In a previous post, you read about neurons and how their actions can be affected by particular drugs. The recreational drug MDMA (“Ecstasy”) has been one area of research. MDMA releases serotonin and dopamine and produces enhanced mood with increased sense of well-being and extroversion, and slight perceptual changes. Liechti et al. (2000) investigated the psychological effects of ketanserin, a serotonin antagonist.

Aim: The researchers aimed to understand if ketanserin could mitigate the effects of the drug MDMA (“Ecstasy”).

Participants: Fourteen volunteers (13 men, 1 woman) with a mean age of 26 years (range 21–41) took part in the double-blind placebo-controlled repeated measures design study. All volunteers provided informed consent and the study was approved by an ethics committee.

Procedures: Participants underwent four experimental conditions: placebo–placebo, ketanserin–placebo, placebo–MDMA or ketanserin–MDMA. The experimental sessions were separated by 10 days. Psychometric ratings were performed before, shortly after drug onset and during the peak effect. These rating aimed to measure the subjective effects experienced by the participants. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Altered State of Consciousness rating scale were used. Participants were debriefed and a comparative evaluation of their subjective experience of all four study sessions was performed.

Results: The results showed that Ketanserin reduced MDMA-induced perceptual changes, emotional excitation, and acute adverse responses but had little effect on MDMA-induced positive mood, well-being or extroversion.

Conclusions: The investigators concluded that administering the antagonist ketanserin significantly reduced MDMA-induced perceptual changes, emotional excitation, and acute adverse effects, while having little effect on positive basic mood and well-being.

The study’s report can be accessed here.