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Club Drugs Overview: MDMA

Ecstasy or MDMA is a synthetic (man-made) drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic-like qualities. It was first made in 1912 by a German company to be used as an appetite suppressant. Today Ecstasy is most often distributed at late-night parties called “raves”, nightclubs, and rock concerts. It is classified as a Schedule I drug and a stimulant.

MDMA (short for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. MDMA is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.

MDMA exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.

What are the street names?

Street names for MDMA include Ecstasy, Ecstacy, X, Adam, XTC, hug, beans, and love drug.

Research in animals indicates that MDMA is neurotoxic; whether or not this is also true in humans is currently an area of intense investigation. MDMA can also be dangerous to health and, on rare occasions, lethal.

What are the effects of Ecstasy?

For some people, MDMA can be addictive. A survey of young adult and adolescent MDMA users found that 43 percent of those who reported ecstasy use met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance (or diminished response), and 34 percent met the criteria for drug abuse. Almost 60 percent of people who use MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.

Cognitive Effects

Chronic users of MDMA perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks. Research in animals links MDMA exposure to long-term damage to neurons that are involved in mood, thinking, and judgment.

Physical Effects

In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death. Short-term physical effects include involuntary teeth clenching (also common in crystal meth use), nausea, blurred vision, chills and/or sweating, increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as seizures.

Psychological Effects

These can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur during and sometimes days or weeks after taking MDMA.

Hidden Risk: Drug Purity

Other drugs chemically similar to MDMA are sometimes sold as ecstasy. These drugs can be neurotoxic or create additional health risks to the user. Also, ecstasy tablets may contain other substances in addition to MDMA, 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; and methamphetamine.

Why do individuals use Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a popular drug in dance, club and rave cultures. Urban legends link ecstasy to a spiritual experience. Users report that the drug produces intensely euphoric feelings that include an enhanced sense of self-confidence and energy. Effects reportedly include feelings of peace, acceptance, empathy and oneness with mankind. Many users report a desire to touch others or be physically close to people. This gives ecstasy this reputation of being “the love drug.”

What does detox from Ecstasy involve?

Ecstasy users may encounter problems similar to those experienced by amphetamine and cocaine users, including Ecstasy addiction.

Ecstasy is psychologically addictive and the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

*Panic Attacks
*Paranoid Delusions