, Volume 173, Issue 3–4, pp 446–451 | Cite as

Decreased pain tolerance and mood in recreational users of MDMA

  • Margaret Claire O’Regan
  • Angela ClowEmail author
Original Investigation



3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is known to affect brain serotonin (5-HT) neurons in experimental animals. However, its effects on humans are more difficult to infer. Serotonin is implicated in the body’s ability to modulate the effects of pain and to regulate mood.


The aim of this research is to test nociceptive responses and mood in MDMA users as an index of central 5-HT function.


Measurements of pain tolerance were obtained using the cold-pressor test for 15 polydrug users who regularly use MDMA, 3–4 days after the most recent usage, and ten matched polydrug users who do not use MDMA. A rating on mood was obtained for each participant using the Nowlis Mood Adjective checklist.


Measurements of pain tolerance and mood were significantly lower in the MDMA group. A positive correlation between mood and pain tolerance was found in the MDMA group, whereas no correlation was found between these variables in the non-MDMA group


This study found an association between pain tolerance and MDMA usage and confirmed the association between MDMA and depressed mood. The current results suggest that MDMA, at least in the short term, may cause serotonin-mediated alterations in pain sensitivity.


MDMA Serotonin Nociception Pain tolerance Mood 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WestminsterLondonUK

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