One of the most popular (by which we mean widespread) recreational psychoactive drugs available today, MDMA is the chemical substance that people buy ‘ecstasy’ for.
MDMA was first synthesised in 1912 as the by-product of experiments into coagulant drugs (stopping abnormal bleeding). The original chemist had no idea what he had created, and had no interest in it only patenting it as part of the final research.
It wasn’t until many years later in 1978 that a university professor in the United States published a paper on the drugs psychotropic properties and the ’emotional and sensual overtones’ of its use by humans. MDMA works by triggering the release into the blood of massive amounts of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. This gives the body both a massive rush of energy (there is often caffeine in the pills also) as well as euphoric, empathetic experiences coming in ‘waves’ as the pills are metabolised. It is common to top up the experience with more pills as the effect wears of but the metabolism is slow, meaning that the toxicity on the blood increases exponentially and quickly. That said, there are remarkably few deaths attributed to MDMA / ecstasy use alone. The serious danger is presented by other ingredients in the pills which may be toxic and dehydration / over-hydration.
Eventually becoming known as ‘Adam’ when it hit the US nightclub scene, it wasn’t long before MDMA / ecstasy crossed the Atlantic and became the drug of choice in the late 1980’s rave culture, even though it was made illegal in 1977 as a modification of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Even though MDMA / ecstasy use in on the decline in the UK, penalties for its possession are still high. Seven years jail and unlimited fines are the standard.
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