MDMA, or Ecstasy, was first made in a lab in Germany in 1912. The German pharmaceutical company E. Merck patented it in 1914, not as a medicine, but as a chemical for making more useful drugs later on. MDMA was forgotten until 1953, when the United States Army funded a secret University of Michigan study to develop chemical weapons. After learning that MDMA was non-toxic, the government put it back on the shelf. Rumor says that the drug was tested for mind control purposes, or as a “truth drug”, but there is not actual evidence of that.
In 1978, Alexander Shulgin wrote a book detailing the MDMA experience called Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved: A Chemical Love Story. Many psychiatrists took Shulgin’s findings seriously enough to combine MDMA with sessions with their patients’ normal therapy.
In the early ’80s, MDMA made its way from the doctor’s office to the dance floor from a Texas entrepreneur who synthesized the drug in a lab. He re-named it “Ecstasy” and sold it for $20 a hit—legally—in Dallas-Fort Worth clubs. But, the Drug Enforcement Agency worked quickly to outlaw MDMA, and Ecstasy officially became an illegal drug in 1985.
What Ecstasy does is simple. It combines two opposite effects, stimulation and relaxation, but in also provides a small quality of empathy. Psychotherapist RD Laing took MDMA in Esalen, California, in 1984 when it was still legal. He said, “It made me feel how all of us would like to feel we are anyway . . . smooth and open hearted, not soggy, sentimental or stupid.” Another psychologist described it as providing a “brief, fleeting moment of sanity”. Most people describe the feeling like being in love. The most common feelings experienced are empathy, openness, peace and caring. However, there have been cases in which the user has a decrease in defensiveness, fear or paranoia, sense of separation from others, aggression, and obsessive behavior.
Side effects of Ecstasy can range from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening physical and emotional reactions. Your temperature goes up when you take Ecstasy, like a fever. Dancing in a hot warehouse doesn’t help your body cool off, so it’s no surprise that one of the most common Ecstasy-related injuries is heatstroke. Along with high body temperature, you sweat and urinate a lot if you take Ecstasy. Ecstasy can also cause muscle tension, teeth clenching, anxiety, paranoia and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.
The results of using Ecstasy over a long period of time are unclear and controversial. Because the drug affects serotonin, it’s hard to say how Ecstasy will affect its users in the future because researchers have just begun to understand serotonin. Ecstasy users say that when you come down, you’ll likely feel depressed. This dip in mood, sometimes called “Terrible Tuesday,” “Blue Tuesday” or “Suicide Tuesday”, can last anywhere from a few hours to a week. Since you’ve used an enormous amount of serotonin in a short period of time and your body has to catch-up.
Medical research points to the possibility that Ecstasy may cause permanent changes in your brain’s ability to regulate mood and may affect memory. There also is evidence that people who develop a rash that looks like acne after taking ecstasy, could be at risk for liver damage. One of the worst fears about Ecstasy is that it may be causing permanent brain damage to users without them being aware of it. Researchers say that that the drug destroys nerve endings or synapses, and that eventually users will suffer from depression and senile dementia, the loss of memory and confusion that affects some old people, but at an earlier age.
What scientists have been looking for is not a tranquilizer, an upper or a downer but a “stabilizer”, and many psychotherapists believe that MDMA is the answer. Psychotherapists say MDMA helped clients to become open and honest in a way that allowed them have experiences that they could remember afterwards. For some women, taking Ecstasy and dancing has replaced aerobics because it has the same effect but is more fun. Dancing for hours without eating or drinking alcohol is an ideal way to lose weight and keep fit. Ecstasy can also be used as an aid to drawing, writing, playing music, singing or other artistic activities. They say the effect of the drug is to open up the artist to a “broader perspective.” People often use Ecstasy while practicing yoga and tai chi. People also use X to fix relationships. Taking Ecstasy together has been called a “marriage saver”. The experience can break through barriers built up over many years. This drug maybe great for awhile, but then comes the after effects which can last quite a long time.