The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

Background

Animal experimental studies have prompted concerns that widespread use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ‘ecstasy’) by young people may pose a major public health problem in terms of persistent serotonin neurotoxicity.

Aims

To determine the status of brain serotonin neurons in a group of abstinent MDMA users.

Method

We assessed the integrity of brain serotonin neurons by measuring serotonin transporter (SERT) binding using positron emission tomography (PET) and [11C]DASB in 12 former MDMA users, 9 polydrug users who had never taken MDMA and 19 controls who reported no history of illicit drug use.

Results

There was no significant difference in the binding potential of [11C]DASB between the groups in any of the brain regions examined.

Conclusions

To the extent that [11C]DASB binding provides an index of the integrity of serotonin neurons, our findings suggest that MDMA use may not result in long-term damage to serotonin neurons when used recreationally in humans.

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