Methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA is more commonly known as ecstasy. It is a psychoactive drug that is primarily used recreationally, as it does not have any approved medical effects. Users often turn to ecstasy because of the feeling of euphoria it provides, as well as heightened sensations involving their regular surroundings.
Today we will get to know more about the drug, what it does to the body, as well as a bit of its history. What is MDMA and how does it affect its users? On this article, we are going to find out.
What is MDMA?
3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine is a drug that produces increased empathy for the user. It can be taken by mouth, but it may also be snorted or smoked. Effects kick in after 30 to 45 minutes, and may last up to three to six hours.
It was believed that MDMA can be used for therapy, but this has since been disproven. Limited scientific studies are still being conducted to further learn the potential benefits of MDMA. But for now, what is confirmed by multiple cases and accounts of people getting addicted is that this drug produces a host of adverse effects.
A person can easily develop tolerance for the drug, which in turn develops into addiction. Other adverse effects include memory problems, paranoia, insomnia, blurred vision, sweating, and palpitation. We will explore its other effects later on. But ecstasy is known for causing deaths due to increased body temperature and dehydration.
On a chemical level, MDMA increases the release and slows the reuptake of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in certain parts of the brain. This initial increase is soon followed by a short-term decrease in the mentioned neurotransmitters. Because of this, ecstasy’s effects are psychedelic in nature.
History of Ecstasy
MDMA was first synthesized by Anton Köllisch in 1912. The Merck chemist was interested in developing substances that could stop abnormal bleeding. By the 1970s, the drug was already being used to improve psychotherapy, and by the 80s it was already a popular street drug.
Though the drug did not manage to fulfill the chemist’s expectations, the public developed an appreciation for it, using ecstasy for recreational purposes.
MDMA is commonly sold mixed in with other substances such as methamphetamine.
Further studies show that between 9 and 29 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 used ecstasy in 2014. This presents up to 0.6% of the entire world population.
Forms of MDMA
It should be emphasized that MDMA is considered illegal in most countries because it serves no medical uses and in fact produces plenty of adverse effects. Limited exceptions are sometimes made for the purpose of research. These studies are focused on whether or not the drug can assist in treating severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
MDMA is legally controlled in most of the world under an international agreement known as the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Of course possessing, manufacturing, selling, and using the drug is considered a criminal offence.
Ecstasy comes in many forms, the most common of which is a tablet form. This tablet form is the one that is most often referred to by its street name, ecstasy. The crystalline powder form is colloquially referred to as “molly” in the US and “mandy” in the UK.
It can also come in the form of hydrochloride salt, either in gelcaps or in loose crystals.
Methods of Administration
Ecstasy is most notable for being the drug of choice within the rave culture. It is used in clubs, festivals, and even house parties. During a party, the sensory effects from the music and lighting make the experience more intense. The psychedelic quality of MDMA, plus the naturally dizzying environment makes this combination incredibly appealing for partygoers. It is often used as “party fuel” because of its ability to reduce inhibition.
MDMA users sometimes take it in conjunction with other psychoactive drugs like LSD, and ketamine. They may also combine it with alcohol, or other drugs such as marijuana.
MDMA is illegal for a reason: and the reason is that it is bad for the health. Even without considering its addictive qualities, it is dangerous for the body. During the high, users may feel relaxed, peaceful, confident, and emotional. They may also have an altered sense of time, while experiencing mild hallucinations. This experience depends on the dosage, setting, and user expectations.
This variability is lower compared to other psychedelics, making it more predictable compared to drugs such as LSD.
The most serious short term adverse effects are hyperthermia and dehydration—both of which are known to be fatal. But other immediate effects can take place including bruxism, insomnia, excessive sweating, increased blood pressure, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and even visual hallucinations.
On a psychological level, the user may feel paranoid, anxious, depressed, impulsive, or restless.
Continued abuse of the drug can produce cognitive impairments in humans. It can affect attention, memory, learning, visual processing, and quality of sleep. Depression is also commonly associated with use of ecstasy.
Once dependence is developed, it could be much harder for the person to quit their use of ecstasy. Withdrawal symptoms can make it harder for the patient to get sober, as it gives them feelings of fatigue, depression, and loss of appetite.
Finding the right program is key to a person’s recovery. Behavioral therapy is known to be helpful, but the first step is helping the user accept that they have a problem, and that rehabilitation is necessary.