Ecstasy, or MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a drug that is similar to amphetamine in chemical structure and in some of its effects. However, it also has some hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy is not as strong a stimulant as amphetamine, nor as strong an hallucinogen as LSD. In its original form, ecstasy is a white, bitter-tasting oil. Ecstasy is usually available in tablet form, sometimes in capsules. Tablets vary in colour, size and design. Ecstasy is usually taken orally, though occasionally it is injected. Derivatives of MDMA are often sold as ecstasy. These include MDA, MDEA ("Eve"), and PMA. Ecstasy tablets may contain varying mixtures of MDMA and related drugs (including amphetamine) as well various other substances. Many ecstasy pills contain little or no MDMA.
Ecstasy is usually produced in back-street laboratories in a number of European countries. It is sold mainly as tablets on which there are different logos or designs. Sometimes ecstasy tablets can also contain other drugs and substances.
It was originally developed as an appetite suppresent by a German chemical company in 1914. Little did they know that it would become a popular and very dangerous drug.
Like other stimulants, ecstasy causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. It can also lead to increased confidence and to euphoria. Ecstasy's most characteristic effect is a feeling of closeness to and empathy with other people and a heightened sense of touch. Clenching of the jaw and grinding the teeth are also common effects. Ecstasy can also cause nausea, anxiety, hallucinations and paranoia as well as profuse sweating, a tingling feeling and blurred vision. High doses of ecstasy can cause vomiting, convulsions and kidney failure. Overdose is characterised by very high temperatures and blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat and hallucinations.
There is little evidence on the effects of long-term ecstasy use. Users build up a tolerance quite readily, and the undesirable effects of the drug increase with time. This appears to discourage chronic, heavy use. There is some evidence that ecstasy may cause liver damage and possibly damage to brain cells. Ecstasy-related deaths appear to result from three causes: heart attack and stroke caused by the stimulant effect; overheating; and dilutional hyponatremia, where a person's brain "drowns" from excess fluid intake.
Ecstasy users can feel more alert and in tune with their surroundings. They feel happy and calm and have a warm feeling towards other people. Sounds, colours and emotions are more intense. Users have more energy which allows them to dance for long periods of time.
Side-effects - Body temperature, blood pressure and heart-rate can rise. Other physical effects include muscle pain, nausea, jaw stiffness and teeth grinding. Some users experience severe sweating, tremors and palpitations. Users can feel dehydrated, confused and tired.
Most legal drugs are tested on animals first, but ecstasy users are human guinea pigs. Already research shows that regular weekend users experience a mid-week 'crash' that can leave them feeling tired and depressed, often for days. It could be years before we know the long-term effects but some users may be at risk of developing mental health problems later in life. Deaths from ecstasy are quite rare, but can be due to heatstroke, heart attacks or asthma attacks.
Ecstasy is illegal throughout Europe. There are serious penalties for possessing, using, producing or trafficking in ecstasy.
Common Street Names
E, doves, 'E's, ease, X, Mitsubishis, yokes, shamrocks, Adam, XTC, eccies, the love drug, the hug drug, disco biscuits.