MDMA and the effects the drug has on a person
MDMA (methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), also known as ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that has similarities to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline (Baselt, 2011). It causes one to experience feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others. It also causes distortions in a person’s sensory and time perception (Baselt, 2011). MDMA was initially popular among white adolescents and young adults in the nightclub scene or at “raves” (long dance parties), but the drug now affects a broader range of users and ethnicities (Koellhoffer, 2008). Methylenedioxyamphetamine, or MDA, is a drug closely related to Ecstasy. Merck, a drug company, first created MDA in Germany in 1910 (Gijsman, Verkes, Van Gerven, & Cohen, 1999). Some people believe it was sold as an appetite suppressant, but many historians consider this a myth. MDMA was produced in 1912. In the years after it was first synthesized, MDMA was largely ignored. That was because of the outbreak of World War I, which forced the pharmaceutical industry to focus on drugs and other chemicals that could aid the war effort. In 1941, scientists tested MDA as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, but it caused muscle stiffness in at least one of the patients involved in the experiment, so the study was discontinued. Still, scientists continued to experiment with MDA and the drugs related to it, including MDMA (Gijsman, Verkes, Van Gerven, & Cohen, 1999). In the 1950s, the U.S. military briefly considered MDMA as a possibility in its search for a “truth serum” that could make interrogations easier. MDMA was first used not as a recreational drug but as an aid in psychotherapy although without the support of clinical trial research or FDA approval. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Administration labeled MDMA a Schedule I substance, or a drug with high abuse potential and no recognized medicinal use (United Nations, 2004). Some researchers remain interested in its potential therapeutic value when administered under carefully monitored conditions. It is currently in clinical trials as a possible pharmacotherapy aid to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety in terminal cancer patients (Rosenbaum & Doblin, 1991). MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. Its effects last usually 3 to 6 hours. However it is not uncommon for users to take a second dose of the drug when the effects of the first dose start to fade away. It is commonly taken in combination with other drugs. For example some urban gay and bisexual men report using MDMA as part of a multiple-drug experience that includes cocaine, GHB, methamphetamine, ketamine, and the erectile-dysfunction drug sildenafil (Viagra) (Koellhoffer, 2008). MDMA acts by increasing the activity of three neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (Buchert, Thomasius, Nebeling, Petersen, Obrocki, Jenicke, Wilke, Wartberg, Zapletalova, & Clausen, 2003). The emotional and pro-social effects of MDMA are likely caused directly or indirectly by the release of large amounts of serotonin, which influences mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin also triggers the release of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin. These play important roles with love, trust, sexual arousal, and other social experiences (Buchert, Thomasius, Nebeling, Petersen, Obrocki, Jenicke, Wilke, Wartberg, Zapletalova, & Clausen, 2003). This may account for the characteristic feelings of emotional closeness and empathy produced by the drug; studies in both rats and humans have shown that MDMA raises the levels of these hormones(Buchert, Thomasius, Nebeling, Petersen, Obrocki, Jenicke, Wilke, Wartberg, Zapletalova, & Clausen, 2003). The surge of serotonin caused by taking MDMA depletes the brain of this important chemical, however, causing negative after effects including confusion, depression,...
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