MDMA, short for 3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a synthetic psychoactive drug, with hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. It is the base of the drug ecstasy and usually comes in pill or tablet form. People who use it experience increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth and a distorted sensory and time perception.
While MDMA is the base for ecstasy, it is often found only a small amount in the drug. Oftentimes, ecstasy is cut with other substances, meaning along with MDMA, there could also be cocaine, ketamine, methamphetamine or over-the-counter cough medicine in a pill of ecstasy. Either way, cut MDMA and pure MDMA is dangerous in high doses due to its side effects, which include:
- Involuntary jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- Chills, sweating
- Muscle cramping
- Blurred vision
- Marked rise in body temperature (hyperthermia)
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat and heart failure
- Kidney failure
Though the initial effects of MDMA die down after several hours, some effects can last more than a week. These can include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Memory loss
- Decreased libido and pleasure from sex
- Marked disturbance in mental abilities
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Irritability, aggression or Impulsiveness
- No appetite
- Persistent thirst
How MDMA Works In The Brain
MDMA affects three chemicals in the brain: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin.
MDMA makes the brain release large amounts of dopamine, which causes the euphoria and increased energy. The large amount of norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure. The flood of serotonin MDMA releases creates the emotional closeness, elevated mood and empathy many people feel when using the drug.
If people keep using MDMA, eventually the brain no longer produces the chemicals on its own, and people may no longer be able to feel certain emotions without the drug. This is a double-edged sword however, as the more a person uses the drug, the less it affects them. This is called tolerance and it could lead to MDMA abuse, where people take more and more of the drug to feel something. This can lead to MDMA dependence and MDMA addiction.