Ecstasy, X, XTC, Adam, Pills, Love doves. MDMA is a
synthetic, psychoactive (mind altering) drug with amphetamine-like and
hallucinogenic properties. It has the same effects of energizing both mind and
body and decreasing appetite as do amphetamine and other stimulants. However,
instead of an energizing euphoria, MDMA users experience a warm empathy to
those surrounding them.
Chemical ecstasy is known as
methylene-dioxymethamphetamine, usually referred to as MDMA. It is one of a
huge family of related drugs from the MDA family which fall between
hallucinogens (like LSD) and the amphetamine family. It comes in small tablets
that may have a picture on them such as a dove, a hammer and sickle, or a
diamond. It was originally made in the 1930s as an experimental amphetamine
but disappeared for many years, mainly unstudied, until the 1980s when it made
a comeback: psychotherapists found that the empathy it produced could be
useful in couples' therapy. During the 80s, recreational use of MDMA increased,
and in 1986 it was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the DEA.
In the 90s MDMA was embraced by the underground rave scene, where users take
ecstasy and dance all night.
MDMA causes a feeling of empathy, openness and caring, as well as a
decrease in defensiveness, fear, aggression and obsession. MDMA also decreases
sexual behavior. While it does not cause overt hallucinations, many users
report distorted time perception while under the influence of MDMA. It also
causes amphetamine-like hyperactivity.
Similarly to amphetamines, MDMA causes classic
signs of the stimulation of the fight-or-flight syndrome: heart rate and blood
pressure are increased, the muscles of the breathing tubes (bronchioles)
dilate, pupils dilate and blood flow to muscles increases. Body temperature
rises, and users tend to become dehydrated. They also may suffer from jaw
clenching or teeth grinding.
Euphoria, blood pressure, appetite and attention
are all regulated by a related group of neurotransmitters: the biogenic amines
or monoamine neurotransmitters. Normally, these sensations are caused when
neurons communicate with each other and fire impulses through the brain via the
neurotransmittors. Monoamine neurotransmittors release their
neurotransmittors into the synaptic cleft and act on their receptors. What
MDMA does can be explained by its ability to increase the levels of the
monoamine neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the
synapse. It dumps them into the synapse in quantities much larger than those
seen with cocaine, but it releases much more serotonin and much less dopamine
than do amphetamines. This explains the decrease in aggressiveness, the
increase in body temperature and the relatively low addiction potential.
At high doses (two to three times greater than a
single dose), MDMA users experience jitteriness and teeth clenching, as well as
other signs of overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. MDMA has
caused a number of deaths when it was used in conjunction with high levels of
physical activity (such as dancing). Death is usually typical of stimulation
overdose, with greatly increased body temperature, hypertension, and kidney
drug warriors ·
$400bn business ·
Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson. Buzzed : the straight facts about the most used and abused drugs
from alcohol to ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
"hallucinogen" Britannica.com. Vers. 2001
1999-2001. Encyclopædia Britannica.
1 Sep. 2000
"MDMA (Ecstacy)" NIDA Infofax. 2001. http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/ecstasy.html (1 Sep. 2000).
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