In vivo pharmacology of MDMA and its enantiomers in rhesus monkeys

Exp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008 Feb;16(1):1-12. doi: 10.1037/1064-1297.16.1.1.


The chiral nature of the MDMA molecule gives rise to two enantiomers, each of which is biologically active. This review attempts to cover the author's research into the in vivo effects of MDMA and its enantiomers, as well as other relevant publications which pertain to this topic. No particular differences between the capacities of racemic MDMA and its enantiomers to maintain behavior were noted, but antagonism of the 5-HT2A receptor produces a parallel rightward shift in the dose-effect function for the S(+)-enantiomer, but insurmountably reduces the reinforcing effects of R(-)-MDMA. Long-term self-administration of MDMA may lead to the development of chronic tolerance to the reinforcing effects of MDMA, but S(+)-MDMA is somewhat less susceptible to this effect than the racemate or the R(-)-enantiomer. Using PET neuroimaging, negligible occupancy at the dopamine transporter (DAT) was observed following administration of R(-)-MDMA, but reasonable DAT interaction was quantified following injection of S(+)-MDMA. The non-human primate studies reviewed herein caution that any results obtained in vivo with the MDMA enantiomers may not be particularly informative with regards to the racemate and vice versa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / analysis
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fluorobenzenes / pharmacology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self Administration
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Fluorobenzenes
  • Piperidines
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • volinanserin
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine