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Independent elevation of peripheral oxytocin concentrations and reduction in cognitive empathy during 4-fluoroamphetamine intoxication

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OBJECTIVES: 4-Fluoroamphetamine (4-FA) is a novel psychoactive substance with a pharmacological profile and reported subjective effects (e.g., empathy) intermediate between 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and amphetamine. Studies have shown that MDMA and amphetamine increase emotional empathy without affecting cognitive empathy; MDMA simultaneously leads to elevated levels of oxytocin, unrelated to its behavioral effects. The aim of the present study was to assess the reported enhancement of empathy by 4-FA, to assess its effects on oxytocin, and to test potential associations between both.

METHODS: Twelve healthy poly-drug users were included in a double-blind placebo-controlled two-way crossover study. Treatments were 4-FA (100 mg) and placebo; empathy was assessed by means of the multifaceted empathy test, and blood samples were taken before and after treatment administration to determine oxytocin concentrations.

RESULTS: 4-FA reduced cognitive empathy, whereas emotional empathy was left unaffected. One hour after treatment, plasma oxytocin levels were significantly increased compared with placebo. Behavioral and hormonal effects were unrelated.

CONCLUSION: Although 4-FA shares its pharmacological mechanism with MDMA and amphetamine, current findings seem to indicate that it affects empathy differently. The 4-FA-induced increase in oxytocin levels was independent of behavioral effects, which confirms previous findings that drug-induced effects on peripheral oxytocin levels are not associated with empathy.

    Research areas

  • 4-fluoroamphetamine, ALCOHOL, D-AMPHETAMINE, INTRANASAL OXYTOCIN, MDMA, METHAMPHETAMINE, MULTIFACETED EMPATHY, PERFORMANCE, POSITIVE EMOTIONS, RECEPTORS, SOCIAL COGNITION, cognitive and emotional empathy, multifaceted empathy test, novel psychoactive substance, peripheral oxytocin concentration
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Original languageEnglish
Article number2680
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Psychopharmacology-Clinical and Experimental
Issue number6
Early online date25 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018