MDMA is the abbreviation for 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is commonly known as Ecstasy, E, XTC, Clarity or the Love Drug. MDMA is a completely synthetic drug, first created by the German pharmaceutical company Merck in 1912 for use as an appetite suppressant. During the 1980s, MDMA become popular as a recreational drug, and its use has grown since then. MDMA is a pyschoactive stimulant and has effects on the brain similar to other stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Several side effects result from MDMA use, ranging from mild to potentially life-threatening.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Because MDMA is a stimulant, immediate side effects include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can be very dangerous for people with underlying cardiovascular health problems. Other effects include uncontrollable muscle clenching, which often results in teeth-clenching or eye twitching. A skin rash similar to acne may also result from ingestion of MDMA.
Effects on Mood
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Ingestion of MDMA causes the release of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, which results in an immediate high. This disruption of the brain's normal serotonin levels can lead to confusion, anxiety, paranoia and sleep problems.
Effects on Mental Ability
Excessive use of MDMA has been shown to damage the serotonin receptors in the brain, reports Drugs.com 2. This brain damage is linked to long-term occurrence of flashbacks and panic attacks and may cause psychosis and personality disorders. Recent tests have shown that long-term MDMA users also exhibit persistent problems with memory recall.
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In rare cases, MDMA use can cause rapid peaks in body temperature. When this occurs in the hot, crowded conditions of a club or rave, severe dehydration and heart or kidney failure may result. Some fatalities have been linked to MDMA use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 1.
- In rare cases, MDMA use can cause rapid peaks in body temperature.
- Some fatalities have been linked to MDMA use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 1.
Users of MDMA may become physically dependent on and addicted to MDMA. One survery found that 43 percent of MDMA users showed signs of dependence, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse 1. Withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, depression, fatigue and problems concentrating.
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- National Institute on Drug Abuse: MDMA (Ecstasy)
- Drugs.com: MDMA
- Washington University Neuroscience for Kids: What is Ecstasy (MDMA)
- National Drug Intelligence Center: Other Dangerous Drugs
- de la Torre R, Farré M, Roset PN, et al. Pharmacology of MDMA in humans. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;914:225-37. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb05199.x
- Logan BK, Costantino AG, Rieders EF, Sanders D. Trazodone, meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (an hallucinogenic drug and trazodone metabolite), and the hallucinogen trifluoromethylphenylpiperazine cross-react with the EMIT®II ecstasy immunoassay in urine. J Anal Toxicol. 2010;34(9):587-9. doi:10.1093/jat/34.9.587
- Baggott MJ, Garrison KJ, Coyle JR, et al. MDMA impairs response to water intake in healthy volunteers. Adv Pharmacol Sci. 2016;2016:2175896. doi:10.1155/2016/2175896
- Abraham TT, Barnes AJ, Lowe RH, et al. Urinary MDMA, MDA, HMMA, and HMA excretion following controlled MDMA administration to humans. J Anal Toxicol. 2009;33(8):439-46. doi:10.1093/jat/33.8.439
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Drugs of Abuse Testing. Lab Tests Online. 2018.
- Barnes AJ, Scheidweiler KB, Kolbrich-Spargo EA, Gorelick DA, Goodwin RS, Huestis MA. MDMA and metabolite disposition in expectorated oral fluid after controlled oral MDMA administration. Ther Drug Monit. 2011;33(5):602-8. doi:10.1097/FTD.0b013e3182281975
- Kalant H. The pharmacology and toxicology of "ecstasy" (MDMA) and related drugs. CMAJ. 2001;165(7):917-28.
- Kolbrich EA, Goodwin RS, Gorelick DA, Hayes RJ, Stein EA, Huestis MA. Physiological and subjective responses to controlled oral 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine administration. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2008;28(4):432-40. doi:10.1097/JCP.0b013e31817ef470
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. MDMA Ecstasy/Molly. Drug Facts. June 2018.
- Palamar JJ. There's something about Molly: The underresearched yet popular powder form of ecstasy in the United States. Subst Abus. 2017;38(1):15-17. doI:10.1080/08897077.2016.1267070
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.