MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is the collective name for a group of hallucinogens, which has amphetamine as the basic chemical structure. The slang label “ecstasy” originally referred to MDMA, but has gradually come to refer to several substances, including MDA, MDEA, and MMDA among others. All the substances are white powder which is usually mixed with inert substances such as chalk to form tablets, or filled in capsules. MDMA is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and hallucinogen, producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.  

MDMA has a reputation as a “safe” drug, but research indicates that there are significant risks (both physical and neurological) associated with MDMA abuse. Abuse can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and heart wall stress. In rare cases MDMA can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature that can lead to cardiovascular failure. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA , animal studies show that MDMA can damage specific neurons in the brain. In humans, the research is not conclusive at this time; however, a number of studies show that long-term heavy MDMA users suffer cognitive deficits, including problems with memory.

Additional risks associated with MDMA abuse include the presence of other drugs in the tablets, such as methamphetamine, caffeine, the diet drug ephedrine, and cocaine, which can increase the risks associated with MDMA abuse. Furthermore, drug abusers often take MDMA in combination with other drugs, such as marijuana and LSD, further increasing potential medical complications.

Almost 60 percent of people who abuse MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating. MDMA affects many of the same neurotransmitters systems in the brain that are targeted by other addictive drugs. Experiments have shown that animals prefer MDMA, much like they do cocaine, over other pleasurable stimuli, another hallmark of most addictive drugs.

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