A typically non-lethal dose of MDMA may actually be deadly if consumed in a warm environment, according to new research from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). MDMA, known more commonly as ecstasy or molly, is the go to drug for raves and music festivals.
MDMA is an illegal synthetic amphetamine used as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. The effects of molly include rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle tension, nausea, and faintness. The drug is known to raise body temperature, leading to many recent deaths highlighted in the news.
According to the new research, rats were given low to moderate doses of MDMA which were shown to be non-fatal in past studies. The researchers monitored the rats to determine the drug-induced changes in the brain and body temperature. Some of the rats were kept alone in a room temperature environment. Those rats showed moderate increases in both brain and body temperature. The MDMA only slightly diminished the rats’ ability to cool its own body. None of the rats died.
However, rats that were given the same dose in a warmer environment, or in the presence of another rat, showed a much higher increase in brain temperature. Some of the rats died because the fatal temperature increases interfered with their body’s ability to cool itself. According to Dr. Eugene Kiyatkin, the first author on the study, “These results demonstrate that the use of MDMA in certain warm, social settings could be more dangerous than commonly believed. Even with moderate doses, we saw drug-induced, fatal brain hyperthermia during conditions of social interaction and in warm environments.”
Unfortunately, most people who use MDMA aren’t taking it in a cool, calm environment. They’re taking it at raves, clubs, and music festivals, all of which are crowded and very hot. This research shows that even moderate doses of MDMA can be deadly depending on the environment, which contradicts the popular idea that MDMA isn’t harmful in small doses.