volunteers. Results of an experimental double-blind placebo-controlled study

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1999 Feb;142(1):41-50. doi: 10.1007/s002130050860.


The aim of this study was to contribute to the characterization of the entactogen (ecstasy) substance group. The psychopathological, neuroendocrine and autonomic effects of common recreational doses of the entactogen 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDE), the hallucinogen psilocybin, the stimulant d-methamphetamine and placebo were investigated in a double-blind study with healthy volunteers (n = 32). Psychological effects of the drugs were assessed by means of standardized rating scales, self assessment inventories and free descriptions. The most characteristic effects of MDE were pleasant emotional experiences of relaxation, peacefulness, content and closeness to others. However, significant stimulant and hallucinogen-like effects were also present, although the latter were weaker than the effects of psilocybin. MDE elicited the strongest endocrine and autonomic effects among the three drugs, including robust rises of serum cortisol and prolactin, elevations of blood pressure and heart rate, and a moderate, but significant rise of body temperature. The apparent contrast between psychological and autonomic effects (subjective relaxation versus physical activation) was a unique feature of the MDE state. Our findings are in line with both users' reports and results from previous experimental studies, and support the view that entactogens constitute a distinct psychoactive substance class taking an intermediate position between hallucinogens and stimulants.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / analogs & derivatives
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Acute-Phase Reaction
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autonomic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosecretory Systems / drug effects*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism
  • Psilocybin / pharmacology
  • Psychopathology


  • Autonomic Agents
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Psilocybin
  • Methamphetamine
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • 3,4-methylenedioxyethamphetamine