The cardiovascular and cardiac actions of ecstasy and its metabolites

Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2010 Aug;11(5):470-5. doi: 10.2174/138920110791591526.


The recreational use of 3, 4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy or MDMA) has increased dramatically over the past thirty years due to its ability to increase stamina and produce feelings of emotional closeness and wellbeing. In spite of the popular perception that MDMA is a safe drug, there is a large literature documenting that the drug can produce significant neurotoxicity, especially in serotonergic and catecholaminergic systems. There are also experimental and clinical data which document that MDMA can alter cardiovascular function and produce cardiac toxicity, including rhythm disturbances, infarction and sudden death. This manuscript will review the literature documenting the cardiovascular responses elicited by MDMA in humans and experimental animals and will examine the underlying mechanisms mediating these responses. We will also review the available clinical, autopsy and experimental data linking MDMA with cardiac toxicity. Most available data indicate that oxidative stress plays an important role in the cardiotoxic actions of MDMA. Moreover, new data indicates that redox active metabolites of MDMA may play especially important roles in MDMA induced toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hallucinogens / toxicity
  • Heart / drug effects*
  • Heart / physiopathology*
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine