Facts About Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy Pills
a Variety of Ecstasy Pills. DEA

Ecstasy—the street name of the chemical 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, shortened as MDMA—is a synthetic, psychoactive (mind-altering) drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Its chemical structure is similar to two other synthetic drugs, DA and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage.

Overview

Street Names

Ecstasy is also known as Molly, Adam, Xtc, X, Hug, Go, Hug Drug, Beans, and Love Drug.

What Is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy was originally developed as a diet aid but was also used experimentally during counseling because of its ability to remove individual's inhibitions. 

Where Does Ecstasy Come From?

Although some clandestine labs have been discovered operating inside the United States, most of the MDMA sold in the U.S. is manufactured in Canada and smuggled into the U.S. A small percentage of Ecstasy in the U.S. is manufactured in the Netherlands.

How Is Ecstasy Taken?

Ecstasy comes in a tablet form that is often imprinted with graphic designs or commercial logos. It is usually swallowed as a pill but it can also be crushed and snorted, injected, or used in suppository form.

Who Uses Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is popular among middle-class adolescents and young adults. It is sold at bars, underground nightclubs, and at raves, which are all-night parties.

Effects of Ecstasy

It is known for its energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from physical experiences.

The effect, per use, lasts from three to four hours. Its popularity grew in the late 1980s in the rave and club scenes and on college campuses because of its reputation for producing high energy and a trusting and opened effect among those who take it.

Hazards of Using Ecstasy

Ecstasy can produce some problems similar to those found among amphetamine and cocaine users.

Immediate effects may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Lack of appetite
  • Thirst
  • Reduced interest in and pleasure from sex
  • Significant reductions in mental abilities

Health consequences of the drug may involve:

These medical consequences can be serious and potentially life-threatening.

The physical side effects that occur while taking it can last for weeks. Users often experience muscle tension, involuntary teeth-clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating. MDMA is very dangerous if you live with circulatory or heart disease because the drug increases heart rate and blood pressure.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

Almost 60 percent of people who use MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating. Some users may require treatment for drug abuse.

Drug Purity

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, many Ecstasy tablets seized by law enforcement officials have been found to contain other drugs or a combination of drugs that can be harmful.

MDMA is often mixed with other drugs such as:

  • Ephedrine (a stimulant)
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM, a cough suppressant that has PCP-like effects at high doses)
  • Ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians that also has PCP-like effects)
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine

Combining or using drugs with MDMA, including marijuana and alcohol, is dangerous and will put users at higher physical risk.

Neurotoxicity

In a study using monkeys, exposure to Ecstasy for four days caused brain damage to serotonin nerve terminals that could still be seen up to seven years later, providing evidence that people who take Ecstasy may be risking permanent brain damage.

Research has shown that MDMA can damage serotonin-containing neurons, which may lead to long-lasting mood changes as well as potentially affecting attention, memory, and other cognitive functions.

Drugs Similar to Ecstasy

The parent drug to Ecstasy is MDA, an amphetamine-like drug that has a similar chemical structure to MDMA. PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine, associated with fatalities in the U.S. and Australia) is also sometimes sold as MDMA.

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)." September 2013.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "Ecstasy/MDMA." Drug Fact Sheets 2015

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