Causes and consequences of methamphetamine and MDMA toxicity

AAPS J. 2006 May 12;8(2):E337-47. doi: 10.1007/BF02854904.


Methamphetamine (METH) and its derivative 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ecstasy) are 2 substituted amphetamines with very high abuse liability in the United States. These amphetamine-like stimulants have been associated with loss of multiple markers for dopaminergic and serotonergic terminals in the brain. Among other causes, oxidative stress, excitotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction appear to play a major role in the neurotoxicity produced by the substituted amphetamines. The present review will focus on these events and how they interact and converge to produce the monoaminergic depletions that are typically observed after METH or MDMA administration. In addition, more recently identified consequences of METH or MDMA-induced oxidative stress, excitotoxicity, and mitochondrial dysfunction are described in relation to the classical markers of METH-induced damage to dopamine terminals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Methamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Neurotoxins
  • Methamphetamine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Dopamine