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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2007;114(8):959-68. Epub 2007 May 24.

Cannabis and Ecstasy/MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): an analysis of their neuropsychobiological interactions in recreational users.

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  • 1Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, UK.


The majority of recreational Ecstasy/MDMA users (90-98%) also take cannabis. This co-drug usage is often viewed as a methodological confound, which needs to be removed statistically. Here we take a rather different approach, and debate the potential complexities of their psychobiological interactions. The ring-substituted amphetamine derivate MDMA (3,4-methylendioxymethamphetmaine, or 'Ecstasy') is a powerful CNS stimulant, whereas cannabis is a relaxant. Their co-usage may reflect opposing effects in three psychobiological areas: arousal, body temperature, and oxidative stress. Firstly MDMA is alerting whereas cannabis is sedating. Secondly MDMA is hyperthermic whereas cannabis is hypothermic. Thirdly MDMA increases oxidative stress whereas cannabinoids are antioxidant. Hence cannabis may modulate the acute and sub-acute reactions to MDMA, reduce the acute hyperthermia induced by MDMA, and ameliorate the oxidative stress caused by MDMA. The limited empirical evidence on each topic will be critically examined. In terms of chronic effects each drug is functionally damaging, so that polydrug users generally display cumulative neurobiological impairments. However in certain aspects their neuropsychobiological effects may interactive rather than additive. In particular, the combined use of cannabis and MDMA may have rather different neuropsychobiological implications, than their separate usage. In order to investigate these potential complexities, future research will need better empirical data on the exact patterns of co-drug usage.

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