A Call for Volunteers for the Johns Hopkins MDMA Human Neurotoxicity Study

MAPS Bulletin Autumn 1990 Vol. 1, No. 3

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The NIDA serotonin neurotoxicity study compares 24 MDMA users, who each must have taken MDMA 10 times or more, with two control groups also of 24 people each. The study measures serotonin levels of the subjects through the analysis of serotonin metabolites found in the spinal fluid, and examines most of the subject’s physical and mental systems wholly or partially mediated by the scrotonin system. Since scrotonin is involved with the sleep/waking transition, two nights are spent in a sleep laboratory where brain waves are monitored. Various psychological tests are given which explore the subjects concentration, memory, visual and pain perception, appetite, reaction times, etc.

Each MDMA subject is age, sex, educational history, health and socioeconomically matched, more or less, with two controls, one with a similar drug history but without exposure to MDMA and the other without any history of drug use. Needless to say, finding exactly matched controls is the weak part of this experiment. Having people act as their own controls, tested before and after MDMA use, would be an ideal experimental design but would require the actual administration of MDMA and is not permitted.

MAPS has helped recruit many of the subjects for this experiment. Participating in this experiment is one way to make a major contribution to MDMA research. NIDA has set out to find evidence of MDMA-related brain damage and it seems an appropriate response by MDMA users to give them their best shot at finding it, in ourselves. If you are opposed to animal studies, this is an alternative.

Subjects in this study enter Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on any Monday night of their choosing, completing their tests Friday around noon. NIDA pays all transportation expenses of the subject and $400 compensation. NIDA is spending about $6,000 per subject, and at completion of the experiment all personal data will be given to the subjects. The spinal tap procedure has a reputation much more fearsome than deserved. Though it feels very weird, it is relatively painless. The main complication, which occurs to about a third of the subjects, is spinal headaches which go away when you lie down but can last a week or more. I had one after my first spinal tap and not after my second, two years later. For more information about participating in this experiment, contact Dr. George Ricaurte at (301) 550-0993. Feel free to contact me as well.