Cutaneous vasoconstriction contributes to hyperthermia induced by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) in conscious rabbits
Pedersen NP, Blessing WW.
Departments of Medicine and Physiology,
Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University,
Bedford Park 5042, South Australia, Australia.
J Neurosci 2001 Nov 1;21(21):8648-54


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "Ecstasy") increases body temperature. This process could be associated with increased cutaneous blood flow, as normally occurs with exercise-induced hyperthermia. Alternatively, an MDMA-induced fall in cutaneous blood flow could contribute to the hyperthermia by diminishing normal heat transfer from the body to the environment. We investigated these possibilities by administering MDMA (1.5-6 mg/kg, i.v.) to conscious freely moving rabbits, determining effects on body temperature, cutaneous blood flow (measured by a Doppler ultrasonic probe that was chronically implanted around the ear pinna artery), and other cardiovascular parameters. MDMA caused a dose-dependent increase in body temperature (from 38.3 +/- 0.3 to 41.2 +/- 0.4 degrees C after 6 mg/kg; p < 0.01; n = 5), preceded and accompanied by a dose-dependent cutaneous vasoconstriction (from 29 +/- 6 to 5 +/- 1 cm/sec after 6 mg/kg; p < 0.01; n = 5). MDMA (3 mg/kg) did not change blood flow to the mesenteric vascular bed. Prior unilateral cervical sympathectomy reduced the increase in body temperature elicited by MDMA (6 mg/kg) from 2.0 +/- 0.2 to 1.3 +/- 0.2 degrees C (p < 0.01; n = 5). On the denervated side, ear pinna blood flow after MDMA injection was 13 +/- 3 cm/sec, compared with 3 +/- 1 cm/sec on the sympathetically intact side (p < 0.05; n = 5). Thus, sympathetically mediated cutaneous vasoconstriction is one mechanism whereby MDMA causes hyperthermia. Reversal of cutaneous vasoconstriction by appropriate pharmacological means could be of therapeutic benefit in humans suffering from life-threatening hyperthermia induced by MDMA.

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