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. 2013 May;16(4):791-801.
doi: 10.1017/S1461145712000582. Epub 2012 Jul 24.

Single Oral Doses of (±) 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy') Produce Lasting Serotonergic Deficits in Non-Human Primates: Relationship to Plasma Drug and Metabolite Concentrations

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Single Oral Doses of (±) 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy') Produce Lasting Serotonergic Deficits in Non-Human Primates: Relationship to Plasma Drug and Metabolite Concentrations

Melanie Mueller et al. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. .
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Abstract

Repeated doses of the popular recreational drug methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'Ecstasy') are known to produce neurotoxic effects on brain serotonin (5-HT) neurons but it is widely believed that typical single oral doses of MDMA are free of neurotoxic risk. Experimental and therapeutic trials with MDMA in humans are underway. The mechanisms by which MDMA produces neurotoxic effects are not understood but drug metabolites have been implicated. The aim of the present study was to assess the neurotoxic potential of a range of clinically relevant single oral doses of MDMA in a non-human primate species that metabolizes MDMA in a manner similar to humans, the squirrel monkey. A secondary objective was to explore the relationship between plasma MDMA and metabolite concentrations and lasting serotonergic deficits. Single oral doses of MDMA produced lasting dose-related serotonergic neurochemical deficits in the brains of squirrel monkeys. Notably, even the lowest dose of MDMA tested (5.7 mg/kg, estimated to be equivalent to 1.6 mg/kg in humans) produced significant effects in some brain regions. Plasma levels of MDMA engendered by neurotoxic doses of MDMA were on the order of those found in humans. Serotonergic neurochemical markers were inversely correlated with plasma concentrations of MDMA, but not with those of its major metabolites, 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine and 4-hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine. These results suggest that single oral doses of MDMA in the range of those used by humans pose a neurotoxic risk and implicate the parent compound (MDMA), rather than one of its metabolites, in MDMA-induced 5-HT neural injury.

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