3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "Ecstasy") use has been associated with acute toxicities and persistent depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-HT).
This study investigates whether sex differences in the acute and long-term effects of MDMA exist.
Male and female rats received saline or 15 mg/kg MDMA, ip, bid for 4 days. Temperature was monitored on days 1 and 4. Locomotor activity was measured in a second cohort of animals on days 1 and 4 and after recovery on day 14. The effects of MDMA on performance in a plus maze task and brain levels of serotonin (5-HT) and the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) were determined in a third cohort of animals 2 weeks after the last MDMA treatment.
Locomotor activity and temperature increased after MDMA administration on day 1. The drug-induced increases in temperature but not locomotion attenuated with repeated MDMA administration. Male and female MDMA-treated rats spent less time in the open arms of the elevated plus maze and had less 5-HT and 5-HIAA in all brain regions 2 weeks after the end of treatment. Temperature effects of MDMA and persistent effects on plus maze and brain serotonin content were similar in males and females. In contrast, females exhibited markedly greater locomotor stimulation after acute MDMA and also showed sensitization to an acute challenge 2 weeks later.
MDMA elicits substantially greater locomotor activation in female rats than in males, but persistent effects on anxiety and serotonin content were similar in males and females.