Serotonergic-dopaminergic mediation of
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy")

Schechter MD.
Department of Pharmacology,
Northeastern Ohio Universities,
College of Medicine, Rootstown 44272.
Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1988 Dec;31(4):817-24


A series of three experiments were conducted to investigate the possible serotonergic and dopaminergic mediation of the discriminative stimulus properties of the "designer" drug MDMA. In Experiment 1, rats trained to discriminate 1.5 mg/kg (+/-)-MDMA from its vehicle at 20 min postadministration were shown to generalize to another drug of abuse, N-ethyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDE) and to the serotonergically-active agents norfenfluramine and TFMPP. In contrast, testing of various dopaminergically-active agonists did not result in MDMA-like responding. In Experiment 2, dopaminergic and serotonergic antagonist were employed to observe their effect upon MDMA discrimination at 20 min postinjection. The serotonin antagonist pirenperone significantly decreased MDMA discrimination, whereas the dopamine decreasing drugs CGS 10746B and haloperidol had no effect. In Experiment 3, another group of rats were trained to discriminate MDMA at 105 min postadministration to investigate if, at this (later) time, the dopaminergic properties of MDMA may be more salient. Indeed, the dopaminergically-active drugs had a heightened effect upon MDMA at this later time, although the serotonergic component of the MDMA discriminative stimulus was predominant. The results suggest that the effects of MDMA at 20 min postadministration are solely serotonergic in nature. At 105 min postinjection there appears to be the presence of a weak dopaminergic component. This biphasic serotonergic-then-dopaminergic action of MDMA may explain the reported human experience with the drug, as well as the often controversial results in the literature.

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