What is MDMA
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is an illegal, synthetic drug referred to on the street as Molly, the powder or crystals often used in capsules or Ecstasy, the pill or tablet form (MDMA: Everything You Need to Know, 2018). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), MDMA acts both as a stimulant and hallucinogen which produces energy; yet, it can alter both time and perception (Ecstasy, 2018). MDMA is mostly used as a recreational or party drug which is known to elevate feelings of euphoria, enhanced pleasure and allows users to be more empathetic with others. Although MDMA can be snorted or smoked, it is commonly taken orally, in pill form (NIDA, 2018). MDMA is thought to have the stimulation effects of methamphetamine, as well as the halogenic effects of mescaline (Ecstasy, 2018).
The Creation of MDMA
MDMA has been in existence since the beginning of WWI and patented in 1914, by Merck, a German pharmaceutical company hoping it could prevent blood clots but, since it was proven ineffective, it was overlooked until 1953, when an Army Chemical Center began testing its toxicity by giving it to animals. In 1976, MDMA was reported and published by Alexander Shulgin as a psychoactive drug to humans upon ingesting it himself. Before the publication, it was said that MDMA had surfaced underground and was quickly banned because of the threat of it becoming another street drug such as its predecessor, LSD (Eisner, 2013). After being considered to have no medical use and a high potential for misuse, the United States listed MDMA as a Schedule I drug in 1985, making it illegal for any type of use.
Uses of MDMA
An in-depth study of MDMA users in the United States revealed that the majority were employed college graduates living in large metro areas with an annual income under $40,000.00. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported over seventeen million Americans reported having used ecstasy with the highest use being those between 18-25 years old (MacLauren, 2017). Ecstasy became popular among partygoers early 1991 in the United States once English rave promoters and DJ’s began surfacing in California. Among the largest raves was in San Francisco by a group called Toontown (Eisner, 2013). The rave culture was notorious for using MDMA, as well as other psychedelics.
MDMA is used in raves and other party scenes as a means to enhance interpersonal skills and to better enable the user to relate to and communicate with others. It has also been said that MDMA can increase the user’s empathy and affection by releasing serotonin and norepinephrine while producing subjective prosocial feelings (Hysek, et al., 2014).
Effects of MDMA
Within about forty-five minutes of consumption, the user may begin feeling the effects of MDMA. Some of these effects can include but, are not limited to a sense of self-confidence, heightened sociability, emotional warmth, compassion towards others and a willingness to exchange emotional reminiscences (Bershad, Miller, Baggott, & de Witt, 2016). According to a study carried out to evaluate the changes of a person’s perception of others based on looks and behavior after using MDMA, it was noted that upon use of a single dose, the individuals experienced increased level of trustworthiness and increased empathy (Bershad, Miller, Baggott, & de Witt, 2016).
Although, these side effects may seem pleasurable and harmless, MDMA can also produce adverse effects. Based on research gathered from eighty-eight PubMed articles, it was noted that thirty-three articles concluded the following:
Preclinical and clinical molecular imaging studies on the effects of ecstasy/MDMA use administration on neurotransmitter systems show quite consistent alterations of the 5-HT system. Particularly, in human studies, loss of SERT binding was observed in heavy ecstasy users, which might reflect 5-HT neurotoxicity, although alternative explanations (e.g. down-regulation of the SERT) cannot be excluded (Vegting, Reneman, & Booij, 2016).
MDMA, in some cases have been known to increase the heartrate, cause profuse sweating (which could lead to dehydration), Excessive sweating and dehydration could cause the individual to overheat, convulse and/or seize. The increase in the body’s temperature could lead to organ failure and in some cases, death. It has also been reported that some users clench their teeth and have chills. Frequent users of MDMA have reported withdrawal symptoms including depression, fatigue, suppressed appetites and difficulty thinking. Since most MDMA users are polydrug users, it is difficult to estimate how many deaths are solely related to the use of MDMA. Although the United States does not track MDMA related deaths, it was reported that the first death was believed to have occurred in 1987, and in 2009, the United States reported that MDMA was responsible for about fifty years per year. However, since the use of MDMA has increased, the number of deaths may have also increased (Rigg & Sharp, 2018)
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