MDMA, or 'Ecstasy' is a 'psychedelic amphetamine' that has become popular over the past 20 years due to its ability to produce strong feelings of comfort, empathy, and connection to others. MDMA traditionally comes in tablet form, although it is occasionally sold in capsules or as powder. MDMA is normally used orally and rarely snorted. MDMA use is closely associated with the underground rave (and dance club) scene throughout the world.
'Ecstasy' is the popular name for MDMA, though ecstasy is any pill represented as MDMA on the street. The content of any given Ecstasy pill is extremely unreliable, more so than most other street drugs. Ectasy pills commonly contain either caffeine, ephedrine, amphetamines, MDA, MDE, DXM, or--in rare cases--DOB, and don't necessarily contain MDMA or any psychoactive.
A standard oral dose of MDMA is between 80 - 150 mg. MDMA cost varies, depending on where it's purchased and in what quantity. A single tablet of MDMA bought at a rave can cost anywhere from $20-$30, but can go as high as $50. Purchased in bulk, MDMA generally sells for $100-$250 per gram (about $10-25 per dose), with wholesale prices as low as $50 per gram. MDMA is a Schedule I narcotic, and is illegal in the United States and in most other countries. MDMA is also listed as Schedule I in the International Convention on Psychotropic Substances, an international drug control treaty.
Initial effects of MDMA last approximately 3-4 hours when taken orally. For most users of MDMA, there is an additional period of time (2-6 hrs) where it is difficult to go to sleep and there is a notable change in everyday reality, but which is not strong enough to be considered 'rolling'. Many MDMA users also experience a noticeable shift in mood for several days after use; this varies widely, from a period of depression to a lifted mood. MDMA has the potential to be psychologically addicting. Regular users of MDMA find they have an increased desire to continue using it.
A NIDA-supported study has found a direct link between chronic use of MDMA, popularly known as "ecstasy," and brain damage in people. Utilizing advanced brain imaging techniques, the study found that MDMA harms neurons that release serotonin, a brain chemical thought to play an important role in regulating memory and other functions. In a similar study, researchers discovered that heavy MDMA users have memory problems that persist for at least two weeks after cessation of MDMA. Both studies suggest that the extent of damage is directly linked with the amount of MDMA use.
"The message from these studies is that MDMA does change the brain and it looks like there are functional consequences to these changes," says Dr. Joseph Frascella of NIDA's Division of Treatment Research and Development. That message is most significant for young MDMA users who participate in large, all-night dance parties known as "raves," popular in many cities around the Nation. NIDA's epidemiologic studies show that MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) use has gone up in recent years among college students and young adults who participate in these social gatherings.