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Subjective and hormonal effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in humans


Rationale. 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a widely used phenethylamine. Reports have described the effects of MDMA in a controlled laboratory setting, but the full range of effects of MDMA in humans is still not completely characterized.

Objectives. To describe the physiological, subjective, and hormonal changes after single doses of MDMA in a laboratory setting and examine relationships between these effects.

Methods. Eight MDMA-experienced volunteers each received placebo, 0.5 mg/kg, and 1.5 mg/kg oral doses of MDMA in a double-blind crossover study.

Results. The 1.5 mg/kg dose (comparable to that typically used by most participants) produced significant subjective effects, peaking at about 2 h after dosing, including some effects commonly associated with stimulant drugs, hallucinogens, and entactogens. MDMA significantly increased plasma cortisol, prolactin, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels. Increase in plasma cortisol after the 1.5 mg/kg dose correlated with increased heart rate, rate-pressure product, and drug liking. Rise in DHEA correlated with euphoria.

Conclusions. A typically used dose of MDMA produced effects commonly associated with stimulants and hallucinogens. Subjects liked MDMA. Correlations between cortisol and DHEA levels and some physiological and psychological effects are consistent with animal data suggesting that hormones modulate some responses to drugs of abuse.

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Harris, D.S., Baggott, M., Mendelson, J.H. et al. Subjective and hormonal effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in humans. Psychopharmacology 162, 396–405 (2002).

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  • MDMA DHEA Cortisol Psychological Hormone Physiological