The increasing use of (±) 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in the setting of large dance parties ('raves') and clubs has been the source of some concern, because of potential acute adverse events, and because animal studies suggest that MDMA has the potential to damage brain serotonin (5-HT) neurons. However, it is not yet known whether MDMA, as used in the setting of dance parties, leads to plasma levels of MDMA that are associated with toxicity to 5-HT neurons in animals. The present study sought to address this question. Plasma MDMA concentrations, vital signs, and a variety of blood and urine measures were obtained prior to, and hours after, individuals attended a dance party. After the dance party, subjects were without clinical complaints, had measurable amounts of residual MDMA in plasma, and nearly half of the subjects also tested positive for methamphetamine, another amphetamine analog that has been shown to have 5-HT neurotoxic potential in animals. Plasma concentrations of MDMA did not correlate with self-reported use of 'ecstasy' and, in some subjects, overlapped with those that have been associated with 5-HT neurotoxicity in non-human primates. Additional subjects were likely to have had similar concentrations while at the dance party, when one considers the reported time of drug ingestion and the plasma half-life of MDMA in humans. Hematological and biochemical analyses were generally unremarkable. Moderate increases in blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature were observed in the subjects with the highest MDMA plasma concentrations. These findings are consistent with epidemiological findings that most people who use MDMA at dance parties do not develop serious clinical complications, and suggest that some of these individuals may be at risk for developing MDMA-induced toxicity to brain serotonin neurons.
- Drug abuse
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