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Neuroscience For Kids

Moderate Doses of MDMA Can Be Dangerous
August 26, 2014

thermometer Many people believe that the drug Ecstasy (Molly or MDMA) is safe. Although moderate amounts of MDMA in a cool environment are not fatal, new research in rats shows that these same dosages of MDMA can be lethal in hot, crowded conditions.

Scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse investigated how moderate doses of MDMA cause increases in brain and body temperature in a normal room temperature environment mdma (22.5 degrees C; 72.5 degrees F) and in a warm environment (29 degrees C; 84.2 degrees F). The researchers also monitored these temperatures when the rat was placed in a cage with another rat.

Rats that received a dose of 9 mg/kg of MDMA in the warm environment or when they were in a cage with another rat had significant increases in brain temperature (hyperthermia). In fact, all of the rats died within 6 hours after they had received the MDMA in the warm environment. These effects were caused by MDMA's interference with the rat's ability to eliminate heat (peripheral vasoconstriction).

These results suggest that amounts of MDMA thought to be safe can actually be dangerous in places that are warm and crowded. Furthermore, the data suggest that treatments to help the body cool itself may prevent hyperthermia caused by MDMA.

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