MDMA or ecstasy (often abbreviated “E” or “X”) was first synthesized in 1912 by Merck chemist Anton Kollisch in an effort to create a substance that stopped out-of-control bleeding. By the late 1980’s, ecstasy, the “feel good drug” has hit the club scenes in Dallas, Texas. A year later, the hallucinogenic drug had moved overseas and by the mid 1990’s, was the drug of choice at raves (parties).
When Anton Kollisch’s attempt to create a blot clotting drug failed, the drug was largely ignored for over 65 years. Merck tinkered with the drug on and off during the decades following its discovery. By the mid 1950’s, when the United States government was experimenting with the effects of mescaline, MDMA was included in their studies. The reports were declassified in 1970 and university students and professors began experimenting with the drug.
In 1975, Alexander Shulgin of the University of California in Berkeley, synthesized the drug and tried it himself. He was intrigued with its effects (and once reported that while on the drug, the mountains near his home were so beautiful he could not stand looking at them). In late 1979, he published a report explaining the drugs effects on people. He described “altered state of consciousness with emotional and sensual overtones” that can be compared “to marijuana, and to psilocybin devoid of the hallucinatory component”.
During the 1980’s psychotherapists began tinkering with the drug’s benefits to their patients. It quickly developed a reputation for enhancing patient communication and improving the patient’s ability to delve deeper into their psyche. By the mid 1980’s, the drug slowly leaked into the club scene in Dallas, Texas where it was known as “Adam”. From there it spread to major clubs across the country and in 1985 it was added to the DEA Schedule I drug list. By the 1990’s, a full blown epidemic was in progress as Ecstasy became one of the four major drugs in use in America (behind heroin, cocaine, and marijuana).
How MDMA is made
In the root bark or fruit of sassafras plants is a slightly black oil called safrole. Synthetic manufacturing methods are used to convert the safrole to MDMA. Relatively small amounts of safrole are required to create large amounts of ecstasy pills.
Sassafras oil is a byproduct of camphor production which is common processed in Asia or Brazil. Roots of Sassafras can be steeped to make tea and as a flavoring for root bear. The FDA banned the practice when it was discovered that permanent liver damage and various types of cancer result.
What is looks like
Since ecstasy is targeted to children and young adults, the pills often come in pastel colors with various logos pasted on the pill casing. The logos, which often dictate the name the pill goes by, include Christmas trees, shamrocks, nike symbol, blue dolphin, red dolphin, playboy bunny, and many more.
How it is taken
Ecstasy almost always comes in pill form although it can be snorted or injected. It typically comes in capsule form or pressed pill form. Costs in the 1990’s ranged from $10 to $20 per 80 to 160mg dose.
How it works
Ecstasy causes the body to release massive amounts of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (which are greatly diminished during the “crash time”). It reached maximum concentration in the blood stream within 1 to 3 hours after ingestion. Levels decrease to half their concentration within 8 hours. Even after effects are gone the drug remains in the system for 24 hours or more meaning if additional ecstasy is taken, the concentrations in the blood stream grow much higher than the user would expect.
The effects the user feels
Users generally report the beginning of effects within 30 to 60 minutes of taking the drug. The peak is reached within 2 hours and lasts about 2 to 3 hours followed by a crash that lasts about 3 hours. It is common to stack the drug or continue taking pills when the high wears off. The practice of taking ecstasy to endure all night or two or three day rave parties is common in the United States and Europe.
Empathogenesis is a feeling of emotional closeness to others (and to one’s self) coupled with a breakdown of personal communication barriers. People on MDMA report feeling much more at ease talking to others and that any hangups that one may have with regard to “opening up” to others may be reduced or even eliminated. This effect is partially responsible for MDMA’s being known as a “hug drug”.
Many people use MDMA primarily for this effect, reporting that it makes potentially awkward or uncomfortable social situations (singles bars, dance clubs, etc.) much more easily dealt with. “Conversation just flows like water” said one person. “It seems like you know exactly what to say and when to say it. It’s like a filter between what you want to express and what comes out of your mouth that you didn’t even know existed is stripped away.”
Sensations are greatly enhanced. MDMA users will be seen running their hands over textured objects or eating and drinking various foods and drinks to experience their enhanced flavor.
The effects the user feels may be summarized as the following:
- Alteration in consciousness
- Sense of inner peace
- Diminished aggression, hostility, and jealousy
- Diminished fear, anxiety, ad insecurity
- Increased sensual arousal
- Feelings of compassion and forgiveness towards others
- Feelings of intimacy and love for others
- Intensification of bodily senses such as sound, touch, smell, vision, and hearing
- Enhancement of the appreciation of music
- Psychedelic consisting of auditory and visual distortions
- Hyperactivity (many report a strong urge to dance)
- Increased energy and endurance
- Altered perception of time
- Increased alertness and awareness
- Increased desire, drive, and motivation
- Decreased sensitivity to pain
The relationship between ecstasy and raves
Raves are dance parties, typically lasting all night or for two or more days. Alcohol is not normally served and instead, ecstasy is the drug of choice in order to give the dance party an aura of love and friendliness. The intent of the rave culture is to promote an environment that is friendly, safe, and non-violent. Some ravers report the experience as almost religious.
One of the leading causes of deaths from ecstasy is related to the rave culture. The energy that ecstatsy provides the user combined with its effects on the kidneys (it impairs normal kidney functioning) causes kidney damage and dehydration. Combined with days of non-stop dancing puts users into a death spiral.
One of the primary dangers when taking ecstasy is rooted around the fact that the drug makes you feel good, without a care in the world. This diminishes the user’s ability to make sound judgments during the trip. This may lead to the user taking more ecstasy and put them in an overdose situation. The effect of sensual arousal also tends to lead to unsafe sex amongst users as their normal good judgment is impaired.
There are many dangerous interactions between ecstasy and other drugs. Many cases of deaths have been reported when users took ecstasy along with other drugs such as Norvir, Nardil, Parnate, Aurorix, and Manerix. In addition, there are many side effects some of which last for several days and some of which may become chronic.
- Jaw clenching
- Grinding of teeth during sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth and extreme thirst
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Acne or skin rash
- Impaired vision, concentration
- Decreased drive and motivation
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Diarrhea or constipation
In addition to the typical side effects, overdoses are quite common (because the drug stays in the system for many hours after the effects have worn off). Overdose conditions include:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Panic attacks
- Abnormal increase to stimuli
- Full blown mania
- Hallucinations and disillusions
- Cognitive and memory impairment
- Delirium or insanity
- Involuntary muscle twitching
- Over reactive reflexes
- Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Server chest pain
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Destruction of blood vessels
- Damage to the heart
- Heart failure or stroke
- Organ failure
- Acute or renal kidney failure
- Liver failure
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Coma, brain damage, or death
In addition to overdose type conditions, long term use of ecstasy may result in additional conditions. Long term MDMA users are reported to have higher levels of depression and anxiety which last long after quitting the drug. Damage to memory functions which result in short term or long term verbal impairment are quite common. The duration of drug usage appears to not make much difference in how frequent the conditions occur nor the probability of them occurring. Some users have developed long problems after only taking the drug for a brief period of time.
One common danger with MDMA is that often the drug sold as ecstasy is not MDMA at all. Often the drug is cut with other substances such as talcum or ibuprofen to increase the bulk. PMA, a highly toxic hallucinogen is often sold as ecstasy. A user thinking they are taking two 120mg pills of MDMA may actually be taking a lethal dose of PMA.
Names Esctasy may go by
Candy flipping on a string
Cat in the hats
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four leaf clover
H – bomb
Hugs and Kisses
On the ball
P and P
Party and play
Speed for lovers
Tom and Jerry
West Coast turnarounds