What is MDMA?
MDMA is an abbreviation of the chemical name 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is a psychadelic amphetamine of the phenethylamine class of drugs. MDMA, often referred to on the streets as ecstasy or just “X”, is best known for its use in the party and electronic music scene. These dance parties, usually called “raves” vary in size and location, but ecstasy is almost always present. Part of the chemical structure of MDMA is methamphetamine, which is a potent and highly addictive central nervous system stimulant.
Therapeutic Use of MDMA
MDMA was originally used in psychotherapy, for its effects of fear reduction, inner peace, and tendency to self-examine. Several double-blind studies have found that those going through psychotherapy while using MDMA therapeutically were significantly more likely to have found relief from their disorder than those who were on a placebo and going through psychotherapy. Although the therapeutic use of ecstasy has not yet been accepted, many psychologists insist that it does indeed have strong therapeutic qualities.
Effects of MDMA
MDMA has both stimulant and psychadelic properties. Side effects of MDMA include euphoria, a perceived closeness to others, an altered sense of reality, self-acceptance and diminishing of anxiety, and increased energy and stamina. It has been used in therapy for its additional effect of producing oxytocin, often nicknamed “the love hormone”. The production of oxytocin is one of the hallmarks of ecstasy, as oxytocin produces the effects of love, intimacy, and closeness with others.
A study by the Monitoring the Future survey has found the most current trends in MDMA abuse among teenagers. According to their study, over seven percent of high school seniors have used ecstasy at least once in their lives, and almost five percent have used it in the year prior to the survey. From 2010, these are the most recent statistics available, and compared with past years show a rise in MDMA abuse.
The effects of MDMA on the central nervous system are a result of it acting on dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Classified as a stimulant, MDMA increases the activity of the central nervous system, causing increased energy and alertness. The long-term effects of MDMA abuse is unclear, yet some studies have found trends in chronic ecstasy abusers. One of the most tangible effects of long term abuse is impaired memory. A 2008 study of long-term MDMA abusers found that around seventy percent of subjects had impaired memory as a result of ecstasy use.
Many users of ecstasy have the perception that it is a non-addictive substance. However, MDMA causes a rapid psychological dependency, and eventually a physical dependency. The psychological dependency is quick to develop because of the positive effects of MDMA, largely due to oxytocin production. Unique to MDMA, almost every user thoroughly enjoys themselves while high, unlike LSD, cannabis, or hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. As the brain begins to become accustomed to the uplifting, care-free high of ecstasy, the lack of its presence becomes abnormal. Psychologically, the person may have trouble experiencing pleasure without the substance. A physical addiction also may develop over long term use, with withdrawal effects usually including restlessness, anxiety, weakness, and lack of emotions.