Severe Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity in Primates After a Common Recreational Dose Regimen of MDMA (``Ecstasy'')
The prevailing view is that the popular recreational drug (+/-)3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, or ``ecstasy'') is a selective serotonin neurotoxin in animals and possibly in humans. Nonhuman primates exposed to several sequential doses of MDMA, a regimen modeled after one used by humans, developed severe brain dopaminergic neurotoxicity, in addition to less pronounced serotonergic neurotoxicity. MDMA neurotoxicity was associated with increased vulnerability to motor dysfunction secondary to dopamine depletion. These results have implications for mechanisms of MDMA neurotoxicity and suggest that recreational MDMA users may unwittingly be putting themselves at risk, either as young adults or later in life, for developing neuropsychiatric disorders related to brain dopamine and/or serotonin deficiency.