Persistent effects of (±)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy') on human sleep

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


(±)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a recreational drug of abuse which damages serotonin neurons in animals. It is not known whether MDMA is also neurotoxic in humans, and if so, whether there are functional consequences. Given the putative role of serotonin in sleep, it was hypothesized that one manifestation of serotonin neurotoxicity in humans might be disturbances of sleep. To determine whether MDMA use has effects on sleep, all-night polysomnograms of 23 MDMA users were compared to those of 22 age- and sex-matched controls. On average, MDMA users had 19 minutes less total sleep and 23.2 minutes less non-REM (NREM) sleep than controls. These statistically significant differences in NREM sleep were due primarily to an average of 37 minutes less stage 2 sleep, with no significant differences noted in stages 1, 3 or 4. Although it is not known whether the alterations in sleep observed in MDMA users are due to serotonin neurotoxicity, the present findings suggest that MDMA use can lead to persistent changes in CNS structures involved in human sleep generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-564
Number of pages5
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Amphetamines
  • MDMA
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Serotonin
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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