MDMA , or 'ecstasy' is a synthetic chemical that can be derived from an essential oil of the sassafras tree. MDMA is a 'psychedelic amphetamine' that has gained popularity over the past 20 years because of its ability to produce strong feelings of comfort, empathy, and connection to others. It most frequently comes in tablet form, although it is occasionally sold in capsules or as powder. It is most frequently used orally and rarely snorted. MDMA use is closely tied to the underground rave (and dance club) scene throughout the world, but has also been widely used by therapists as an adjunct to psychotherapy.
A standard oral dose of MDMA is between 80 - 150 mg. Most good quality pills contain somewhere in this range, generally 80-120 mg. The price of MDMA varies wildly depending on where it's purchased and in what quantity. A single tablet bought at a rave can cost as much as $50 though more commonly $10-$25.
MDMA was first synthesized in the 1890s and later patented by Merck pharmaceuticals on December 24, 1912, but it wasn't until the mid 1970s that articles related to its psychoactivity began showing up in scholarly journals. In the late '70s and early '80s MDMA was used as a psychotherapeutic tool and also started to become available on the street.
Effects of Ecstacy
MDMA generally takes 30 minutes - 2 hours to take effect. Unlike many other psychoactives, the onset of MDMA is very quick. The primary effects of MDMA last approximately 3-4 hours when taken orally. For many people there is an additional period of time (2-6 hrs) where it is difficult to go to sleep and there is definitely a noticeable difference from everyday reality. Many people also experience a noticeable shift in mood for several days after use; for some this is a period of depression while others experience lifted mood.
Most experts now agree that MDMA is neurotoxic, but there is little agreement on what the consequences of this toxicity are. Alcohol is also a neurotoxin, for instance, as are many other medications. There is some evidence of changes to the brain in those who use MDMA heavily and/or frequently and a few studies have shown reductions in memory and increases in depression and anxiety.
Negative effects can include overheating, nausea, vomiting, jaw-clenching, eye-twitching, and dizziness, as well as depression and fatigue in following days. After frequent or heavy use, some users report bouts of dizziness or vertigo which gradually subside after cessation of use. There have been problems with MDMA users experiencing dehydration, hyperthermia, heat stroke, exhaustion, blackouts, and some cases of death generally while using MDMA at clubs or raves. MDMA users would be wise to drink water and take occasional breaks from dancing.
MDMA has the potential to be psychologically addicting. Individuals who use it regularly may find they have an increased desire to continue using it.