Human Pharmacology of 3,4-Methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine ("Ecstasy"): Psychomotor Performance and Subjective Effects


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Abstract

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") is a recreational drug of increasing use among youth because of its apparent entactogenic properties, such as euphoria, friendliness, closeness, and empathy. However, experimental studies have shown MDMA to be neurotoxic. Data on pharmacologic actions of MDMA in humans are limited. The authors conducted a randomized, double-blind, crossover, controlled trial to assess psychomotor performance and subjective effects in eight healthy male volunteers. MDMA was given in the same range of doses used for recreational purposes (75 and 125 mg). Amphetamine (40 mg) and placebo were used as reference compounds. For the digitsymbol substitution test (DSST), MDMA-125 produced a mild decrease in responses, and amphetamine produced a mild improvement. For the Maddox wing device, MDMA-125 induced esophoria compared with the other drug conditions. MDMA-125 and MDMA-75 produced increases in feelings of euphoria and well-being, as noted by increases in scores on the Addiction Research Center Inventory (ARCI) MBG and A scales, as well as scores of "stimulated," "good effects," "liking," and "high" on the visual analog scales. Amphetamine administration induced similar effects. At the same time, MDMA-125 enhanced sedation- and dysphoria-related effects (ARCI-PCAG and LSD, "confusion," "drunken," and Profile of Mood States Confusion scale). Mild changes in some body perception-related feelings were also reported after MDMA use, but hallucinations or psychoses were not present. In summary, the short-term administration of MDMA produced marked euphoria, a slight impairment in the performance of psychomotor tasks, and mild changes in body perceptions without hallucinations. These data support the abuse liability of MDMA.

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