MDMA Research in Switzerland
In 1988, the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health granted
special permission to several therapists working in private practice to conduct
psychotherapy with MDMA.
Permission to work with MDMA lasted until the end of 1993, when all psychedelic
therapy in Switzerland was forbidden. Since then, researchers at the
Psychiatric University Hospital in Zürich have resumed research with MDMA.
MAPS recently granted $6,000 to the Zürich research team for a PET scan
study of MDMA-naive subjects and $10,000 for the publication of papers on EEG,
prepulse inhibition, and Ecstasy users.
On the MAPS website:
Spring 1998 Update on MDMA Research in Switzerland - Alex Gamma
Spring 1996 Update on MDMA Research in Switzerland - Alex Gamma
Autumn 1995 Update on Research with Psychedelics in Switzerland - Franz Vollenweider, Ph.D.
Psycholytic Therapy with MDMA and LSD in Switzerland - Peter Gasser, M.D.
September 1999 A Review of Clinical Issues in MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy - Drs. Juraj and Sonja Styk
(A talk given at the Conference on the Clinical Utility of MDMA and MDE - Israel, 1999)
The Political and Psychological Dynamics of Psychedelic Psychotherapy in Switzerland - Dr. Med. Juraj Styk
Autumn 1990 Swiss Psychedelic Usage Halted, Resumption Possible But Not Certain
Investigation of serotonin transporter site density and neurocognitive function after MDMA administered to healthy humans
Investigators: Dr. F. X. Vollenweider
Study using PET imaging and administration of neurocognitive tests to participants given 1.5 to 1.7 mg/kg MDMA prior to drug administration and approximately 1 month after drug administration.
Investigation of putative neurotoxicity of MDMA (Ecstasy) in regular MDMA users by PET and the radioligands McN-5652 and Beta-CPITT
Vollenweider FX, Gucker P, Schönbächler R, Kamber E, Vollenweider-
Scherpenhuyzen MFI, Schubiger G, Hell D (2000). Effects of MDMA on 5-HT uptake sites using PET and [11C]-McN5652 in humans. Data presented at 2000 conference of the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neuromedicine [Deutsche Gesellschaft für psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Nervenheilkunde, 2000].
Investigators: Dr. F.X. Vollenweider, Prof. G. Schubiger
Sponsor: Swiss National Fund of Sciences
The aim of this study is to investigate whether regular MDMA users show alterations in 5-HT reuptake site densities indicative of neurotoxic effects after long-term MDMA use. A second aim is to investigate to what extent acute moderate doses of MDMA bind to 5-HT and DA reuptake sites in normal human brain.
Zessin J, Gucker P, Ametamey SM, Steinbach J, Brust P, Vollenweider FX, Johannsen, B, Schubiger PA. (1998) Efficient synthesis of enantiomerically pure thioesther precursors of [11C]McN-5652 from racemic McN-5652. J.Label.Comp.and Radiopharm., in press
Long-term effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "Ecstasy") use on cerebral blood flow (CBF), brain electric activity (EEG), memory, neuropsychological performance and psychological state in regular MDMA users
Investigators: Dr. F.X. Vollenweider, Alex Gamma
Sponsor: Swiss National Fund of Sciences
Aim: to assess possible neurophysiological, psychological and cognitive alterations in chronic MDMA users. Findings: compared to a healthy control group, chronic MDMA users show i) no difference in cerebral blood flow; ii) no difference in attentional performance iii) higher levels of depressiveness iv) increased global EEG beta and temporo-occipital alpha activity. MDMA users had also used significantly more other drugs than the control group.
Investigation into the role of serotonin and dopamine in the modulation of mood, sensorimotor gating and pychomotor drive by MDMA in humans
Investigators: Franz X. Vollenweider, M. E. Liechti
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aim: to evaluate the role of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine systems in mediating the effect of MDMA on mood, psychomotor behavior and sensorimotor gating in humans. This research used the serotonin uptake inhibitor citalopram, the dopamine D2 antagonist haloperidol and the 5HT2A receptor antagonist ketanserin to investigate the role played by these two neurotransmitters in producing the subjective and physiological effects of MDMA in humans. Citalopram pretreatment attenuated most of the subjective effects of MDMA and reduced MDMA-induced elevation in systolic blood pressure and heart rate. Ketanserin reduced alterations in perception produced by MDMA, and attenuated MDMA-induced elevation in diastolic blood pressure and body temperature. Haloperidol attenuated MDMA-induced positive mood and positive feelings of derealization and increased MDMA-induced anxiety, but did not affect any of the physiological changes produced by MDMA. Citalopram pretreatment also attenuated facilitated pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) seen after MDMA alone.
In an ongoing study, the effects of the serotonergic/noradrenerigc drug pindolol on MDMA are investigated in healthy volunteers.
Experiments completed, fully published
Liechti ME, Baumann C, Gamma A, Vollenweider FX (2000). Acute psychological effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") are attenuated by the serotonin uptake inhibitor citalopram. Neuropsychopharmacology 22: 513-521.
- Liechti ME, Vollenweider FX (2000). The serotonin uptake inhibitor citalopram reduces acute cardiovascular and vegetative effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine ('Ecstasy') in healthy volunteers. J Psychopharmacol 14: 269-274.
- Liechti ME, Vollenweider FX (2000). Acute psychological and physiological effects of MDMA ("Ecstasy") after haloperidol pretreatment in healthy humans. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 10: 289-295.
- Liechti ME, Saur MR, Gamma A, Hell D, Vollenweider FX (2000). Psychological and physiological effects of MDMA ("Ecstasy") after pretreatment with the 5-HT(2) antagonist ketanserin in healthy humans. Neuropsychopharmacology 23: 396-404.
- Liechti ME, Geyer MA, Hell D, Vollenweider FX (2001). Effects of MDMA (ecstasy) on prepulse inhibition and habituation of startle in humans after pretreatment with citalopram, haloperidol, or ketanserin. Neuropsychopharmacology 24: 240-252.
Acute effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "Ecstasy") on cerebral blood flow (CBF), brain electric activity (EEG), prepulse inhibition (PPI), psychological state and neuropsychological performance in healthy subjects
Investigators: Alex Gamma, Franz Vollenweider, MD
Sponsor: UBS Science Foundation and others
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aim: an integrative characterization of MDMA in terms of its acute neurophysiological, psychological and cognitive effects in healthy, MDMA-naïve human subjects. A single oral dose of MDMA (1.7 mg/kg) was found to produce i) distinct regional CBF and EEG changes in limbic/paralimbic and neocortical areas resembling those of other 5-HT agonists, concomitant with ii) a pronounced enhancement of mood and social communication and little anxiety; iii) an increase in startle response and sensorimotor gating as measured by increased PPI; iv) EEG frequency band changes similar to those found with various 5-HT and noradrenaline agonists, and v) no effects on Stroop performance. Data indicate that MDMA effects in humans are mediated predominantly by the 5-HT system and that MDMA-induced mood and social enhancement may be based on modulation of limbic/paralimbic brain structures.
Vollenweider FX, Gamma A, Liechti ME, Huber T. (1998) Psychological and cardiovascular effects and short-term sequelae of MDMA ("Ecstasy") on MDMA-naïve healthy volunteers. Neuropsychopharmacology 19: 241-251.
- Vollenweider FX, Remensberger S, Gamma A, Hell D, Geyer, MA (1999) Opposite effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on sensorimotor gating in rats versus healthy humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 143: 365-372. (Download the PDF)
- Gamma A, Buck A, Berthold T, Liechti ME, Vollenweider FX (2000) 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) modulates cortical and limbic brain activity as measured by [H(2)(15)O]-PET in healthy humans. Neuropsychopharmacology 23: 388-395.
- Liechti ME, Gamma A, Vollenweider FX (2001) Gender differences in the subjective effects of MDMA. Psychopharmacology 2001,154:161-168.
- Frei E, Gamma A, Pascual-Marqui R, Lehmann D, Hell D, Vollenweider FX (2001). Localization of MDMA-induced brain activity in healthy volunteers using low resolution brain electromagnetic tomography (LORETA). Hum Brain Mapp 14: 152-165.
- Gamma A, Lehmann D, Frei E, Iwata K, Pascual-Marqui RD, Vollenweider FX. (2004) Comparison of simultaneously recorded [H2(15)O]-PET and LORETA during cognitive and pharmacological activation. Hum Brain Mapp 22:83-96.
- Vollenweider FX, Liechti ME, Paulus MP. (2005) MDMA affects both error-rate dependent and independent aspects of decision-making in a two-choice prediction task. J Psychopharmacol 19:366-374.
Mood state and brain electric activity in Ecstasy users
Investigators: Alex Gamma, Edi Frei, Dietrich Lehmann (1), Roberto D. Pascual-Marqui (1), Daniel Hell and Franz X. Vollenweider
Research Unit and (1) The KEY Institute for Brain-Mind Research, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zürich
Sponsors/Funding: Swiss National Science Foundation; Swiss Federal Health
Office; Heffter; MAPS.
Differences in mood and electrical brain activity using a new method for the 3D localization of electrically active neural populations, called LORETA (Low Resolution Brain Electromagnetic Tomography). LORETA is a functional imaging method like PET, but based on electrical activity instead of cerebral blood flow or cerebral glucose metabolism.
Other Swiss Research with MDMA
MDMA Pharmacokinetics Study
Investigator: Rudolf Brenneisen, Ph.D.
Completed and published, just a few subjects.
Page last updated March 13, 2003
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