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MDMA(Ecstasy)

(C11H15NO2)

(3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)

The basics

MDMA (also commonly known as Ecstacy, X, E, XTC, Adam, etc.) is a semi-synthetic chemical compound. In its pure form, it is a white crystalline powder. It usually seen in capsule form, in pressed pills, or as loose powder. Average cost ranges from $10-$30 (U.S.) a dose. Common routes of administration are swallowing or snorting, although it can be smoked or injected as well. Currently, MDMA is on the U.S. Schedule I of controlled substances, and is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell in the United States. Most other countries have similar laws. According to Nicholas Saunders (1993), "MDMA was patented as long ago as 1913 by the German company Merck. [...] The patent doesn't mention uses." See PIHKAL (Shulgin & Shulgin 1991) or Shulgin 1986 for more history, including how Alexander Shulgin brought the drug to the attention of psychotherapists in the 1970s.

MDMA is *chemically* an amphetamine, but psychologically its whats known as an empathogen-entactogen. There is some amphetamine stimulant quality left, which enhances the empathogenic quality. The empathogenic quality is basically the ability to communicate things to others, and the ability to feel empathy towards others. Its sort of an "external" quality, that opens lines of communication. The stimulating quality and the empathogenic effect are what most recreational users seem to be after. The entactogenic effect, on the other hand, is an internal quality. Its a sense that the world is sort of "and okay place to be" (that sounds kinda stupid but its hard to describe... kinda like daily affirmation with Stuart Smalley only its a genuine feeling...).

Because MDMA is so popular and because it goes well with dance parties, the demand for it usually exceeds supply--especially at any given location on any given night. This creates an opening for unscrupulous individuals to sell virtually anything as 'ecstasy'. While 'ecstasy' is the popular name for MDMA, the functional definition of ecstasy is any pill represented as MDMA on the street. Ecstasy pills are notoriously unreliable in content, more so than most other street drugs, and commonly contain either caffeine, ephedrine, amphetamines, MDA, MDE, DXM, or--in rare cases--DOB, and don't necessarily contain MDMA or any psychoactive. This problem has led to the development of simple MDMA testing kits that may help give the user a general sense of the content of a pill.

Dosage

A standard oral dose of MDMA is between 80 - 150 mg. Most good quality pills contain somewhere in this range, generally 80-120 mg. A large percentage of users find that, unlike with many other psychoactives such as LSD or mushrooms, there is a 'sweet spot' in MDMA dosage. Once this spot is found, higher dosages are not particularly desirable as they don't increase the sought after effects or duration.

Onset: Depending on how much and how recently one has eaten, MDMA generally takes 30-60 minutes (although sometimes as long as 2 hours) to take effect. Unlike with many other psychoactives, the onset of MDMA is very quick. Often at the point one realizes that perhaps they are starting to notice effects, they are already 'launching' quickly towards the peak. This quick and extremely sharp 'launch' can be unnerving, feeling a bit like it's too quick and hard to know when it's going to end, but the feeling generally only lasts a few minutes until the full effects are reached.

Duration: 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, but which is not strong enough to be considered 'tripping'. 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.

The Experience: When the full effects of MDMA manifest, barring an uncommon negative reaction, users are likely to find that suddenly everything is right with the world. The primary effects sought by those using MDMA recreationally are the emotional openness, euphoria, stimulation, reduction of critical and cynical thoughts, and decrease of inhibitions that can accompany its use. MDMA is used by some individuals in a therapeutic setting to attempt to work through difficult interpersonal issues. Although MDMA can cause nystagmus (eye wiggles), most individuals experience few prominent open or closed eye visuals. A small percentage of users report significant visual distortions.

The Crash: Some users of MDMA experience a dramatic worsening of mood as the peak effects wear off, often called the "crash". This is often the result of coming down from a wonderful experience, not wanting the feelings to go away, and being sad, scared, or annoyed afterwards. Crashes do not happen after every experience and some users never experience them. One of the primary problems associated with crashing is that some users find themselves redosing in order to stave it off.

Hangover and the Week After: Many users report feeling extremely drained the day after MDMA use. This 'day after' effect means for many MDMA users that they need to plan 2 days for the experience: one for the peak experience and one recovery day, with very little planned. Many users also experience some level of post-MDMA depression, often starting on the second day after the experience and lasting for up to 5 days. A small percentage of users report depressive symptoms for weeks afterwards. Alternately, some users report feeling better than normal for a week or so after taking MDMA. The negative after-effects of taking MDMA appear to be worse with higher frequencies of use, higher dosages, and perhaps total lifetime usage.

"The magic"

Many users report that their enjoyment of MDMA seems to decrease as total lifetime usage increases. Some users report that E 'loses its magic' with as few as 10 experiences, while others have reported hundreds of uses before the empathic qualities fades or disappears.

Increased Negative Effects: Most users stop taking E because of either an increased awareness or an actual increase in negative side effects during use, a reduced quality of the high, and increases in the post-MDMA depression and day after hangover.

Increasing Dosage: Most users report that when using more than once a month, or merely over increased total lifetime use, they need to increase the dosage in order to get positive effects with MDMA. Increased dosage is associated with increased side effects, hangover, and week-after depression.

Neurotoxicity: There is an ongoing debate about the possible neurotoxicity of MDMA. 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 & increases in depression and anxiety, but these studies have not been completely verified and debate continues. This is a very complicated issue.