Background: The psychoactive stimulant 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known as “ecstasy,” is widely used in nonmedical settings. Little is known about its cardiovascular effects.
Objective: To evaluate the acute cardiovascular effects of MDMA by using transthoracic two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography.
Design: Four-session, ascending-dose, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Setting: Urban hospital.
Patients: Eight healthy adults who self-reported MDMA use.
Intervention: Echocardiographic effects of dobutamine (5, 20, and 40 µg/kg of body weight per minute) were measured in a preliminary session. Oral MDMA (0.5 and 1.5 mg/kg of body weight) or placebo was administered 1 hour before echocardiographic measurements in three weekly sessions.
Measurements: Heart rate and blood pressure were measured at regular intervals before and after MDMA administration. Echocardiographic measures of stroke volume, ejection fraction, cardiac output, and meridional wall stress were obtained 1 hour after MDMA administration and during dobutamine infusions.
Results: At a dose of 1.5 mg/kg, MDMA increased mean heart rate (by 28 beats/min), systolic blood pressure (by 25 mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (by 7 mm Hg), and cardiac output (by 2 L/min). The effects of MDMA were similar to those of dobutamine, 20 and 40 µg/kg per minute. Inotropism, measured by using meridional wall stress corrected for ejection fraction, decreased after administration of dobutamine, 40 µg/kg per minute, but did not change after either dose of MDMA.
Conclusions: Modest oral doses of MDMA increase heart rate, blood pressure, and myocardial oxygen consumption in a magnitude similar to dobutamine, 20 to 40 µg/kg per minute. In contrast to dobutamine, MDMA has no measurable inotropic effects.