A History of Ecstasy
In 2009, nearly three million Americans used ecstasy at least once. The number of teenagers who have taken ecstasy has tripled since 2000, up to nearly 52% of high school-age teenagers. It can be snorted, injected, swallowed, or used as a suppository, depending on individual preference.
Ecstasy is actually MDMA—Methylenedioxymethamphetamine—but it is often shortened to “E” or “X” for easy reference. It is often taken as a tablet with an imprinted logo or in powder form. This drug closely resembles methamphetamines, mescaline, and other hallucinogenic drugs that are illegal in the United States and other parts of the world in that it alters the mind, distorting time and providing a three to four-hour rush of energy and euphoria.
How Ecstasy Was Discovered
Ecstasy was first synthesized in 1912, when Merck™ began experimenting with different ingredients in an attempt to discover a form of medication that could help regulate abnormal bleeding. Initially, the drug did not meet this need, but it was explored as a potential diet pill instead. When it was learned that the substance did not fulfill this expectation either, it was initially discarded and believed to be useless in the medical community. The drug was not explored more fully until the late 1950s, when Yakugaku Zasshi wrote for a Japanese journal. Within about a decade, ecstasy was a recreational drug in the United States and other countries.
One reason that MDMA became known as ecstasy is the euphoric feeling produced by the drug, although there is no specific mention of when the drug went from being known simply as MDMA to ecstasy. It is definitely most popular for junior high school teens and preteens up until college, and adult use of ecstasy is far lower. Ecstasy (MDMA) is a Schedule 1 drug according to DEA regulations, the highest class obtainable, indicating strong likelihood of addiction or serious adverse side effects. Currently, it is against the law to have MDMA in any form, although there are legal clinical studies being conducted to determine whether the drug is effective for a variety of psychological maladies.
Exploration of Ecstasy—Initial Pioneer
Among many others, the most notable of the scientists and doctors who experimented with the use of MDMA was Dr. Alexander Shulgin, who also discovered or experimented with more than 300 other psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs in his home laboratory during his lifetime. Not all of his drugs were successful for a variety of reasons, and some, like ecstasy, were eventually banned for human consumption. Dr. Shulgin (who was a chemist) tried more than two-thirds of these drugs himself, testing to ascertain whether each had an affect on the human body, noting which offered a positive effect and which had more adverse effects.
Dr. Shulgin began his own experimentation in the 1950s while attending school in Berkeley, California, and broadened his experimentation working for The Dow Company about a decade later. He was a consultant for the DEA for a short time as well, before they seized his laboratory and discontinued use of his services. Although he suffered a stroke in 2010, Dr. Shulgin is still actively exploring chemical substances that function as psychedelic drugs, especially cacti and mescaline-related compounds.
Initial Uses of Ecstasy
In the beginning, there is speculation that MDMA was utilized as a truth serum by the U.S. military, but there is no sound evidence backing up this claim. Some doctors claim that ecstasy is an effective pain reliever, while others cite that if the drug was legal, they would use it to treat allergy problems. Clinical trials that began in the mid-1990s began to ascertain whether this drug could and should be used to treat individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD.
Other doctors used MDMA extensively and successfully for treating different psychological problems, from depression or anxiety to drug addiction or overcoming phobias. Before the Drug Enforcement Agency made it illegal to manufacture, possess, sell, or distribute ecstasy, it was widely believed to be very beneficial in the therapeutic field. One of the most interesting studies involved victims of various traumas, who were able to open up about the incident in ways they had never been able to experience without MDMA, allowing psychiatrists to help them begin to cope and recover from the traumatic experience.
Although many scientists, doctors, and even a few religious leaders attempted to persuade the government otherwise, the DEA decided that ecstasy had no real medicinal qualities and banned use for anything other than sanctioned medical or scientific experimentation. A U.S. judge even recommended that MDMA be placed as a Schedule 3 drug, so that the medical and scientific communities could further experiment and later prescribe the drug to treat some illnesses, psychological and physical, but the drug was placed in the highest classification instead. This means that without the proper authorization, not even a doctor can experiment with the drug.
Modern Uses for Ecstasy
Due to these regulations, the only modern uses for ecstasy deal with recreational use, which is actually illegal in the United States. As before mentioned, the drug is most popular for those between the ages of twelve and twenty, and most people are able to purchase at raves, neighborhood block parties, or via word-of-mouth (friend of a friend) advertising only. The Dallas, Texas area seems to have the highest concentration of ecstasy users, although the drug can be found in every major city in the U.S. and around the world.
Unlike some other parts of the world, in the United States the most popular modern use of ecstasy is as a feel-good drug, especially for teenagers suffering from depression or anxiety. In Europe, ecstasy is more popular as a dance drug, used at raves and parties to get everyone dancing due to lowered inhibitions and temporarily higher self image. Ecstasy is a happy drug, giving feelings of elation and energy surges to the user, so using at dances makes sense. The user feels energetic and outgoing, ready to dance with anyone and meet new people and potential sexual partners.