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'Ecstasy': A Human Neurotoxin?

Stephen J. Peroutka, MD, PhD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1989;46(2):191. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1989.01810020093015.
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To the Editor.—  3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "ecstasy") is a ring-substituted amphetamine derivative that is chemically related to both hallucinogens and stimulants. The drug appears to have unique psychoactive properties and has been advocated by certain therapists as an adjunct to psychotherapy.1 However, due to findings in laboratory animals2 of neurotoxicity caused by MDMA and related compounds, the drug was placed on Schedule I by the Food and Drug Administration in July 1985. Significant controversy exists concerning the legal status of MDMA, its potential clinical efficacy, and, most importantly, the possibility that it may cause irreversible neurotoxicity in human users.3In addition, undocumented reports have suggested that the recreational use of MDMA has been increasing at university campuses in the United States during the past few years. Although no formal epidemiological studies have been performed, a recent informal survey found that a significant number of students on an


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