What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy (MDMA,3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. Street names for MDMA include Ecstasy, Adam, XTC, hug drug, beans, and love drug. Ecstasy is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.
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Ecstasy exerts its primary effects in the brain on neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.
MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties (“raves”), but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.
How do people use MDMA?
People who use MDMA usually take it as a capsule or tablet, though some swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder. The popular nickname Molly (slang for “molecular”) often refers to the supposedly “pure” crystalline powder form of MDMA, usually sold in capsules. However, people who purchase powder or capsules sold as Molly often actually get other drugs such as synthetic cathinone (“bath salts”) instead.
Some people take MDMA in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana.
How does MDMA affect the brain?
MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:
Dopamine—produces increased energy/activity and acts in the reward system to reinforce behaviors
Norepinephrine—increases heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with heart and blood vessel problems
Serotonin—affects mood, appetite, sleep, and other functions. It also triggers hormones that affect sexual arousal and trust. The release of large amounts of serotonin likely causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA.
Other health effects include:
involuntary teeth clenching
MDMA’s effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:
impulsiveness and aggression
memory and attention problems
decreased interest in and pleasure from sex
It’s possible that some of these effects may be due to the combined use of MDMA with other drugs, especially marijuana.