Ecstasy is Methylene Dioxymethamphetamine, often abbreviated as MDMA. This drug is a member of the same family of drugs that include amphetamine and LSD. I once believed that ecstasy was a mixture of methamphetamine and LSD, but as I researched, I found out that it has its own chemical structure. Ecstasy is not a mixture of other drugs; it is something all its own.
Ecstasy a street drug, meaning that it is used on the street and is not prescribed by doctors. This description alone makes people biased towards ecstasy without even doing the research necessary to judge it. There are some 500,000 regular users of the drug Ecstasy in the United Kingdom alone. It can’t be all that bad, can it?
Before ecstasy was MDMA, it was MDA. MDA was first made in Germany in 1898, and was used as an appetite suppressant. It was also tested in 1941 as a relief for Parkinson’s disease, but it was dropped because one trail subject felt rigidity of the muscles. It was also dropped as an appetite suppressant at about the same time because some “strange side effects were noted”. (lec.org/DrugSearch/Documents/Ecstasy.html p.1) Although it isn’t clear what those effects were. MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, was synthesized in 1914, and was patented by the German company Merck.
MDMA gained popularity in 1972 as a legal alternative to MDA. MDMA was used in marriage counseling as a way of reducing hostility during the counseling session. The father of MDMA is Alexander Shulgin. Shulgin received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkley. From there he got a job as a research chemist with Dow Chemicals where he invented a profitable insecticide. The company wanted to reward him for such an invention that they gave him his own lab. Shulgins ambition was to find a drug that was therapeutic, and with his research at the lab, he created MDMA, which was the drug that came closest to fulfilling it. (Saunders,p.7)
During1984, while Ecstasy was still legal, you could find it at any bar in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, where you could pay for it by credit card. Ecstasy replaced cocaine as the drug of choice. Everyone seemed to be using it. It ranged from the regular drug user all the way up to people who normally kept away from drugs. “it was this public and unashamed use that resulted in the drug to be outlawed.” (Saunders,p.7)
The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was trying to outlaw Ecstasy. In 1985 a small group of people sued the DEA to try and prevent them from doing so. This small group of people failed due to the incident that had happened the year before. China White, a drug sold to heroin addicts as a legal substitute, contained a poisonous impurity that caused a form of severe brain damage.
This caused the US Congress to pass a law allowing the DEA to place an emergency ban on any drug that it felt might cause any danger to the public. MDMA was one of the drugs banned on July 1t, 1985. (Saunders p.8) The temporary ban lasted for one year only. There was a hearing set up to decided what the final word would be on Ecstasy. At the end of the case, the Judge recommended MDMA to be placed in a category that was not as restrictive. The DEA would not back down from their decision, and ignored the recommendation given by the judge. By placing MDMA in a less restrictive category it would have allowed the drug to be manufactured and to be used for research.
In 1986 a non-profit organization called The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, also known as MAPS, opened A Master File for MDMA. This complied with the prerequisite for the licensing of any new drug. By doing this it allowed MAPS to conduct research on MDMA. The FDA has approved human volunteers to be used for the research into the effects of MDMA. The trails began in 1993. (Saunders p.9)
Today Ecstasy is still considered a Class A drug: “If you are caught in possession of a Class A drug the maximum penalty is seven years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you are caught supplying a Class A drug you could be sentences for up to life in prison and given an unlimited fine.” (drugs.ort.org/jargon.htm,p.1)
We should have a better understanding of the family from which Ecstasy comes. Amphetamines are stimulants that affect the central nervous system. Amphetamines are drugs that closely resemble adrenaline. It speeds up your heart rate and often gives you a false sense of well-being. It stimulates endorphins to produce themselves at abnormal rates, which creates a feeling of satisfaction. Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD, is a hallucinogenic drug that distorts a person’s perception of reality. A person intoxicated by LSD sees and hears things that are not really there. A person may have distorted perceptions of time, distance, and gravity. Some people have what they believe to be religious experiences on LSD. (arf.org/isd/pim.lsd.html,p.2) Ecstasy is in the same family as both LSD and amphetamines because it acts simultaneously as a hallucinogen and a stimulant. (drugfeeamerica.org/ecstasy.html,p.1)
Although Ecstasy may be part of the same families as amphetamines and LSD, it has a different effect then these two drugs. Unlike amphetamines that produce an effect like drinking eight cups of coffee in a matter of one hour, or LSD in which you think you see your dead grandmother crawling up your leg with a knife. Ecstasy produces a euphoric, comfortable, relaxed state of mind. Unlike amphetamines, which are highly addictive, Ecstasy is not. Still, this drug can sometimes take on a strong importance in people’s lives. Like any other drug, if Ecstasy is taken too often, it loses its effect on the individual taking it. A person no longer experiences the euphoric feeling that Ecstasy gives off, it starts to feel like a regular amphetamine.
Ecstasy usually comes in pill form, and it takes effect twenty minutes to an hour after taking it. All your sensations are enhanced. The high is reported to be very pleasant and the high is controllable. “Even at the peak of the drug’s effect, people can easily bring themselves down to deal with an important matter.” (gmp.police.uk/highlow/drudinfo/drugs04.html,p.2) In a sense, you can take control of the drugs effects.
Ecstasy allows a person to experience empathy, peace and openness. Some even feel changes in their spiritual outlook on values. Ecstasy can be compared to the antidepressant Prozac because it allows people to “feel liberated and good about themselves, less self-conscious and able to feel emotions more clearly.” (Saunders, p.10) Barriers disappear and people don’t feel as inhibited. The drug, for example, gives many women a sense of empowerment and prejudice people a sense of freedom from their belief and stereotype of others. Of course, the effects vary from person to person.
Although Ecstasy gives you such a liberating feeling, some people feel very uncomfortable being without their normal defenses. Many report that the drug gave them a nasty headache. This happens when people resist the effect of the drug. MDMA cause serotonin to be released from particular brain cells. This affects a person’s mood, and body control. Blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature all raise. The numbers of deaths associated with Ecstasy has to do mainly with the rise in body temperature. A person can overheat themselves with the all the dancing in the overcrowded raves and dance clubs. It is recommended that a person drink water through out the high and relax themselves from time to time to avoid the overheating. There has been no sturdy evidence that Ecstasy causes any sort of brain damage as of yet.
Although Ecstasy may be considered an illegal drug, so many people believe that it can have a positive affect on a persons life. Not enough research has been done to disprove that Ecstasy can in fact be a great tool for therapy. The media has caused many to fear Ecstasy with its concentration on the deaths indirectly related to the drug, that it has closed the minds of many to see the type of positive effects it can bring. Before anyone can judge this drug, one should balance the positive effects compared to the negative. Through my research I have seen how many people believe in this drug, and their reasons for it, that it has made me a believer as well.
How Drugs Affect You: Ecstasy. 1998 Australian Drug Foundation
Drug Information. 1999 Drug-Free Resource Net, Partnershio for a Drug-Free America
1995 research trip to the USA. 1995 John Hopkins
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May 1993: 6-14