Discriminative stimulus effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in humans trained to discriminate among d-amphetamine, meta-chlorophenylpiperazine and placebo

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2006 Jan 4;81(1):27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2005.05.003. Epub 2005 Jun 21.


In animals, two-choice drug discrimination studies have demonstrated that the behavioral effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) are mediated by dopaminergic and serotonergic systems. In order to delineate the relative role of these systems, three-choice paradigms have been used in animals, with findings indicating a more prominent role for serotonin. Human studies assessing the subjective and physiological effects of MDMA have also indicated a mixed action. To parallel animal studies, the participants in the present study were trained to discriminate among a prototypic dopaminergic agonist, d-amphetamine, a prototypic serotonergic agonist, meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP) and placebo and then were tested with two doses of MDMA. In addition, subjective and physiological effects were measured. The results demonstrated that humans could be trained to discriminate among 20 mg d-amphetamine, 0.75 mg/kg mCPP and placebo. When tested with 1.0 and 1.5 mg/kg, half the participants reported MDMA to be like amphetamine and half like mCPP. There were no clear differences between these two groups in other dimensions, although there was an indication that the individuals who discriminated MDMA as d-amphetamine were more sensitive to the effects of all the drugs. The subjective effects of all three drugs overlapped, although the effects of MDMA appeared more amphetamine-like.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Arousal / drug effects*
  • Dextroamphetamine*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Dopamine Agonists*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine*
  • Piperazines*
  • Serotonin Agents*


  • Dopamine Agonists
  • Hallucinogens
  • Piperazines
  • Serotonin Agents
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • 1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine
  • Dextroamphetamine