• Una D. McCann
  • Melissa Mertl
  • George A. Ricaurte


(±) 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “Ecstasy”) is a synthetic analog of amphetamine and mescaline that possesses stimulant and “psychedelic” properties. Although MDMA was initially synthesized in Germany at the turn of the century (Merck, 1914), MDMA did not gain popularity in the United States until the late 1970s, when it was advocated as a potential psychotherapeutic adjunct (Shulgin & Nichols, 1978). During that same period, MDMA use in recreational settings also emerged, and use of MDMA in both professional and recreational settings continued to rise until 1985, when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States decided to severely restrict MDMA use by placing it on schedule I of controlled substances (Lawn, 1986). This decision was based, in part, on research studies of a closely related amphetamine analog, methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), demonstrating that MDA-exposed animals developed lasting damage to brain serotonin neurons (Ricaurte, Bryan, Strauss, Seiden, & Schuster, 1985). Given the similarities between the chemical, pharmacological, and behavioral effects of MDA and MDMA, there was concern that MDMA might also lead to brain serotonergic injury in human users.


Panic Disorder Brain Serotonin Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis MDMA User Multiple Organ System Failure 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Una D. McCann
    • 1
  • Melissa Mertl
    • 1
  • George A. Ricaurte
    • 2
  1. 1.National Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyThe Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical CenterBaltimoreUSA

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