Ecstasy: pharmacology and neurotoxicity

Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2005 Feb;5(1):79-86. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2004.08.007.


In part because it is amphetamine derived, ecstasy has inherited some of its parent compound's reputation for being neurotoxic. However, whereas amphetamine and methamphetamine undoubtedly cause irreversible brain damage with long-term use, the jury is still out on the party drug ecstasy. The deadly reputation of ecstasy has been fuelled by the tragic fates of healthy young clubbers who have died after taking the drug. However, compared with other recreational drugs, there have been very few ecstasy-related deaths. Further, there is little evidence for short-term neurotoxicity of ecstasy at recreational doses. That is not to say that ecstasy leaves the user neutral. Chronic ecstasy use causes depletion of serotonin, which has subtle but important long-term effects on cognition and mood. Although it seems unlikely that we will be faced with a generation of party goers who suffer from premature Parkinson's disease, so little is known about the long-term effects of ecstasy on mood, emotional states and cognitive function that at present we cannot predict what impact their use of ecstasy will have on the middle-age of the average ecstasy user.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • Hallucinogens* / adverse effects
  • Hallucinogens* / metabolism
  • Hallucinogens* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine* / adverse effects
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine* / metabolism
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine* / pharmacology
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology*
  • Serotonin / deficiency
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / drug therapy


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