OPEN Foundation

P. Vizeli

Prediction of MDMA response in healthy humans: a pooled analysis of placebo-controlled studies

Abstract

Background: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “ecstasy”) is used both recreationally and therapeutically. Little is known about the factors influencing inter- and intra-individual differences in the acute response to MDMA. Effects of other psychoactive substances have been shown to be critically influenced by personality traits and mood state before intake.

Methods: We pooled data from 10 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over studies performed in the same laboratory in 194 healthy subjects receiving doses of 75 or 125mg of MDMA. We investigated the influence of drug dose, body weight, sex, age, drug pre-experience, genetics, personality and mental state before drug intake on the acute physiological and psychological response to MDMA.

Results: In univariable analyses, the MDMA plasma concentration was the strongest predictor for most outcome variables. When adjusting for dose per body weight, we found that (a) a higher activity of the enzyme CYP2D6 predicted lower MDMA plasma concentration, (b) a higher score in the personality trait “openness to experience” predicted more perceived “closeness”, a stronger decrease in “general inactivation”, and higher scores in the 5D-ASC (5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness Questionnaire) scales “oceanic boundlessness” and “visionary restructuralization”, and (c) subjects with high “neuroticism” or trait anxiety were more likely to have unpleasant and/or anxious reactions.

Conclusions: Although MDMA plasma concentration was the strongest predictor, several personality traits and mood state variables additionally explained variance in the response to MDMA. The results confirm that both pharmacological and non-pharmacological variables influence the response to MDMA. These findings may be relevant for the therapeutic use of MDMA.

Studerus, E., Vizeli, P., Harder, S., Ley, L., & Liechti, M. E. (2021). Prediction of MDMA response in healthy humans: a pooled analysis of placebo-controlled studies. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(5), 556–565. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881121998322

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MDMA-induced changes in within-network connectivity contradict the specificity of these alterations for the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens

Abstract

It has been reported that serotonergic hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) induce decreases in functional connectivity within various resting-state networks. These alterations were seen as reflecting specific neuronal effects of hallucinogens and it was speculated that these shifts in connectivity underlie the characteristic subjective drug effects. In this study, we test the hypothesis that these alterations are not specific for hallucinogens but that they can be induced by monoaminergic stimulation using the non-hallucinogenic serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine releasing agent 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover design, 45 healthy participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) following oral administration of 125 mg MDMA. The networks under question were identified using independent component analysis (ICA) and were tested with regard to within-network connectivity. Results revealed decreased connectivity within two visual networks, the default mode network (DMN), and the sensorimotor network. These findings were almost identical to the results previously reported for hallucinogenic drugs. Therefore, our results suggest that monoaminergic substances can induce widespread changes in within-network connectivity in the absence of marked subjective drug effects. This contradicts the notion that these alterations can be regarded as specific for serotonergic hallucinogens. However, changes within the DMN might explain antidepressants effects of some of these substances.

Müller, F., Holze, F., Dolder, P., Ley, L., Vizeli, P., Soltermann, A., Liechti, M. E., & Borgwardt, S. (2021). MDMA-induced changes in within-network connectivity contradict the specificity of these alterations for the effects of serotonergic hallucinogens. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(3), 545–553. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00906-2

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Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects

Abstract

Growing interest has been seen in using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in psychiatric research and therapy. However, no modern studies have evaluated subjective and autonomic effects of different and pharmaceutically well-defined doses of LSD. We used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design in 16 healthy subjects (eight women, eight men) who underwent six 25 h sessions and received placebo, LSD (25, 50, 100, and 200 µg), and 200 µg LSD 1 h after administration of the serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A (5-HT2A) receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg). Test days were separated by at least 10 days. Outcome measures included self-rating scales that evaluated subjective effects, autonomic effects, adverse effects, plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, and pharmacokinetics up to 24 h. The pharmacokinetic-subjective response relationship was evaluated. LSD showed dose-proportional pharmacokinetics and first-order elimination and dose-dependently induced subjective responses starting at the 25 µg dose. A ceiling effect was observed for good drug effects at 100 µg. The 200 µg dose of LSD induced greater ego dissolution than the 100 µg dose and induced significant anxiety. The average duration of subjective effects increased from 6.7 to 11 h with increasing doses of 25-200 µg. LSD moderately increased blood pressure and heart rate. Ketanserin effectively prevented the response to 200 µg LSD. The LSD dose-response curve showed a ceiling effect for subjective good effects, and ego dissolution and anxiety increased further at a dose above 100 µg. These results may assist with dose finding for future LSD research. The full psychedelic effects of LSD are primarily mediated by serotonin 5-HT2A receptor activation.

Holze, F., Vizeli, P., Ley, L., Müller, F., Dolder, P., Stocker, M., Duthaler, U., Varghese, N., Eckert, A., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2021). Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(3), 537–544. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-020-00883-6

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Distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and D-amphetamine in healthy subjects.

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic psychedelic, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an empathogen, and D-amphetamine is a classic stimulant. All three substances are used recreationally. LSD and MDMA are being investigated as medications to assist psychotherapy, and D-amphetamine is used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. All three substances induce distinct acute subjective effects. However, differences in acute responses to these prototypical psychoactive substances have not been characterized in a controlled study. We investigated the acute autonomic, subjective, and endocrine effects of single doses of LSD (0.1 mg), MDMA (125 mg), D-amphetamine (40 mg), and placebo in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study in 28 healthy subjects. All of the substances produced comparable increases in hemodynamic effects, body temperature, and pupil size, indicating equivalent autonomic responses at the doses used. LSD and MDMA increased heart rate more than D-amphetamine, and D-amphetamine increased blood pressure more than LSD and MDMA. LSD induced significantly higher ratings on the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness scale and Mystical Experience Questionnaire than MDMA and D-amphetamine. LSD also produced greater subjective drug effects, ego dissolution, introversion, emotional excitation, anxiety, and inactivity than MDMA and D-amphetamine. LSD also induced greater impairments in subjective ratings of concentration, sense of time, and speed of thinking compared with MDMA and D-amphetamine. MDMA produced greater ratings of good drug effects, liking, high, and ego dissolution compared with D-amphetamine. D-Amphetamine increased ratings of activity and concentration compared with LSD. MDMA but not LSD or D-amphetamine increased plasma concentrations of oxytocin. None of the substances altered plasma concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. These results indicate clearly distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and D-amphetamine and may assist the dose-finding in substance-assisted psychotherapy research.
Holze, F., Vizeli, P., Müller, F., Ley, L., Duerig, R., Varghese, N., … & Liechti, M. E. (2019). Distinct acute effects of LSD, MDMA, and d-amphetamine in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology, 1-11., https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0569-3
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Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects.

Abstract

AIMS:

The aim of the present study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics and exposure-subjective response relationship of a novel oral solution of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) that was developed for clinical use in research and patients.

METHOD:

LSD (100 μg) was administered in 27 healthy subjects using a placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over design. Plasma levels of LSD, nor-LSD, and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD (O-H-LSD) and subjective drug effects were assessed up to 11.5 hours.

RESULTS:

First-order elimination kinetics were observed for LSD. Geometric mean maximum concentration (Cmax ) values (range) of 1.7 (1.0-2.9) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 1.7 (1.0-3.4) hours after drug administration. The plasma half-life (t1/2 ) was 3.6 (2.4-7.3) hours. The AUC was 13 (7.1-28) ng·h/mL. No differences in these pharmacokinetic parameters were found between male and female subjects. Plasma O-H-LSD but not nor-LSD (< 0.01 ng/mL) concentrations could be quantified in all subjects. Geometric mean O-H-LSD Cmax values (range) of 0.11 (0.07-0.19) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 5 (3.2-8) hours. The t1/2 and AUC values of O-H-LSD were 5.2 (2.6-21) hours and 1.7 (0.85-4.3) ng·h/mL, respectively. The subjective effects of LSD lasted (mean ± SD) for 8.5 ± 2.0 hours (range: 5.3-12.8 h), and peak effects were reached 2.5 ± 0.6 hours (range 1.6-4.3 h) after drug administration. EC50 values were 1.0 ± 0.5 ng/mL and 1.9 ± 1.0 ng/mL for “good” and “bad” subjective drug effects, respectively.

CONCLUSION:

The present study characterized the pharmacokinetics of LSD and its main metabolite O-H-LSD. The subjective effects of LSD were closely associated with changes in plasma concentrations over time.

Holze, F., Duthaler, U., Vizeli, P., Müller, F., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2019). Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects. British journal of clinical pharmacology., 10.1111/bcp.13918
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Role of serotonin transporter and receptor gene variations in the acute effects of MDMA in healthy subjects

Abstract

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ecstasy) is used recreationally and has been investigated as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Most acute effects of MDMA can be attributed to activation of the serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) system. Genetic variants, such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and polymorphic regions in 5-HT system genes, may contribute to interindividual differences in the acute effects of MDMA. We characterized the effects of common genetic variants within selected genes that encode the 5-HT system (TPH1 [tryptophan 5-hydroxylase 1] rs1800532 and rs1799913, TPH2 [tryptophan 5-hydroxylase 2] rs7305115, HTR1A [5-HT1A receptor] rs6295, HTR1B [5-HT1B receptor] rs6296, HTR2A [5-HT2A receptor] rs6313, and SLC6A4 [serotonin transporter] 5-HTTLPR and rs25531) on the physiological and subjective response to 125 mg MDMA compared with placebo in 124 healthy subjects. Data were pooled from eight randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that were conducted in the same laboratory. TPH2 rs7305115, HTR2A rs6313, and SLC6A4 5-HTTLPR polymorphisms tended to moderately alter some effects of MDMA. However, after correcting for multiple comparisons, none of the tested genetic polymorphisms significantly influenced the response to MDMA. Variations in genes that encode key targets in the 5-HT system did not significantly influence the effects of MDMA in healthy subjects. Interindividual differences in the 5-HT system may thus play a marginal role when MDMA is used recreationally or therapeutically.

Vizeli, P., Meyer zu Schwabedissen, H. E., & Liechti, M. E. (2018). Role of serotonin transporter and receptor gene variations in the acute effects of MDMA in healthy subjects. ACS chemical neuroscience., 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00590
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Oxytocin receptor gene variations and socio-emotional effects of MDMA: A pooled analysis of controlled studies in healthy subjects

Abstract

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) increases oxytocin, empathy, and prosociality. Oxytocin plays a critical role in emotion processing and social behavior and has been shown to mediate the prosocial effects of MDMA in animals. Genetic variants, such as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) may influence the emotional and social effects of MDMA in humans. The effects of common genetic variants of the OXTR (rs53576, rs1042778, and rs2254298 SNPs) on the emotional, empathogenic, and prosocial effects of MDMA were characterized in up to 132 healthy subjects in a pooled analysis of eight double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. In a subset of 53 subjects, MDMA produced significantly greater feelings of trust in rs1042778 TT genotypes compared with G allele carriers. The rs53576 and rs225498 SNPs did not moderate the subjective effects of MDMA in up to 132 subjects. None of the SNPs moderated MDMA-induced impairments in negative facial emotion recognition or enhancements in emotional empathy in the Multifaceted Empathy Test in 69 subjects. MDMA significantly increased plasma oxytocin concentrations. MDMA and oxytocin concentrations did not differ between OXTR gene variants. The present results provide preliminary evidence that OXTR gene variations may modulate aspects of the prosocial subjective effects of MDMA in humans. However, interpretation should be cautious due to the small sample size. Additionally, OXTR SNPs did not moderate the subjective overall effect of MDMA (any drug effect) or feelings of “closeness to others”.
Vizeli, P., & Liechti, M. E. (2018). Oxytocin receptor gene variations and socio-emotional effects of MDMA: A pooled analysis of controlled studies in healthy subjects. PloS one13(6), e0199384. 10.1371/journal.pone.0199384
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Safety pharmacology of acute MDMA administration in healthy subjects

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; ecstasy) is being investigated in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. The present study characterized the safety pharmacology of single-dose administrations of MDMA (75 or 125 mg) using data from nine double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover studies performed in the same laboratory in a total of 166 healthy subjects. The duration of the subjective effects was 4.2 ± 1.3 h (range: 1.4–8.2 h). The 125 mg dose of MDMA produced greater ‘good drug effect’ ratings than 75 mg. MDMA produced moderate and transient ‘bad drug effect’ ratings, which were greater in women than in men. MDMA increased systolic blood pressure to >160 mmHg, heart rate >100 beats/min, and body temperature >38°C in 33%, 29% and 19% of the subjects, respectively. These proportions of subjects with hypertension (>160 mmHg), tachycardia, and body temperature >38°C were all significantly greater after 125 mg MDMA compared with the 75 mg dose. Acute and subacute adverse effects of MDMA as assessed by the List of Complaints were dose-dependent and more frequent in females. MDMA did not affect liver or kidney function at EOS 29 ± 22 days after use. No serious adverse events occurred. In conclusion, MDMA produced predominantly acute positive subjective drug effects. Bad subjective drug effects and other adverse effects were significantly more common in women. MDMA administration was overall safe in physically and psychiatrically healthy subjects and in a medical setting. However, the risks of MDMA are likely higher in patients with cardiovascular disease and remain to be investigated in patients with psychiatric disorders.

Vizeli, P., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Safety pharmacology of acute MDMA administration in healthy subjects. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0269881117691569. 10.1177/0269881117691569
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Pharmacogenetics of ecstasy: CYP1A2, CYP2C19, and CYP2B6 polymorphisms moderate pharmacokinetics of MDMA in healthy subjects

Abstract

In vitro studies showed that CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 contribute to the metabolism of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) to 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). However, the role of genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 in the metabolism of MDMA in humans is unknown. The effects of genetic variants in these CYP enzymes on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of MDMA were characterized in 139 healthy subjects (69 male, 70 female) in a pooled analysis of eight double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. MDMA-MDA conversion was positively associated with genotypes known to convey higher CYP2C19 or CYP2B6 activities. Additionally, CYP2C19 poor metabolizers showed greater cardiovascular responses to MDMA compared with other CYP2C19 genotypes. Furthermore, the maximum concentration of MDA was higher in tobacco smokers that harbored the inducible CYP1A2 rs762551 A/A genotype compared with the non-inducible C-allele carriers. The findings indicate that CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 contribute to the metabolism of MDMA to MDA in humans. Additionally, genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C19 may moderate the cardiovascular toxicity of MDMA.

Vizeli, P., Schmid, Y., Prestin, K., zu Schwabedissen, H. E. M., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Pharmacogenetics of ecstasy: CYP1A2, CYP2C19, and CYP2B6 polymorphisms moderate pharmacokinetics of MDMA in healthy subjects. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 27(3), 232-238. 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2017.01.008
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27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights

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