The use pattern of MDMA as characterised by the Global Drug Survey and its relation to neurotoxicity
Animal models and human neuroimaging studies consistently demonstrate that MDMA induces serotonergic neurotoxicity in a dose dependent manner. Therefore the adverse health consequences of the drug can only be estimated as a function of dose. Due to the illicit status of the drug little is known about the dosing regimen of users. To address this issue we analysed data from the Global Drug Survey (GDS) to characterize typical MDMA users. Furthermore we systematically compare their dosing habits with the dosing regimen of users who have participated in neuroimaging studies that aimed to map the serotonergic damage in MDMA users. We found that the overwhelming majority of the current research have focused on excessive rather than typical users of the drug. Given the dose-response relationship between MDMA exposure and serotonergic neurotoxicity this finding suggests that current studies overestimates the neural damage. Thus our quantitative analysis of MDMA dosing habits provides context for the interpretation of the research literature and enable to further evaluate whether MDMA is safe to use in a therapeutic context.
Balazs Szigeti has studied theoretical physics at Imperial College, but turned towards neuroscience for his PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh. His main work is about the behavioural neuroscience of invertebrates, but he has a diverse scientific portfolio that includes computational neuroscience and driving forward the OpenWorm open science initiative. Balazs is also the editor of the Dose of Science blog that is published in collaboration with the Drugreporter website. Dose of Science discusses and critically asses scientific studies about recreational drugs. Recently Balazs has started a collaboration with the Global Drug Survey to quantitatively compare the dose of recreational users of various drugs with the scientific literature. A better understanding of how people actually use drugs provides important context for the interpretation of scientific studies.