What is it?
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) can come as powder/crystals (MD, Mandy) or in tablets as ecstasy (pills).
It was discovered 100 years ago but has become popular with it’s connection to dance and clubbing culture since the late 1980s.
Why do people take it?
It produces a feeling of closeness to other people and the desire to dance, usually taking 30-60 minutes to “come up” with effects lasting for a few hours. It is often taken at parties or clubs where there is dance music playing. It may have therapeutic value and has been researched as a treatment to help in couples therapy and post traumatic stress disorder amongst others.
Is it addictive?
There is no known physical withdrawal symptoms and it does not tend to produce addiction. This contrasts greatly with mephedrone, ketamine and GHB which seem to have far greater addictive potential. However 1000 people seeking drug dependency treatment in the UK cite MDMA as the main drug they abuse.
Occasionally people do take ecstasy on a daily basis, such as this case reported in the Guardian, but it is rare. If taken regularly the positive effects of the drug diminish and the “come down” and rebound depression and anxiety a few days later (“tuesday blues”, “suicide monday”, etc) get worse. Most people take this as a sign that their body has had enough for the time being, and take a break from using.
Is it harmful?
People may be vulnerable due to their altered state when taking the drug. Overheating can be a problem, particularly in hot nightclubs or where there is restricted access to water.
Although MDMA is not physically addictive it is not completely safe – in his recent book Professor David Nutt estimates that 60 million doses of ecstasy are taken each year in the UK, with approximately 10-50 deaths, 2000 hospital admissions for physical damage, 1000 people seeking addiction treatment and 1000 further people with an addiction problem
A decline in the quality of pills over the last 10 years – containing less MDMA or other ingredients – lead to cheaper pills that people took more of – however in the last year there have been reports of higher quality pills containing more MDMA. It is important to exercise caution as people may take 2 or 3 at a time not realising their strength which can lead to overdose. Some alternative ingredients can be dangerous, such as PMA, which has a more potent stimulant effect and can take 90 minutes to come up. There have been reports of people redosing, believing that the pill is weak, only to have severe effects when the drug effects begin. MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature and other bodily functions. It is important to avoid dehydration but not to consume too much water as this can lead to water intoxication – because of disruption to the body’s water regualtion mechanisms. People may notice that they feel they need to pass urine but can’t go. Sipping 1 pint of water per hour if dancing may be beneficial.
Talk to Frank: Ecstasy