MDMA or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is also known as Ecstasy, E, X, or XTC, is a psychoactive drug in the amphetamine class. MDMA can cause feelings of euphoria (extreme happiness), empathy (closeness to others) and can lessen anxiety. Bad side effects, that often get worse with higher doses and regular use, include insomnia (inability to sleep), jaw clenching and depression. MDMA has been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and its use during therapy is currently being investigated all over the world. In most countries, MDMA is an illegal drug under a United Nations agreement. Possessing, making or selling MDMA in these countries could result in criminal prosecution and a possible prison term. It is one of the most widely used recreational drugs in the world, and is often associated with rave parties and electronic dance music.
MDMA has many effects on the human body and brain. It makes the brain release the chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. During MDMA use the body also makes more of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin.
Mental and psychological effects [change]
- Euphoria (sense of extreme happiness)
- Less negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and fear
- Increased sociability (wanting to talk to and be with other people)
- Feelings of empathy and closeness to others
- Improved sense of touch
- A sense of understanding, thoughtfulness and introspection
- Increased appreciation of music (often coupled with a strong urge to dance)
Effects on the body (physiological) [change]
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Higher body temperature and sweating.
- Pupils get much bigger (pupil dilation)
- Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
- Difficulty urinating
- Men may find it difficult to get an erection
All these effects together can make MDMA dangerous to use. The change in body temperature and the urge to dance for hours on end can make users dehydrate if not enough water is drunk during this time (an example of dehydration and hyperthermia). Lots of dancing can also put pressure on the heart; people with existing heart conditions are vulnerable to this.
Around 1 person dies out of every million that use MDMA. Mostly this is due to overheating and dehydration. However it is possible to drink too much water (called hyponatremia), swelling the brain and causing death. Many people have died from this after taking MDMA. Another factor is the hormone vasopressin, which is released during MDMA use. Vasopressin restricts the body's urge to urinate, which helps to get rid of excess liquid in the body before it becomes a problem.
Legal Use [change]
Ecstasy is illegal in the United States and was called a "Schedule I" drug. Schedule I drugs have no medical value and are highly addictive. Today, some people consider Ecstasy a "Schedule III" drug, because it can be used in therapy. Ectstasy has been shown to reduce fear, and would therefore be useful in psychotherapy, for pain relief (in patients with cancer) or for other mild forms of mental illnesses.
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