The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

BACKGROUND 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or 'Ecstasy') has become one of the most widely used illicit substances in the UK. Little is known of the psychiatric morbidity which may be associated with its use. We have examined this association by collecting a series of psychiatric cases in which MDMA use was a prominent feature.

METHOD Patients presenting between 1990 and 1992 with psychiatric symptoms which developed in the context of MDMA use (n = 13) were interviewed, and their psychiatric, medical and drug history, sociodemographic background and mental state were examined in detail. The psychopathology of cases with psychosis (n = 8) was assessed with the Present State Examination and compared with that of substance-naïve psychotic controls (n = 40).

RESULTS Eight patients presented with psychotic syndromes, two experienced visual illusions, hallucinations and palinopsia, one had panic attacks, one suffered from depression, and one described chronic depersonalisation and derealisation. The psychopathology of the patients with psychoses was very similar to that of controls.

CONCLUSIONS Use of MDMA may be associated with a broader spectrum of psychiatric morbidity than heretofore suspected. Cases with psychosis may be clinically similar to psychotic patients with no history of substance use.