Agony and ecstasy: a review of MDMA effects and toxicity

Eur Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;15(5):287-94. doi: 10.1016/s0924-9338(00)00396-5.


Background: Ecstasy is a recreational drug with an anecdotal reputation for safety. However, reports of adverse effects and fatalities have increased in the medical and popular press.

Method: Literature search and review.

Results: Acute Ecstasy toxicity does not appear to be due to overdose and cannot be solely attributed to the nature of the usual ambient environment. Adverse effects include hyperthermia, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, hepatotoxicity, hyponatraemia and many psychiatric disorders. Ecstasy causes serotonergic neurotoxicity in the brains of animals at doses close to those used by humans, but its long-term effect on the human brain is unknown.

Conclusion: Ecstasy toxicity should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions. Given its popularity, both the acute and the potential long-term effects are a cause for concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / chemically induced
  • Chronic Disease
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyponatremia / chemically induced
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced / physiopathology*
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Hallucinogens
  • Serotonin
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine