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Vol. 42, No. 1, 2000
Issue release date: June 2000
Neuropsychobiology 2000;42:11–16

(±)3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (‘Ecstasy’)-Induced Serotonin Neurotoxicity: Clinical Studies

McCann U.D. · Eligulashvili V. · Ricaurte G.A.
Departments of aPsychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and bNeurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md., USA

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(±)3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ‘Ecstasy’) is a brain serotonergic neurotoxin in experimental animals, including nonhuman primates. It is also an increasingly popular recreational drug of abuse, and doses of MDMA that are used recreationally overlap with those that produce serotonin (5-HT) neurotoxicity in animals. Studies in human MDMA users probing for evidence of brain serotonergic neurotoxicity indicate that some MDMA users may incur MDMA-related 5-HT neural injury and, possibly, functional sequelae. In particular, MDMA users have selective decrements in cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and brain 5-HT transporters, similar to nonhuman primates with documented MDMA-induced neurotoxicity. Functional abnormalities seen in MDMA users that may be related to 5- HT injury include cognitive deficits, altered sleep architecture, altered neuroendocrine function, altered behavioral responses to 5-HT selective drugs, and increased impulsivity. Additional studies in animals, as well as longitudinal and epidemiological studies in MDMA users, are required to confirm and extend the present data, and to determine whether MDMA users are at increased risk for developing neuropsychiatric illness as they age.

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