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Research Report Series - MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse


Addiction: A chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use.

Adulterant: A substance, either a biologically active material such as another drug or an inert material, added to a drug when it is formed into a tablet or capsule.

Cardiovascular system: The heart and blood vessels.

Dopamine: A neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and the feeling of pleasure.

Ecstasy: Common street name for MDMA.

Gastrointestinal system: The stomach and intestines.

Hyperthermia: A potentially dangerous rise in body temperature.

MDMA: Common chemical name for 3,4-methlyenedioxymethamphetamine.

Neurotransmitter: A chemical that acts as a messenger to carry signals or information from one nerve cell to another.

Norepinephrine: A neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that affect heart rate and blood pressure.

Serotonin: A neurotransmitter used in widespread parts of the brain, which is involved in sleep, movement and emotions

Tolerance: A decrease in the effect of a drug that occurs with repeated administration.


(1) Morgan, M.J. Ecstasy (MDMA): a review of its possible persistent psychological effects. Psychopharmacology 152:230-248 (2000).

(2) Parrott AC. Human psychopharmacology of Ecstasy (MDMA): a review of 15 years of empirical research. Human Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 16: 557-577 (2001).

(3) Lyles, J.; and Cadet, J.L. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy) neurotoxicity: cellular and molecular mechanisms. Brain Research Reviews 42:155-168 (2003).

(4) Dafters, R.I.; and Lynch, E. Persistent loss of thermoregulation in the rate induced by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy") but not by fenfluramine. Psychopharmacology 138:207-212 (1998).

(5) Liechti, M.E.; and Vollenweider, F.X. Which neuroreceptors mediate the subjective effects of MDMA in humans? A summary of mechanistic studies. Human Psychopharmacology 16:589-598 (2001).

(6) Lester, S.J.; Baggott, M.; Welm, S.; Schiller, N.B.; Jones, R.T.; Foster, E.; and Mendelson, J. Cardiovascular effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine 133:969-973 (2000).

(7) Sherlock, K.; Wolff, K.; Hay, A.W.; and Conner, M. Analysis of illicit ecstasy tablets. Journal of Accident and Emergency Medicine 16:194-197 (1999).

(8) Baggott M, Heifets B, Jones RT, Mendelson J, Sferios E, and Zehnder J. Chemical analysis of ecstasy pills. Journal of the American Medical Association 284: 2190 (2000).

(9) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. Results from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (NSDUH Series H-28). DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 05-4062. SAMHSA, (2005).

(10) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies. Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2003: Interim National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. DAWN Series D-26, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 04-3972. Rockville, MD (2004).

Thompson, M.R., Li, K.M., Clemens, K.J., Gurtman, C.G., Hunt, G.E., Cornish, J.L., and McGregor, I.S. Chronic fluoxetine treatment partly attenuates the long-term anxiety and depressive symptoms induced by MDMA ('Ecstasy') in rats. Neuropsychopharmacology 29(40):694-704, 2004.

(11) Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2005. (NIH Publication No. 06-5882). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2006)

(12) Community Epidemiology Work Group. Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse: Advance Report. Bethesda, MD. December 2003.

(13) National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future: National Results on Adolescent Drug Use 2004.

(14) Lamers CTJ, Ramaekers JF, Muntjewerff ND, Sikkema KL, Samyn N, Read NL, Brookhuis KA, and Riedel SJ. Dissociable effects of a single dose of ecstasy (MDMA) on psychomotor skills and attentional performance. Journal of Psychopharmacology 17: 378-387.

(15) Parrott, A.C.; and Lasky, J. Ecstasy (MDMA) effect upon mood and cognition: before, during and after a Saturday night dance. Psychopharmacology 139:261-268 (1998).

(16) Curran, H.V.; and Travill, R.A. Mood and cognitive effects of ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy'): week-end 'high' followed by mid-week low. Addiction 92:821-831 (1997).

(17) Parrott AC, Sisk E, and Turner JJD. Psychobiological problems in heavy "ecstasy" (MDMA) polydrug users. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 60: 105-110 (2000).

(18) Rothman RB, Baumann MH, Dersch CM, Romero DV, Rice KC, Carroll FI and Partilla JS. Amphetamine-type central nervous system stimulants release norepinephrine more potently than they release dopamine and serotonin. Synapse 39: 32-41 (2001).

(19) Kish SJ. How strong is the evidence that brain serotonin neurons are damaged in human users of ecstasy? Pharmacology Biochemistry Behavior 71: 845-855 (2002).

(20) Morgan, M.J. Memory deficits associated with recreational use of "ecstasy" (MDMA). Psychopharmacology 141:30-36 (1999).

(21) Soar K, Turner JJD, and Parrott AC. Psychiatric disorders in Ecstasy (MDMA) users: a literature review focusing on personal predisposition and drug history. Human Psychopharmacology 16: 641-645.

(22) Verkes, R.J.; Gijsman, H.J.; Pieters, M.S.M.; Schoemaker, R.C.; de Visser, S.; Kuijpers, M.; Pennings, E.J.M.; de Bruin, D.; Van de Wijngaart, G.; Van Gerven, J.M.A.; and Cohen, A.F. Cognitive performance and serotonergic function in users of ecstasy. Psychopharmacology 153:196-202 (2001).

(23) Wareing, M.; Fisk, J.E.; and Murphy, P.N. Working memory deficits in current and previous users of MDMA ('ecstasy'). British Journal of Psychology 91:181-188 (2000).

(24) Reneman, L.; Booij, J.; Schmand, B.; van den Brink, W.; and Gunning, B. Memory disturbances in "Ecstasy" users are correlated with an altered brain serotonin neurotransmission. Psychopharmacology 148:322-324 (2000).

(25) Bolla, K.I.; McCann, U.D.; and Ricaurte, G.A. Memory impairment in abstinent MDMA ("Ecstasy") users. Neurology 51:1532-1537 (1998).

(26) McCann, U.D.; Eligulashvili, V.; and Ricaurte, G.A. (±)3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy')- induced serotonin neurotoxicity: clinical studies. Neuropsychobiology 42:11-16 (2000).

(27) Obrocki, J.; Buchert, R.; Väterlein, O.; Thomasius, R.; Beyer, W.; and Schiemann, T. Ecstasy - long-term effects on the human central nervous system revealed by positron emission tomography. British Journal of Psychiatry 175:186-188 (1999).

(28) Ricaurte GA, McCann UD, Szabo Z, and Scheffel U. Toxicodynamics and long-term toxicity of the recreational drug, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy"). Toxicology Letters 112-113:143-146 (2000).

(29) Kish, S.J.; Furukawa, Y.; Ang, L.; Vorce, S.P.; and Kalasinsky, K.S. Striatal serotonin is depleted in brain of a human MDMA (Ecstasy) user. Neurology 55:294-296 (2000).

(30) Lieb R, Schuetz CG, Pfister H, von Sydow K, and Wittchen H. Mental disorders in ecstasy users: a prospective-longitudinal investigation. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 68: 195-207 (2002).

(31) Broening, H.W.; Morford, L.L.; Inman-Wood, S.L.; Fukumura, M.; and Vorhees, C.V. 3,4- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)-induced learning and memory impairments depend on the age of exposure during early development. The Journal of Neuroscience 21:3228-3235 (2001).

(32) Colado, M.I.; O'Shea, E.; Granados, R.; Misra, A.; Murray, T.K.; and Green, A.R.; A study of the neurotoxic effect of MDMA ('ecstasy') on 5-HT neurons in the brains of mothers and neonates following administration of the drug during pregnancy. British Journal of Pharmacology 121:827-833 (1997).

(33) Koprich, J.B.; Chen, E.-Y.; Kanaan, N.M.; Campbell, N.G.; Kordower, J.H.; and Lipton, J.W. Prenatal 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) alters exploratory behavior, reduces monoamine metabolism, and increases forebrain tyrosine hydroxylase fiber density of juvenile rats. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 25: 509-517 (2003).

(34) Cottler, L.B.; Womack, S.B.; Compton, W.M.; and Ben-Abdallah, A. Ecstasy abuse and dependence among adolescents and young adults: applicability and reliability of DSM-IV criteria. Human Psychopharmacology 16:599-606 (2001).

(35) Schenk, S.; Gittings, D.; Johnstone, M.; and Daniela, E. Development, maintenance and temporal pattern of self-administration maintained by ecstasy (MDMA) in rats. Psychopharmacology 169:21-27 (2003).(23) Wareing, M.; Fisk, J.E.; and Murphy, P.N. Working memory deficits in current and previous users of MDMA ('ecstasy'). British Journal of Psychology 91:181-188 (2000).


Letter from the Director

What is MDMA?

A brief history of MDMA

What is the scope of MDMA abuse in the U.S.?

Who is abusing MDMA?

What are the effects of MDMA?

What does MDMA do to the brain?

Is MDMA addictive?

What do we know about preventing MDMA abuse?

Are there effective treatments for MDMA absue?

Where can I get further scientific information about Ecstasy?

Glossary and References

Ecstasy Abuse Research Report Cover

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