3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.
MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties (“raves”), but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.
MDMA is an abbreviation for methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine. The formal (IUPAC) name is N-methyl-1-(3,4-methylenedioxyphenyl)propan-2-amine, but MDMA (CAS-42542-10-09) is commonly known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or methylenedioxy-methylamfetamine. Other chemical names include N,α-dimethyl-3,4-methylenedioxyphenethylamine or, less usually, N-methyl-1-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-2-propanamine. MDMA is a member of the larger group of ring-substituted phenethylamines. As with other phenethylamines, and like its close relative methamphetamine, MDMA also exists in two enantiomeric forms (R and S).
Molecular Formula : C11H15NO2
Molecular Weight: 193.2
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Physical form :
MDMA/Ecstasy comes in pill or powder form also in the form of crystals. When it’s a powder it’s called by its chemical name, MDMA, but it’s the same drug as ecstasy.
MDMA/Ecstasy pills can be white, coloured, round, square or pressed into any shape. Some pills have designs stamped into them, like well known company logos that the pills are then named after.
MDMA/Ecstasy powder looks like white/grey crystals and is called MDMA, mandy or MD.
What does it taste/smell like?
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed and MDMA is usually rubbed (dabbed) into the user’s gums. They both taste bitter and unpleasant.
German chemists originally synthesized MDMA, or ecstasy, for pharmaceutical purposes in 1912. During the Cold War, the CIA experimented with MDMA as a psychological weapon. Ecstasy had become a popular party drug by the late 1980s, and it’s recreational use is often associated with rave culture, dance parties and electronic music festivals. Despite the illicit drug’s legal status, some medical researchers now believe MDMA could have therapeutic benefits, particularly among people with PTSD, depression and other behavioral issues.
German chemists discovered 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, in 1912 while developing other medicines that could stop bleeding.
The substance, they discovered, had unique psychoactive properties. The pharmaceutical company Merck patented MDMA in 1914 as a compound that could have pharmaceutical value. It would be several decades before further drug development would take place.
During the Cold War both the U.S. Army and the CIA experimented with MDMA and other hallucinogenic drugs as weapons.
MK-Ultra, a CIA project started in the 1950s, worked on the application of psychedelics for mind control. The project became notorious for testing psychoactive drugs on unwitting subjects.
The CIA experimented with MDMA as part of MK-Ultra, but only tested the drug on non-human subjects. These experiments produced the first known toxicology studies of MDMA. The drug’s code name was EA-1475.
Uses of MDMA:
MDMA stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters such as serotonin from brain neurons, producing a high that lasts from 3 to 6 hours, but it’s length can be variable baed on the user. The drug’s rewarding effects vary with the individual taking it, the dose, purity, and the environment in which it is taken.
MDMA can produce stimulant effects such as an enhanced sense of pleasure and self-confidence and increased energy. Its psychedelic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy.
Extent of MDMA Use
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) regularly looks at trends of illicit drug use in the U.S. in middle and high school-aged children, teens, and adults. In the 2017 Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of MDMA for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders, researchers found that less than 1% of 8th graders had used Ecstasy in the previous year, while 1.7% and 2.6% of 10th and 12th graders, respectively, had tried it in the last 12 months. People age 18 to 25 years appeared to be the groups with the greatest use, at 3.5%, as found in the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of MDMA.
Signs and Symptoms of Ecstasy and MDMA Overdose
Ecstasy produces serious side effects when taken in excess. Users may take 1–2 (sometimes more) tablets at once or a series of them over a short period. This pattern dramatically increases the risk of overdose 2. Doses vary, and the presence of other drugs—whether from adulterated MDMA or when taken along with the drug—produces its own harmful side effects.
Signs and symptoms of MDMA intoxication manifest across multiple body systems and include :
– Uncontrolled body movements.
– Confusion and other changes in mental status.
– Restlessness and anxiety, even paranoia.
– Headache and blurred vision.
– Clenched jaws.
– Elevated body temperature, chills, and excessive sweating.
– Abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting.
– Irregular and rapid heart rate along with chest pains.
– Increased blood pressure.
– Urinary retention and delayed orgasm.
Treating MDMA Overdoses
Anyone experiencing the symptoms of an overdose needs prompt medical treatment.
Unlike a heroin or opioid overdose, which can be reversed with the drug naloxone, there is no antidote for an overdose.
Treatment typically involves rapid cooling of a person’s body and treating organ failure and other complications as they arise. In severe cases, a person may require advanced life support.
If a person is treated for an overdose within an hour of swallowing ecstasy, they may be given activated charcoal to absorb the drug so less enters the bloodstream.
A muscle relaxant called dantrolene has shown promise in reducing life-threatening elevations in body temperature and muscle rigidity in patients experiencing a life-threatening MDMA overdose.
A 2010 case report published in the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine noted that a 31-year-old man suffering from overdose symptoms after taking three ecstasy tablets recovered rapidly after being administered dantrolene.
In the case of water intoxication, fluid restriction will often correct the problem.
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Control status :
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
To kick in
When taken orally, ecstasy normally takes 30 minutes to kick in, but it could take as little as 20 minutes, or it may take over an hour or more. Some other (more dangerous) drugs sold as ecstasy take longer to kick in.
How long it lasts
Users tend to feel high for 2 to 4 hours. You might still experience some physical effects, like a fast heart beat or insomnia (not being able to sleep), for a few hours after you stop feeling high – especially if you take a lot.
Some people find that ecstasy makes them feel down and low in mood the next day, known as a ‘comedown’. This can last for several days.
How long will it be detectable?
Ecstasy can normally be detected in a urine test between 1 to 4 days after taking it.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
Effects of MDMA:
The effects last for 3 to 6 hours, but people who take a moderate amount may experience withdrawal-type side effects for a week after.
– confusion, irritability, anxiety, and depression
– impulsiveness and aggression
– decreased interest in sex
– memory and attention problems
– reduced appetite
Some users self-report euphoria and an increased perception and feeling of closeness to others. When taken in warm environments, MDMA users may develop acute complications with potential fatal consequences. In rodents, the drug increases locomotor activity and, depending on ambient temperature, may produce a dose-dependent, potentially lethal hyperthermia. Like most other recreational drugs, the drug is frequently taken in combination with other substances including tobacco, EtOH, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine and, caffeine. Although polydrug use is very common, the understanding of the effects of this multiple substance use, as well as the analysis of consequences of different drug–drug associations, received rather little attention. The purpose of this review is to summarize our current knowledge about the changes on MDMA-related behavior, pharmacology, and neurotoxicity associated with co-consumption of other drugs of abuse and psychoactive agents.
People often use MDMA and alcohol together to extend the good feelings from the drug.
The problem is the liver metabolizes both drugs. Too much alcohol can slowTrusted Source the removal of MDMA from the body, causing a buildup. This can lead to more serious side effects or stronger adverse reactions with MDMA.
Alcohol and MDMA together can increase the release of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. This can causeTrusted Source some people to take more MDMA and drink more alcohol to keep feeling the effects.
Both drugs affect thinking and awareness. Taken together, that means you’ll have problems with movementTrusted Source and coordination.
Doing things that are normally easy for you, like driving, can become difficult and unsafe. You may not be able to accurately judge distances, for example.
Is MDMA addictive?
Research results vary on whether the drug is addictive. Experiments have shown that animals will self-administer MDMA—an important indicator of a drug’s abuse potential—although to a lesser degree than some other drugs such as cocaine.
Some people report signs of addiction, including the following withdrawal symptoms:
– loss of appetite
– trouble concentrating
Treatment for the drug Addiction:
There are no specific treatments for the drug addiction. Therapy is typically directed by a substance use clinic or health care provider and involve supportive care and behavioral and group therapy. If you need help with a drug addiction concern, you can call the SAMHSA Treatment Locator at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357), a confidential and anonymous source of information available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
expert opinion :
1. Why do young people with everything to live for take drugs like ecstasy?
For many young people, taking ecstasy is a very enjoyable experience, particularly at dance and music events. These young people consider ecstasy is a better, gentler and more social drug than alcohol, especially in dance music settings. Indeed, ecstasy is not associated with violence while alcohol is often linked to aggression and anti-social
2. What is ecstasy?
When most people buy ecstasy they hope to purchase MDMA, a psychoactive drug with weak stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. MDMA was used in the 70s and 80s as an adjunct to psychotherapy before being classified as dangerous after recreational use of the drug increased.
3. Is MDMA really a dangerous drug?
While all drug use, recreational or otherwise, can cause harm, pure MDMA is one of the least dangerous drugs known. Indeed, it is much less dangerous than drugs like alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. The drug is rarely habit-forming. The vast majority of people only take MDMA in the context of dancing or partying. MDMA fatalities do occur but are extremely rare in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of doses taken every year in Australia. Professor David Nutt, a distinguished expert, was sacked from an official UK position for estimating in 2009 that the risk of death was greater from horse riding than from taking ecstasy.
4. But three people have died after taking ecstasy in Sydney this year. How can MDMA be called “a relatively safe drug”?
People have died after taking what they thought or were told was MDMA. But was it really MDMA? Because MDMA cannot be obtained legally, the black market manufactures the drug with unknown quality controls and expertise. Sometimes dangerous variants to MDMA (PMA or PMMA) contaminate the sold product – and these contaminants really are dangerous.
5. If MDMA is not as dangerous as claimed, why aren’t we finding other useful things to use it for other than recreation?
We are. There is some evidence that MDMA may be useful for treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Current trials in the USA use MDMA to treat veterans with PTSD from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting official approval for medical research using MDMA has been impossible until recently.
6. Why don’t we regulate MDMA manufacture and distribute it in nightclubs and dance festivals under close supervision?
Good question. Professor David Penington, former vice chancellor of Melbourne University, recommended regulating MDMA in 2012.
On the one hand, authorities justify their (ineffective) crackdowns on ecstasy by arguing that because MDMA is manufactured and distributed by the black market it must be terribly dangerous. On the other hand, when confronted with advocacy to regulate MDMA manufacture and distribution, the same authorities tie themselves in knots trying to argue all drugs (except alcohol and tobacco) are too dangerous to even consider regulating any new drugs.
10. What should we do now?
Australia should scrap saturation policing with sniffer dogs at youth music dance events and follow the Europeans: we should allow drug checking and evaluate the benefits and costs.
It won’t eliminate all risks, but will almost certainly reduce them.