Chronic fluoxetine treatment partly attenuates the long-term anxiety and depressive symptoms induced by MDMA ('Ecstasy') in rats

Murray R. Thompson, Kong N. Li, Kelly J. Clemens, Clint G. Gurtman, Glenn E. Hunt, Jennifer L. Cornish, Iain S. McGregor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Use of the drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA 'Ecstasy') can have long-term adverse effects on emotion in both humans and laboratory animals. The present study examined whether chronic treatment with the antidepressant drug fluoxetine could reverse such effects. Male Wistar rats were briefly exposed to MDMA (4 x 5 mg/kg over 4h) or vehicle on 2 consecutive days. Approximately 9-12 weeks later, half of the rats received a dose of approximately 6 mg/kg/day fluoxetine in their drinking water for a 5-week period. Fluoxetine administration reduced fluid intake and body weight in MDMA and vehicle pretreated rats. After several weeks of fluoxetine treatment, rats were assessed on the social interaction test the emergence test of anxiety and the forced swim model of depression. MDMA pretreated rats showed reduced social interaction, increased anxiety on the emergence test and increased immobility and decreased active responses in the forced swim test Fluoxetine treatment reversed MDMA-induced anxiety in the emergence test and depressive-like effects in the forced swim test yet exhibited no effects on the social interaction test. MDMA pretreated rats had decreased 5-HT and 5-HIAA levels in limbic and cortical regions, and decreased density of serotonin transporter sites in the cortex. Fluoxetine treatment did not greatly affect 5-HT levels in MDMA pretreated rats, but significantly decreased 5-HIAA levels in all brain sites examined. Postmortem blood serum levels of fluoxetine and norfluoxetine did not differ in MDMA and vehicle pretreated rats. These results indicate that fluoxetine may provide a treatment option for some of the deleterious long-term effects resulting from MDMA exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-704
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HIAA
  • 5-HT
  • Antidepressant
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Ecstasy
  • Fluoxetine
  • MDMA
  • Serotonin


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