In the mid-60s, MDA, the parent drug of Ecstasy, surfaced in the underground drug market. It belonged to a group of psychedelic mind-altering substances chemically related to spices such as nutmeg and mace. An alternative to LSD, it was referred to as the "Love Drug."
In 1970, MDA was placed on the FDA's schedule 1 (high potential for abuse; no current legal medical use in the U.S.) joining the company of heroin, LSD, and marijuana.
The search for a legal analog led to MDMA (Ecstasy), which remained legal until 1985.
Until 1986, it was legal to produce and sell chemical analogs of illegal or controlled drugs, as long as the 'derivative drugs' were only similar, but not identical to the parent drug. It significantly contributed to a burgeoning of the "basement" pharmaceutical industry.
In the 80s, American drugs dealers supplied the needs of small niches of users. Its increasing popularity has attracted organized crime into this e-trade. Supply-and-demand has also necessitated tapping foreign supply lines. Today, Europe is believed to supply 80% of U.S. ecstasy.
Although it remains a "niche" drug, used by 1.3% of the U.S. population (versus: marijuana, 5% of those older than 12; cocaine 1.8%), its increasing popularity and ease of use (popping a pill instead of injection, snorting or smoking as in heroin, cocaine or marijuana) raise concerns that e might become a drug of epidemic use. Recent studies have been disturbing: ecstasy use among the youth continues to rise, and by 12th grade, 11% have had an ecstasy experience.
According to a UNODC report, Ecstasy users have increased to 8 million; Ireland and Australia are the biggest E users with 3.4% of their population, 15 to 64 years old. In the Philippines, E is used by only 0.91 percent (shabu or methamphetamine, the drug of choice).
MDMA is taken
"Candyflipping" is the combined
use of ecstasy and LSD.
As in any street drug, adulteration and/or substitution can be a problem. In about 20%, no MDMA was found, substituted by usually benign ingredients like aspirin and caffeine. Some substitutions may have fatal consequences, like DXM and PMA. DXM (detromethorphan), a common over-the-counter medication, has been found to cause hallucinations in 13 times its cough suppressant dose. PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), a more dangerous adulterant, is significantly more hallucinogenic and hyperthermic than ecstasy.
On-going studies show that ecstasy causes impairment of memory and damages the brain mechanisms that regulate sleep and mood. A single use can cause brain changes and the effects may persist for years; the studies suggest these changes could be permanent.
The memory impairment may last 2 and 1/2 years after discontinuing use of the drug. The degree of memory impairment and difficulty in concentration appear to be more than that noted in marijuana and alcohol users. A brain scan study showed decreased blood flow to the brain two weeks after a low dose of Ecstasy.
A UK Study by Jacqui Rodgers, MD and colleagues (March 2004-Internal Medicine Report) from Web-based questionnaires of 763 participants reported that ecstasy users are at risk for long-term memory loss and impairment in performance of simple tasks. Those who used ecstasy more than 10 times were 23% more likely to have long-term memory loss than those who have never taken recreational drugs and 14% more likely to have long-term memory problems thant users of other recreational drugs. Also, ecstasy-cannabis users have both long- and short-term memory problems.
With continued use, side effects become more likely. Besides its highly addictive nature, it may cause confusion, insomnia, anxiety, nausea, teeth clenching, blurred vision, acneiform rash, erratic mood swings, paranoia, depression and aggressive behavior.
|Ecstary and Memory Loss. Internal Medicine Report. March 2004|
|Time: The Lure of Ecstasy. John Cloud. June 5, 2000 <http://www.time.com/time/>|
|Designer Drugs. Published 1995|