Long-Term Effects of "Ecstasy" Use on Serotonin
Transporters of the Brain Investigated by PET

Buchert R, Thomasius R, Nebeling B, Petersen K, Obrocki J,
Jenicke L, Wilke F, Wartberg L, Zapletalova P, Clausen M.
Department of Nuclear Medicine,
University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf,
Hamburg, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy,
University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf,
Hamburg, Germany.
Nucl Med 2003 Mar;44(3):375-84


Alterations of the serotonergic system due to ecstasy consumption have been extensively documented in recent literature. However, reversibility of these neurotoxic effects still remains unclear. To address this question, PET was performed using the serotonin transporter (SERT) ligand (11)C-(+)-McN5652 in a total of 117 subjects subdivided into 4 groups: actual ecstasy users (n = 30), former ecstasy users (n = 29), drug-naive control subjects (n = 29), and subjects with abuse of psychoactive agents other than ecstasy (n = 29). METHODS: About 500 MBq (11)C-(+)-McN5652 were injected intravenously. Thirty-five scans were acquired according to a dynamic scan protocol of 90 min using a full-ring whole-body PET system. Transaxial slices were reconstructed using an iterative method. Individual brains were transformed to a template defined earlier. Distribution volume ratios (DVRs) were derived by application of a reference tissue approach for reversible binding. Gray matter of the cerebellum served as reference. SERT-rich brain regions-mesencephalon, putamen, caudate, and thalamus-were selected for the evaluation of SERT availability using volumes of interest predefined in the template. RESULTS: Compared with drug-naive control subjects, the DVR in actual ecstasy users was significantly reduced in the mesencephalon (P = 0.004) and the thalamus (P = 0.044). The DVR in former ecstasy users was very close to the DVR in drug-naive control subjects in all brain regions. The DVR in polydrug users was slightly higher than that in the drug-naive control subjects in all SERT-rich regions (not statistically significant). CONCLUSION: Our findings further support the hypothesis of ecstasy-induced protracted alterations of the SERT. In addition, they might indicate reversibility of the availability of SERT as measured by PET. However, this does not imply full reversibility of the neurotoxic effects.

Neuronal damage
Protect and survive
MDMA and immunity
Ecstasy and mental disorders
Ecstasy and serotonin synthesis
Psychiatric disorders in Ecstasy users
Serotonin, noradrenline and dopamine

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