Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA),commonly known as ecstasy is a psychoactive drug used primarily as a recreational drug. When used as a recreational drug, desired effects include increased empathy, euphoria, and heightened sensations. These effects begin after 30–45 minutes and last 3–6 hours. As of 2017, ecstasy has no approved medical uses.

Adverse effects of this addicting drug include memory problems, paranoia, difficulty sleeping, teeth grinding, blurred vision, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat. Use may also lead to depression and fatigue. Deaths have been reported due to increased body temperature and dehydration.

 To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.

“Ecstasy was nice. In small doses it made you kind of happier,” Terry said. “Weed just takes away the pain, but ecstasy was nice ’cause it didn’t take away the pain per se, but it just made you smile more.”

To achieve these effects, ecstasy increases the release and slows the re-uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in parts of the brain. It has stimulant and psychedelic effects. The initial increase is followed by a short-term decrease in the neurotransmitters.

“Your teeth usually grind.. But I foamed at the mouth. I don’t think everyone reacts the same, that was just a personal reaction,” Terry said.

This drug was first made in 1912. It was used to improve psychotherapy beginning in the 1970s and became popular as a street drug in the 1980s. It is commonly associated with dance parties, raves, and electronic dance music. It is often sold mixed with other substances such as ephedrine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine.

Ecstasy is generally illegal in most countries. Limited exceptions are sometimes made for research. Researchers are investigating whether MDMA may assist in treating severe, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In November 2016, phase 3 clinical trials for PTSD were approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assess effectiveness and safety. In 2017 the FDA granted MDMA a breakthrough therapy designation for PTSD meaning if studies show promise a review for potential medical use could occur more quickly.

Read the introduction and other stories in our series “Hello, My Name is Drugs” at this link.