Toxicodynamics and long-term toxicity of the recreational drug, 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'Ecstasy')

Toxicol Lett. 2000 Mar 15;112-113:143-6. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4274(99)00216-7.


The recreational drug, (+/-)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'Ecstasy'), is a potent serotonin (5-HT) neurotoxin in animals. Whether humans who use MDMA incur 5-HT neural injury is unknown. The present studies utilized positron emission tomography (PET) in conjunction with the 5-HT transporter ligand, [11C]McN-5652 to assess the status of brain 5-HT neurons in human MDMA users. Like nonhuman primates treated with neurotoxic doses of MDMA, humans with a history of MDMA use showed lasting decrements in global brain [11C]McN-5652 binding, with decreases in [11C]McN-5652 binding positively correlated to the extent of previous MDMA use. These results suggest that human MDMA use results in brain 5-HT neurotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / metabolism
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / blood
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / toxicity
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Papio
  • Serotonin Agents / blood
  • Serotonin Agents / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin Agents / toxicity
  • Serotonin Antagonists / metabolism
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Isoquinolines
  • Serotonin Agents
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • McN 5652
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine