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MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), most commonly known by the street name ecstasy or XTC, is a synthetic entactogen of the phenethylamine family.

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), most commonly known by the street name ecstasy or XTC, is a synthetic entactogen of the phenethylamine family, whose primary effect is believed to be the stimulation of secretion as well as inhibition of re-uptake of large amounts of serotonin as well as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, inducing a general sense of openness, empathy, energy, euphoria, and well-being. Tactile sensations are enhanced for some users, making general physical contact with others more pleasurable; but, contrary to popular mythology it generally does not have aphrodisiac effects. Its reported ability to facilitate self-examination with reduced fear may prove useful in some therapeutic settings, leading in 2001 to permission from the United States FDA for testing in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Acute dehydration is a risk among users who are highly physically active and forget to drink water, as the drug may mask one's normal sense of exhaustion and thirst. Also the opposite, "water intoxication," resulting in acute hyponatremia, has been reported as a consequence of use. Sometimes other potentially toxic chemicals such as PMA or methamphetamine alone or in combination with MDMA are added to ecstasy tablets. Long-term effects in humans are largely unknown and the subject of much controversy - particularly with regard to the risks of severe long-term depression as a result of a reduction in the natural production of serotonin.

Refer to this page for a list of street names of MDMA.

Subjective effects

Effects desired by users include:

  • Intense euphoria
  • A feeling of connection with other people, especially if they are also using the drug
  • A marked increase in the salience and expression of happiness, love or other positive emotions
  • The feeling that something "tremendously important" or "fundamental and positive" is occurring
  • Intense feelings of love, closeness and mutual understanding with others
  • A child-like sense of wonder at the world; a feeling of reclaimed innocence
  • A sense of mental clarity
  • A relieving sense that problems in life are insignificant
  • A sense that all things, living or even simply inanimate objects, are important and have their own "life force," leading to the claim of some that "every thing is its own thing"

MDMA, particularly with larger doses, is sometimes reported to cause visual distortions. In a review of studies in which 1.5 to 1.7 mg/kg oral MDMA was administered in their laboratory to 74 people, Vollenweider et al. reported that scenic hallucinations were reported only once, while simple patterns, distorted objects, and flashes of light were commonly reported [5].

Other short-term effects

Acute physiological effects include:

  • Pupil dilation with attendant photosensitivity and color perception
  • General restlessness
  • Loss of appetite/taste sensation changes
  • Lack of focus / concentration - which can alternate with periods of fascinated fixation on a person or object
  • A need to take exaggerated, deep breaths, especially of cool air, particularly when "rushing" (i.e. when the effects of MDMA are coming on strongly, triggering serotonin build-up)
  • Tingling
  • Sweaty palms
  • Increased heart rate

With heavier doses:

  • Tightening of facial muscles, including rolling of tongue and jaw (known by users as "Gurning" (John Simmonds,Rugby,Warwickshire )
  • Shutter vision (nystagmus)
  • Occasional visual hallucinations

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