Supplementary Material for: Acute Effects of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine and Methylphenidate on Circulating Steroid Levels in Healthy Subjects

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ‘ecstasy') and methylphenidate are widely used psychoactive substances. MDMA primarily enhances serotonergic neurotransmission, and methylphenidate increases dopamine but has no serotonergic effects. Both drugs also increase norepinephrine, resulting in sympathomimetic properties. Here we studied the effects of MDMA and methylphenidate on 24-hour plasma steroid profiles. 16 healthy subjects (8 men, 8 women) were treated with single doses of MDMA (125 mg), methylphenidate (60 mg), MDMA + methylphenidate, and placebo on 4 separate days using a cross-over study design. Cortisol, cortisone, corticosterone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone, aldosterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), androstenedione, and testosterone were repeatedly measured up to 24 h using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy. MDMA significantly increased the plasma concentrations of cortisol, corticosterone, 11-dehydrocorticosterone, and 11-deoxycorticosterone and also tended to moderately increase aldosterone levels compared with placebo. MDMA also increased the sum of cortisol + cortisone and the cortisol/cortisone ratio, consistent with an increase in glucocorticoid production. MDMA did not alter the levels of cortisone, DHEA, DHEAS, androstenedione, or testosterone. Methylphenidate did not affect any of the steroid concentrations, and it did not change the effects of MDMA on circulating steroids. In summary, the serotonin releaser MDMA has acute effects on circulating steroids. These effects are not observed after stimulation of the dopamine and norepinephrine systems with methylphenidate. The present findings support the view that serotonin rather than dopamine and norepinephrine mediates the acute pharmacologically induced stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in the absence of other stressors.