• Classification: Hallucinogen
  • CSA Schedule: Schedule I
  • Trade or Other Names: 2,5-DMA, STP, MDA, MDMA, ecstasy, DOM, DOB
  • Medical Uses: None
  • Physical Dependence: Unknown
  • Psychological Dependence: Unknown
  • Tolerance: Yes
  • Duration (hours): Variable
  • Usual Method: Oral, injected
  • Possible Effects: Illusions and hallucinations, altered perception of time and distance
  • Effects of Overdose: Longer, more intense “trip” episodes; psychosis; possible death
    Withdrawal Syndrome: Unknown

Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

About Ecstasy

Ecstasy, the common name for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine), is a synthetic drug that has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Although MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) does not cause overt hallucinations, many people report distorted time and distorted sensory perception while under the influence of the drug.

It is known as a designer drug because it is created for the purpose of making someone feel high. The drug is popular among teens and young adults who frequently go to clubs, concerts, or “rave parties.”

Users believe that the drug will make them feel good and will help them to keep going for days without rest. Usually, people who use Ecstasy don’t realize how dangerous this drug actually is. Ecstasy has become one of the most common illegal drugs sold on the streets.

The side effects of MDMA abuse includes nausea, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, depression, headache, hangover, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and panic. A severe side effect of the drug is a heatstroke. Also, it can trigger convulsions or seizures and widespread blood clotting followed by collapse and coma. Death can result from MDMA use as well.

Origins of Ecstasy use

Developed in Germany in 1914 as an appetite suppressant and for some psychiatric research (Nichols and Oberlender 1989; McNeil 2002), MDMA is one of about 200 amphetamine analogs of the methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) type. Accordingly, ecstasy is frequently used as a generic term for this family of substances.

It received little attention until it resurfaced in the 1960’s. Back then, LSD and MDMA were available at the same time. LSD, however, did not evoke nausea and vomiting as MDMA did. After being promoted by illicit manufacturers, MDMA became more popular by the mid-1970’s.

In the 1970’s, MDMA got euphemistically attributed the exotic name of “love drug”. MDMA, however, remained largely unknown to psychedelic enthusiasts and would not be examined until the mid-1970s when University of California Berkeley biochemist and toxicologist Alexander Shulgin, acting on the suggestion of a student who claimed to have successfully alleviated a severe stutter with the drug, synthesized and self-administered 120 mg of the compound. He would later describe MDMA as evoking an easily controlled altered state of consciousness with emotional and sensual overtones, and with little hallucinatory effect.

By the early 1980’s, however, word of MDMA had filtered out, aided by media accounts of a new psychotherapeutic miracle medicine and the spread of an alternative recreational drug on some college campuses (particularly in California and Texas), where, for a period of time, MDMA replaced cocaine as the new drug of choice. First popularly called Adam during its early phase of use among psychotherapists, to signify the condition of primal innocence and unity with all life, it soon acquired the alternative appellation of ecstasy, the name by which it is popularly known to this day. Indeed, the transformation of MDMA as Adam into MDMA as ecstasy appears to have been a marketing decision reached by an enterprising distributor searching for an alternative code name, who concluded that it would not be profitable to take advantage of the drug’s most salient features. Ecstasy was chosen for obvious reasons, this individual later reported, because it would sell better than calling it Empathy. Empathy would be more appropriate, but how many people know what it means?

By 1984, with growing use on college campuses and increased media attention and embellishment, political pressure was placed on federal regulators to establish tight controls on what was still a legal drug. Consequently, in 1985 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) convened hearings to determine the fate of MDMA. These highly publicized hearings achieved the unintended effect of further raising public awareness of MDMA, as well as interest in experimentation. Media accounts further polarized opinion, pitting enthusiastic claims of MDMA by proponents against dire warnings of unknown dangers to the nation’s youth. Coverage of the MDMA scheduling controversy included a national daytime television talk show (the Phil Donahue program) highlighting the surprising disclosure by a prominent University of Chicago neuroscientist that recent research had detected brain damage in rats injected with large quantities of MDA, an analog and metabolite of MDMA. The public debate was further confounded by the frequent confusion of MDMA with MPTP (N-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), a dopaminergic neurotoxin that had recently been revealed to have induced severe Parkinson-like disorders in users seeking synthetic heroin substitute highs. With growing concern over the dangers of new designer drugs, public discussion took an increasingly harsh tone. In the spring of 1986, following a series of scheduling hearings on MDMA conducted by the DEA in several U.S. cities, the DEA administrative law judge presiding over the case determined on the weight of the evidence presented that there was sufficient indication for safe use under medical supervision and recommended Schedule III status. Not obliged to follow the recommendation of his administrative law judge, however, and expressing grave concerns that MDMA’s growing abuse liability posed a serious threat to public health and safety, the DEA director overruled the advisement and ruled that MDMA be placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I. Since then, with the exception of a 3-month period in early 1988 when it was briefly unscheduled as a result of a court challenge, MDMA has remained classified as a Schedule I substance.

In the years following the MDMA scheduling controversy, patterns of use have undergone a marked shift. With the failure to establish an official sanction for MDMA treatment, most psychotherapists who had used the drug adjunctively in their work ceased to do so, unwilling to violate the law and jeopardize their livelihoods through the utilization of a now illegal drug. In the wake of the highly publicized scheduling hearings, however, use among young people escalated. By the late 1980’s, interest in MDMA had spread from the United States across the Atlantic to Europe, where it became the drug of choice at marathon dance parties called raves. Beginning on the Spanish island of Ibiza, spreading across the continent, and then back to the United States, MDMA-catalyzed raves have drawn large numbers of young people, often attracting more than 10,000 individuals at a single event. Although use in the United States diminished in the early 1990’s, by the end of the decade and into the new century its popularity surged. In Europe, and particularly the United Kingdom, MDMA use among young people has consistently maintained high levels for the past 15 years. With multiple illicit laboratories, including pharmaceutical manufacturers in former Iron Curtain countries, the European youth market appears to have become saturated with the drug in recent years.

How Ecstasy is consumed

In the majority of cases, MDMA is usually taken orally as a capsule or tablet. There are also some people that swallow the drug in a liquid form, inject it or absorb it intranasally (snorted).

The popular nickname “Molly” (from “molecular”) usually refers to the “pure” crystalline powder form of the drug, usually sold in capsules. However, people who buy powder or capsules marketed as Molly often actually get other drugs such as “bath salts” instead.

Effects of Ecstasy use

Short Term Use Effects

  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Cravings
  • Muscle tension
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea

Long Term Use Effects

  • Impaired judgment
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Cravings
  • Muscle tension
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea