Ecstasy, also known as Molly and MDMA, is the common name for a popular type of club drug, also taken at festivals and large parties. Ecstasy is sometimes referred to by various street names – such as Mitsubishi, Dollar, Tweety, etc. – after the symbols imprinted on the tablets that are sold.

The active ingredient in ecstasy is MDMA (shorthand for its chemical name, methylenedioxymethamphetamine), which is a synthetic derivative of amphetamines. This substance has stimulant, empathomimetic, and hallucinogenic effects. It is sold in tablet form, or as a powder that can be snorted or smoked, after diluting with water. However, laboratory tests from around the world reveal that sometimes this product, which is sold as a club drug, contains various other substances, including an array of stimulants, caffeine, cocaine, heroin, ephedrine (a drug that reduces swelling), anesthetics such as ketamine, and other substances.

Ecstasy that is swallowed usually starts to take effect about 45 minutes after ingestion. The effect of the drug lasts for about 30 minutes to 3 hours, but the various side effects can last for several days, especially for those who take a second dose after the effect of the first dose begins to fade.

A bit of history

  MDMA was developed in 1912 as a medicine to stop abnormal bleeding by a German pharmaceutical company. Although the substance was never approved for human use by the US Food and Drug Administration, in the 1970s psychiatrists in the US began using it during therapy sessions to improve communication with patients, in order to help their patients open up and to gain insight into their problems. Around that time MDMA began popping up on the street and was sold as a street drug, but only in the mid-1980s did the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ban its use and sale, adding it to the list of substances with no accepted medical uses. In the 1990s, the FDA approved studies to examine the possibility of using MDMA for pain relief in terminally ill cancer patients. In recent years, there has also been much research into the efficacy of MDMA-supported psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While this research is still underway, in 2018 the US Food and Drug Administration declared that this treatment may have breakthrough potential for this disorder. To date, however, there is still no clinical indication for using MDMA to treat medical conditions.  

Why do people use ecstasy?  

  The use of ecstasy as a club drug began in the 1990s at raves – that is, large-scale dance parties that took place in nightclubs or outdoors, and that were often called nature parties, trance parties, or acid parties. These dance parties were often over 24-hours long, with a DJ who played repetitive electronic music (such as trance, house, techno, etc.), and with visual effects, such as huge video screens that projected graphic configurations and laser light shows, which were all part of the experience. Ecstasy became integral to this club culture because its effects suited the atmosphere of these large parties well – in particular, its stimulant, entactogenic and hallucinogenic properties, along with its tendency to induce euphoria, relaxation and arousal. In recent years, several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of using MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is known as MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, which is carried out by conducting intensive psychotherapy while the patient is under the influence of MDMA. It is important to note that this experimental treatment is given under strict adherence to set dosages in a supervised medical setting.  

What are the adverse health effects of ecstasy?  

  MDMA has multiple effects, many of which have severe physical and mental consequences: Effects on the brain: Ecstasy increases the production and secretion of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which affect mood, sleep, appetite, and sensitivity to pain. But this increased production and secretion of serotonin, for example, may later, after the drug is metabolized, cause a decrease in the production of the neurotransmitter, along with various other side effects in the days after use, such as memory loss and depression. Short-term physical effects: The use of ecstasy in hot environments coupled with intense physical activity can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as hyperthermia, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, kidney damage, heart damage and death. Other side effects include hallucinations, irrational thoughts, nausea, hot flashes, chills, pain and excessive sweating. In the past, there were quite a few documented cases of death by dehydration due to the use of ecstasy. In the hours after using ecstasy, the user may have difficulty performing complex tasks, such as driving a car, which can, of course, lead to traffic accidents. In addition, ecstasy toxicity can lead to increased blood pressure and metabolic disorders. Use of high doses: Ecstasy consumption at high doses can disrupt heart activity and cause arrhythmias, which are life-threatening. On the emotional level, frequent use can lead to depression, anxiety attacks, aggressive and impulsive behavior, and memory loss. Other common effects include sleep disorders, loss of appetite, and trouble concentrating.  

Is ecstasy addictive?  

  The research data indicates that regular use of MDMA induces changes in serotonin and dopamine production and their effects. In addition, there have been reports of users with various symptoms of addiction, such as the strong urge to continue using despite understanding that the drug causes damage and jeopardizes health, the development of tolerance and the desire for increased dosages, as well as withdrawal symptoms and cravings. As noted above, in addition to MDMA, which is classified as a hallucinogenic drug, what is sold as ecstasy often includes a number of other substances, often stimulants that are addictive in and of themselves.

 

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Did you know?

  Ecstasy takes effect about 45 minutes after swallowing. The effect lasts for about 30 minutes to 3 hours.

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