Dr. Nichols Confirms that Prozac Blocks MDMA Neurotoxicity

MAPS Bulletin Autumn 1990 Vol. 1, No. 3

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At Purdue University’s School of Medicinal Chemistry, Dr. David Nichols replicated an experiment conducted by Dr. Schmidt in which rats were given both MDMA and Prozac (fluoxetine), a new drug for the treatment of clinical depression. Prozac is extremely popular, returning sales of about $400 million a year and growing to Eli Lilly. Prozac stimulates the serotonin system in a manner somewhat similar to MDMA but to a lesser degree and without neurotoxicity.

The simultaneous administration of Prozac and MDMA completely blocked the neurotoxic properties of MDMA. This finding may be the key to unlocking the door to FDA-approved human studies with MDMA, since it seems possible that the MDMA neurotoxicity risk, difficult to estimate, can instead be entirely eliminated.

It may be that both the dopamine neurotransmitter itself, released by the MDMA, and MDMA metabolites are neurotoxic, not the MDMA itself. Several hours after Prozac and MDMA are administered, the brain has broken MDMA down into its metabolites and released extra dopamine. These compounds, which usually would be absorbed by the serotonin nerve terminal re-uptake sites, are blocked from doing so by Prozac molecules which have filled the re-uptake sites. Neurotoxicity is prevented and the dopamine and MDMA metabolites are eventually reabsorbed or broken down into their harmless components, without having caused any damage.

Two basic questions remain, 1) Can Prozac’s prophylactic effect in primates be replicated in primates or man?. and 2) Does Prozac change the subjective experience of MDMA, and if so how.