The History of Ecstasy
The substance 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine is the proper chemical term for the stimulant drug MDMA. MDMA is more commonly known as Ecstasy among recreational users, but other common street names are XTC, E, X, Stacy and Adam. Ecstasy is a very popular recreational drug, particularly among young adult and adolescent party-goers. Over 15 million people around the world have used the drug recreationally, and the drug garners around a million new users each year. Ecstasy was first synthesized by a pharmaceutical company in Germany in 1912, at which time no specific use for the drug was specified or determined. So unlike recreational drugs which are harvested or abstracted such as marijuana or opium, Ecstasy is a synthetic drug.
After the drug was first synthesized in laboratories in the early 1900's it pretty much remained dormant and not in use either medically or recreationally, although it was rumored that the US Military made use of it in the early 1950s. In the 1970's however, a psychiatrist by the name of Alexander Shulgin began administering the drug to some of his patients. Dr. Shulgin became interested in Ecstasy because of its psychedelic properties, as he had also studied the use of a wide variety of other psychedelic drugs, usually those classified as phenethylamines. Ecstasy was then put to use as a tool in psychotherapy, but was kept low-key to prevent abuse.
Word of Ecstasy's psychoactive and stimulant properties leaked to the public soon after and recreational use of the drug began to increase at street level. During the early days of recreational use, use of Ecstasy was mostly confined to middle class professionals and small groups. This too was short lived, once it was apparent that the drug would be in high demand and bring in substantial profit. Use of the drug soon spread to a wider audience, and became a drug of choice among young adults in the night club and bar scene as well as college campuses across the nation.
Individuals who use the drug recreationally report experiencing a sense of calm, peace, euphoria and enhanced sensations and experiences with color, sound and touch. This is one of the reasons Ecstasy is nicknamed the "Love Drug". These feelings and the high users experience while on Ecstasy is primarily due to the boost in the body's reward chemical, serotonin, which occurs when someone takes the drug.
The early 1980's brought in a new era of party-goer, and thus began a subculture of house music, house parties, and weekend long parties known as "raves". Raves would typically take place in large outdoor spaces, but could also be found in dance halls, clubs, underground clubs etc. Ecstasy soon became an intrical part of this subculture, where people would gather in droves and take Ecstasy together to sustain hours or even days of partying, dancing, and other vigorous activity.
In 1985 findings from various studies reported that Ecstasy had produced long-term neurotoxic effects in laboratory animals. The Drug Enforcement Agency had become aware of Ecstasy's recreational abuse, and took advantage of these findings, making Ecstasy a Schedule I drug. This therefore made Ecstasy officially illegal. Despite the fact that the drug was made illegal almost 20 years ago, rates of use of Ecstasy have continued to rise and show no signs of slowing.
Throughout its history, Ecstasy has been and is still associated with serious physical and psychological risks, many of which can be life threatening. The most common and dangerous risk associated with Ecstasy use is overheating. Most deaths associated with Ecstasy have involved overheating and dehydration, and this is the condition that most Ecstasy users present with in emergency department visits involving the drug. Hyperthermia, dehydration, hyponatremia, seizures, hypertensive crises, cardiac arhythmias, and serotonin syndrome are all conditions and complications that are commonly reported with both short-term and long-term use of the drug.
Despite the very real risks involved with use of Ecstasy, there is still a broad misconception that Ecstasy is a safe drug to use. Much of this misconception leads back to the fact the Ecstasy was once a used in medical settings. However, what recreational users don't realize is that the Ecstasy found on the streets today is much different than that of 1912, or even 1985. In fact, Ecstasy which can be found on the streets today is typically only 10-20% pure in fact, and often contains other fillers which manufacturers use to cut the drug (to make more money). For example, MDA and PMA are drugs that are similar to Ecstasy but are far more neurotoxic. This has caused deaths in both the United States and Australia, when individuals who thought they were taking Ecstasy were actually taking these far more toxic drugs.
It is more common than one would think to come across Ecstasy tablets which contain other substances other than MDMA, such as other illegal drugs or toxic substances. Common drugs which are used in place of Ecstasy, but are sold as Ecstasy or as a filler in an Ecstasy pill are ephedrine which is a stimulant, dextromethorphan which is a cough suppressant, ketamine which is an anesthetic, or even caffeine, cocaine and methamphetamine. So Ecstasy users are always running the risk of unknowingly taking something which they think is Ecstasy but which is actually something even more cynical and dangerous. This raises the risk of serious health consequences or even death.
Because of the risks associated with its use, it must be driven home to old and young users alike that Ecstasy is not a safe drug to use and there are serious risks associated with its use. If someone becomes dependent or addicted to Ecstasy, a drug rehab program which treats Ecstasy addiction is the most effective way to overcome addiction and dependence and be able to live one's life without the drug. This is especially true if someone has been using the drug long-term, in which case they will want to consider a drug rehab program which will be adequate to address all addiction issues, such as a long-term inpatient drug rehab program.