Rationale: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine (METH) are illicit drugs that are increasingly used in combination. The acute and long-term effects of MDMA/METH combinations are largely uncharacterised.
Objectives: The current study investigated the behavioural, thermal and neurotoxic effects of MDMA and METH when given alone or in combined low doses.
Methods: Male rats received four injections, one every 2 h, of vehicle, MDMA (2.5 or 5 mg/kg per injection), METH (2.5 or 5 mg/kg per injection) or combined MDMA/METH (1.25+1.25 mg/kg per injection or 2+2 mg/kg per injection). Drugs were given at an ambient temperature of 28 degrees C to simulate hot nightclub conditions. Body temperature, locomotor activity and head-weaving were assessed during acute drug administration while social interaction, anxiety-related behavior on the emergence test and neurochemical parameters were assessed 4-7 weeks later.
Results: All treatments acutely increased locomotor activity, while pronounced head-weaving was seen with both MDMA/METH treatments and the higher dose METH treatment. Acute hyperthermia was greatest with the higher dose MDMA/METH treatment and was also seen with MDMA but not METH treatment. Several weeks after drug administration, both MDMA/METH groups, both METH groups and the higher dose MDMA group showed decreased social interaction relative to controls, while both MDMA/METH groups and the lower dose MDMA group showed increased anxiety-like behaviour on the emergence test. MDMA treatment caused 5-HT and 5-HIAA depletion in several brain regions, while METH treatment reduced dopamine in the prefrontal cortex. Combined MDMA/METH treatment caused 5-HT and 5-HIAA depletion in several brain regions and a unique depletion of dopamine and DOPAC in the striatum.
Conclusions: These results suggest that MDMA and METH in combination may have greater adverse acute effects (head-weaving, body temperature) and long-term effects (decreased social interaction, increased emergence anxiety, dopamine depletion) than equivalent doses of either drug alone.