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Concept: Convention on Psychotropic Substances


Self-mutilation (SM) not only occurs among patients with schizophrenia, personality disorders or transsexuality but also as a phenomenon induced by psychotropic substances (PS). We intended to find characteristics of patients at risk to perform SM induced by PS (SMIPS), frequent PS within this phenomenon and typical presentations of SMIPS. A systematic review of the literature (including Medline, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Scopus) was conducted. On October 2011 we identified 26 cases (23 publications) of SM related to PS. Majority of patients (85%) was male, mean age was 30 years (median 41 years). Seventy-three percent of patients developed SM subsequent to the use of one PS, 27% presented SM after the use of more than one PS. Alcohol (25%), hallucinogens (25%) and amphetamines (22%) were found most frequently among the reported substances. Major impairment was present in 80%. Our findings suggest male sex, young age, a previous history of abuse of PS and the current use of alcohol, hallucinogens or amphetamines to favour SMIPS.

Concepts: Ketamine, Randomized controlled trial, Systematic review, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Evidence-based medicine


Amphetamine-type substances (ATS), like other synthetically derived compounds, can be produced by a multitude of synthetic pathways using a variety of precursors and reagents, resulting in a large number of possible contaminants (by-products, intermediates and impurities). This review article describes the common contaminants found in preparations of methylamphetamine (MA), 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA), amphetamine (AP), N,N-dimethylamphetamine (DMA) and p-methoxyamphetamine (PMA) synthesised via common synthetic pathways including reductive amination, Leuckart method, Nagai method, Emde method, Birch reduction, “Moscow” method, Wacker process, “Nitrostyrene” method and the Peracid oxidation method. Contaminants can facilitate identification of the synthetic route, origin of precursors and may suggest information as to the location of manufacture of these illicit drugs. Contaminant profiling can provide vital intelligence for investigations in which linking seizures or identifying the synthetic pathway is essential. This review article presents an accessible resource; a compilation of contaminants resulting from a variety of manufacturing methods used to synthesise the most common ATS. It is important for research in this field to continue as valuable information can be extracted from illicit drug samples, increasing discrimination amongst ATS, and in turn, leading to an increase in evidential value and forensic drug intelligence from forensic drug samples.

Concepts: Heroin, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Methamphetamine, Clandestine chemistry, Drug, Illegal drug trade, Amphetamine, MDMA


Abused drugs can profoundly alter mental states in ways that may motivate drug use. These effects are usually assessed with self-report, an approach that is vulnerable to biases. Analyzing speech during intoxication may present a more direct, objective measure, offering a unique ‘window’ into the mind. Here, we employed computational analyses of speech semantic and topological structure after ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ‘ecstasy’) and methamphetamine in 13 ecstasy users. In 4 sessions, participants completed a 10-minute speech task after MDMA (0.75, 1.5 mg/kg), methamphetamine (20 mg), or placebo. Latent Semantic Analyses identified the semantic proximity between speech content and concepts relevant to drug effects. Graph-based analyses identified topological speech characteristics. Group-level drug effects on semantic distances and topology were assessed. Machine-learning analyses (with leave-one-out cross-validation) assessed whether speech characteristics could predict drug condition in the individual subject. Speech after MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) had greater semantic proximity than placebo to the concepts friend, support, intimacy, and rapport. Speech on MDMA (0.75 mg/kg) had greater proximity to empathy than placebo. Conversely, speech on methamphetamine was further from compassion than placebo. Classifiers discriminated between MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) and placebo with 88% accuracy, and MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) and methamphetamine with 84% accuracy. For the two MDMA doses, the classifier performed at chance. These data suggest that automated semantic speech analyses can capture subtle alterations in mental state, accurately discriminating between drugs. The findings also illustrate the potential for automated speech-based approaches to characterize clinically-relevant alterations to mental state, including those occurring in psychiatric illness.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article peview online, 03 April 2014; doi:10.1038/npp.2014.80.

Concepts: Drug, Psychedelic drug, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Amphetamine, Metric space, Methamphetamine, Convention on Psychotropic Substances


The rise in popularity of “bath salts” as safe alternatives to MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), methamphetamine, and other illicit substances has resulted in increased scrutiny of the contents and toxicology associated with these products. We report a case of sudden death related to the synthetic cathinone methylone (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylcathinonmethylone) in a previously healthy 19-year-old man. Although several fatal case reports have been published involving methylone and other synthetic cathinones, this is the first reported case of sudden cardiac death associated with methylone use. Although lack of published data prevented a comparison of blood methylone concentrations between our case and existing reports, the amount of methylone we detected postmortem (0.07 mg/dL) is below those reported in MDMA-related fatalities. Our report suggests that methylone toxicity has been greatly underestimated by users of this synthetic cathinone.

Concepts: Cathine, Euphoriants, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Cathinones, Cardiac arrest, MDMA, Sudden cardiac death, Report


Urine drug screens are commonly performed to identify drug use or monitor adherence to drug therapy. The purpose of this retrospective study was to evaluate the true positive and false positive rates of one of our in-house urine drug screen panels. The urine drugs of abuse panel studied consists of screening by immunoassay then positive immunoassay results were confirmed by mass spectrometry. Reagents from Syva and Microgenics were used for the immunoassay screen. The screen was performed on a Beckman AU5810 random access automated clinical analyzer. The percent of true positives for each immunoassay was determined. Agreement with previously validated GC-MS or LC-MS-MS confirmatory methods was also evaluated. There were 8,825 de-identified screening results for each of the drugs in the panel, except for alcohol (N = 2,296). The percent of samples that screened positive were: 10.0% for amphetamine/methamphetamine/3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), 12.8% for benzodiazepines, 43.7% for opiates (including oxycodone) and 20.3% for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The false positive rate for amphetamine/methamphetamine was ∼14%, ∼34% for opiates (excluding oxycodone), 25% for propoxyphene and 100% for phencyclidine and MDMA immunoassays. Based on the results from this retrospective study, the true positive rate for THC drug use among adults were similar to the rate of illicit drug use in young adults from the 2013 National Survey; however, our positivity rate for cocaine was higher than the National Survey.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Illegal drug trade, Controlled Substances Act, Opioid, Type I and type II errors, Drug test, Drug addiction


MDMA (“ecstasy”) is widely used as a recreational drug, although there has been some debate about its neurotoxic effects in humans. However, most studies have investigated subjects with heavy use patterns, and the effects of transient MDMA use are unclear. In this review, we therefore focus on subjects with moderate use patterns, in order to assess the evidence for harmful effects. We searched for studies applying neuroimaging techniques in man. Studies were included if they provided at least one group with an average of<50 lifetime episodes of ecstasy use or an average lifetime consumption of<100 ecstasy tablets. All studies published before July 2015 were included. Of the 250 studies identified in the database search, 19 were included. There is no convincing evidence that moderate MDMA use is associated with structural or functional brain alterations in neuroimaging measures. The lack of significant results was associated with high methodological heterogeneity in terms of dosages and co-consumption of other drugs, low quality of studies and small sample sizes.

Concepts: Faith No More, Illegal drug trade, Neuroimaging, Amphetamine, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Drug, Sample size, Recreational drug use


MDMA, better known as the recreational drug “ecstasy,” is well known for stimulating a feeling of closeness and empathy in its users. We advocate that exploring its mechanism of action could lead to new treatments for psychiatric conditions characterized by impairments in social behavior.

Concepts: Human behavior, Illegal drug trade, Recreational drug use, Controlled Substances Act, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine, Psychology, Convention on Psychotropic Substances


Previous placebo-controlled experimental studies have shown that a single dose of MDMA can increase emotional empathy in the multifaceted empathy test (MET) without affecting cognitive empathy. Although sufficiently powered to detect main effects of MDMA, these studies were generally underpowered to also validly assess contributions of additional parameters, such as sex, drug use history, trait empathy and MDMA or oxytocin plasma concentrations. The present study examined the robustness of the MDMA effect on empathy and investigated the moderating role of these additional parameters. Participants ( n = 118) from six placebo-controlled within-subject studies and two laboratories were included in the present pooled analysis. Empathy (MET), MDMA and oxytocin plasma concentrations were assessed after oral administration of MDMA (single dose, 75 or 125 mg). Trait empathy was assessed using the interpersonal reactivity index. We confirmed that MDMA increased emotional empathy at both doses without affecting cognitive empathy. This MDMA-related increase in empathy was most pronounced during presentation of positive emotions as compared with negative emotions. MDMA-induced empathy enhancement was positively related to MDMA blood concentrations measured before the test, but independent of sex, drug use history and trait empathy. Oxytocin concentrations increased after MDMA administration but were not associated with behavioral effects. The MDMA effects on emotional empathy were stable across laboratories and doses. Sex did not play a moderating role in this effect, and oxytocin levels, trait empathy and drug use history were also unrelated. Acute drug exposure was of significant relevance in the MDMA-induced emotional empathy elevation.

Concepts: Methamphetamine, Affect, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Effect, Emotion, MDMA, Empathy, Psychology


3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “ecstasy”) enhances desire to socialize and feelings of empathy, which are thought to be related to increased oxytocin levels. Thus, variation in the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) may influence responses to the drug. Here we examined the influence of a single OXTR nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) on responses to MDMA in humans. Based on findings that carriers of the A allele at rs53576 exhibit reduced sensitivity to oxytocin-induced social behavior, we hypothesized that these individuals would show reduced subjective responses to MDMA, including sociability. In this 3-session, double blind, within-subjects study, healthy volunteers with past MDMA experience (N = 68) received a MDMA (0, 0.75 mg/kg and 1.5 mg/kg) and provided self-report ratings of sociability, anxiety, and drug effects. These responses were examined in relation to rs53576. MDMA (1.5 mg/kg) did not increase sociability in individuals with the A/A genotype as it did in G allele carriers. The genotypic groups did not differ in responses at the lower MDMA dose, or in cardiovascular or other subjective responses. These findings are consistent with the idea that MDMA-induced sociability is mediated by oxytocin, and that variation in the oxytocin receptor gene may influence responses to the drug.

Concepts: Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Genotype, Evolution, DNA, Gene, Oxytocin, Allele, Genetics


Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), often sold as ‘Ecstasy’ or ‘Molly’, is commonly used at music festivals and reported to be responsible for an increase in deaths over the last decade. Ecstasy is often adulterated and contains compounds that increase morbidity and mortality. While users and clinicians commonly assume that products sold as Molly are less-adulterated MDMA products, this has not been tested. Additionally, while pill-testing services are sometimes available at raves, the assumption that these services decrease risky drug use has not been studied. This study analyzed data collected by the pill-testing organization, DanceSafe, from events across the United States from 2010 to 2015. Colorimetric reagent assays identified MDMA in only 60% of the 529 samples collected. No significant difference in the percentage of samples testing positive for MDMA was determined between Ecstasy and Molly. Individuals were significantly less likely to report intent to use a product if testing did not identify MDMA (relative risk (RR) = 0.56, p = 0.01). Results suggest that Molly is not a less-adulterated substance, and that pill-testing services are a legitimate harm-reduction service that decreases intent to consume potentially dangerous substances and may warrant consideration by legislators for legal protection. Future research should further examine the direct effects of pill-testing services and include more extensive pill-testing methods.

Concepts: Controlled Substances Act, MDMA, United States, Methamphetamine, Convention on Psychotropic Substances, Erowid