The British Journal of Psychiatry
Brain serotonin transporter binding in former users of MDMA (‘ecstasy’)
Sudhakar Selvaraj, Rosa Hoshi, Zubin Bhagwagar, Naga Venkatesha Murthy, Rainer Hinz, Philip Cowen, H. Valerie Curran, Paul Grasby

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.

View Full Text