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Ecstasy (Chem: 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine -- Adam, Beans, Eccies, E, MDMA, Rolls, X, or XTC) is the common name for a drug whose primary effect is to stimulate the brain to secrete rapidly large amounts of serotonin, causing diminution of inhibitions and a general sense of energy, euphoria, and well-being. Physical contact with others tends to feel extremely good. Though overdoses from MDMA itself are rare, acute dehydration among users who forget to drink water is common, as the drug masks one's normal sense of exhaustion and thirstiness, and other, more dangerous chemicals are frequently sold on the street as "ecstasy". Long term effects in humans are largely unknown and the subject of much controversy.
Christmas eve 1914 by the German pharmaceutical company Merck[?], two years after its first synthesis. At the time, Merck was systematically synthesizing and patenting a wide variety of chemically related compounds which could potentially used as drugs, and MDMA remained largely forgotten for many years.
Contrary to many rumours, the drug was never used as an appetite suppressant[?] or as a stimulant for armed forces during war time. MDMA was first brought to public attention through Dr. Alexander Shulgin in the 1960s who recommended it for use in certain therapy sessions.
Until the mid 1980s, MDMA was not illegal in the United States. It first came into prominence as a recreational drug in certain trendy yuppie bars in the Dallas area, then in gay dance clubs. From there, use spread to rave clubs, and thence to mainstream society. During the 1990s, MDMA use became increasingly popular among young adults in universities and later in high schools, along with the growing popularity of the rave subculture.
The primary effects of MDMA include euphoria, empathy and an appreciation of the repetitive rhythms of dance music. Its initial adoption by the dance club sub-culture is probably due to the enhancement of the dancing experience. The link between the music and drug sub-cultures is marked with the musics layered themes often echoing the sensations felt by the user.
Taking MDMA or Ecstasy is referred to as rolling or dropping. Known in its related subcultures as E, X, pills, disco biscuits or beans, MDMA use has increased markedly since the late 80's and spread beyond the original sub-cultures to mainstream use. Prices have also been falling since its introduction, with an evening's drug use often costing less than an equivilent evening drinking alcohol.
MDMA is usually ingested in pill form. Pills come in a variety of "brands", usually identified by the icons stamped on the pills. The pills themselves rarely have MDMA as the only active ingredient: many pills contain variants such as PMA[?], MDEA[?], MDA and MDBD[?]. Pills have also occasionally been known to contain other additives such as LSD (acid), amphetamines (speed) and ketamine (Special K). While overdose from MDMA itself is rare, unfortunately many more toxic substances are often sold as Ecstasy, and overdose or other adverse reaction to adulterants is regrettably not uncommon. DanceSafe sells testing kits, and includes an extensive database of photographs of different pills, along with the results of a laboratory analysis of their contents.
MDMA's main action is to cause serotonin neurons in the brain to dump all their serotonin into the synapse at once, which is responsible for the primary subjective effects. MDMA also raises dopamine and norepinephrine levels.
Apart from the dangers from impurities, the primary acute risks of taking Ecstasy are allergic reaction, which is quite rare, and dehydration. MDMA tends to mask the body's normal thirst and exhaustion responses in a euphoric haze, so dehydration is relatively common, instigated by the fact the user is dancing for long periods of time without drinking. Most regular users are aware of the risk of dehydration and take care to consume lots of water to prevent dehydration. There have been a number of cases of users paranoid about becoming dehydrated drinking too much water and suffering from hyponatremia (swelling of the brain).
Apart from the neurological effects other effects include:
Most users will experience a come-down (sometimes referred to as being ate up) the over the following days due to the brain's serotonin stores being depleted. The come-down usually takes the form of depression, tiredness, and mild nausea. This typically wears off within a few days although regular users may not feel their normal selves for upto a week later.
The use of come-down kits is increasing in popularity to amealiorate the effects. These usually include vitamin supplements and anti-oxidants to restore essentials which have been depleted over the trip, during which users generally do not eat. Anecdotal evidence suggests the main benefit comes from Tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements which provide much needed pre-cursors to serotonin which the brain has used up during the experience.
FUD propagated through the media by well-financed, politically motivated anti-drug groups (including some scientists).
Some experiments indicate that continuous use can lead to the serotonin cells in the brain becoming damaged, probably through the uptake of dopamine into serotonin cells (where it's not supposed to be), where it is then metabolized into hydrogen peroxide, which causes oxidation damage to the interior of the serotonin cell.
This effect has been observed in the brains of rats, where serotonin cells of animals given extremely high doses of MDMA over a prolonged period of time become withered and useless. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the administration of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (which bind to the serotonin cell's reuptake ports and thus block dopamine, and everything else, from entering the serotonin cells) along with MDMA seems to completely block neuron damage in rats given ecstasy.
There is also some experimental evidence indicating that long-term ecstasy users experience memory difficulties - however, such research is problematic as ecstasy users are much more likely than control subjects to have taken other drugs in addition to ecstasy.
University of Manchester indicates that Ecstasy dramatically reduces tremors in patients receiving L-DOPA treatment for Parkinson's Disease. A research team at Johns Hopkins University has implicated MDMA as a cause of Parkinson's, a claim hotly disputed by New York University scientists. See the CBS News article linked below for more information.
Ecstasy and the Law Use, supply and trafficking of ectasy is illegal in most countries. In the United States, MDMA is on the DEA's Schedule 1, for drugs deemed to have no medical uses and a high potential for abuse. During the hearings to reclassify MDMA, most experts recommended Schedule 3 prescription status for the drug, due to its beneficial usage in psychotherapy. The judge overseeing the hearings also made this recommendation. Nonetheless, DEA classified it as Schedule 1.
In 2001, however, the FDA approved MDMA for studies treating patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
See also recreational drug use
Achieving ecstatic trances is a major activity of shamans, who seek ecstasy for such purposes as travelling to heaven or the underworld, guiding or otherwise interacting with spirits, clairvoyance, and healing. Some shamans use drugs from such plants as peyote and cannabis in their attempts to reach ecstasy, while others rely on such non-chemical means as ritual, music, dance, or concentration on a visual design, as aids to mental discipline. The rituals folowed by some athletes in preparing for contests, sometimes dismissed as superstition, may help them to attain an ecstasy-like state.
The drug now called ecstasy is very different from much of the experience traditionally called ecstasy in that it is rarely used for self-exploration and more typically used for aimless amusement.