The serotonin uptake inhibitor citalopram reduces acute cardiovascular and vegetative effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy') in healthy volunteers

J Psychopharmacol. 2000;14(3):269-74. doi: 10.1177/026988110001400313.


MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or 'Ecstasy' is a widely used recreational drug that produces a state of heightened mood but also cardiovascular and vegetative side-effects. In animals, MDMA releases serotonin and, to a lesser extent, dopamine and norepinephrine. The release of serotonin can be blocked by serotonin uptake inhibitors such as citalopram. It is unknown to what extent this mechanism is also responsible for the physiological side-effects of MDMA seen in humans. We investigated the effect of citalopram pretreatment (40 mg i.v.) on vegetative and cardiovascular effects of MDMA (1.5 mg/kg p.o.) in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in 16 healthy volunteers. MDMA moderately increased blood pressure and heart rate, slightly elevated body temperature and produced a broad range of acute and short-term side-effects. Citalopram reduced all these MDMA-induced physiological changes except for body temperature. These findings suggest that physiological effects of MDMA in humans are partially due to an interaction of MDMA with the serotonin carrier and a subsequent release of serotonin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Body Temperature / drug effects
  • Citalopram / pharmacology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / antagonists & inhibitors
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Placebos
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Hallucinogens
  • Placebos
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Serotonin
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine