These days, most people will have, at the very least, heard of ecstasy. Some may have tried it, or know someone who uses it. However, most people have not the faintest idea of what ecstasy is made of. In this article, we look at the ingredients of ecstasy, both from a chemical perspective, and the ingredients that are commonly found in the ‘street’ version of the drug.
The Science Part
Most ecstasy users know the drug simply as ecstasy. Some know it as X, or as E. A few even call it MDMA – its pharmaceutical name. However, the correct and full name for ecstasy is methylenedioxymethylamphetamine. Probably why most people do not refer to it by that name!
The drug belongs to a family of drugs, known as phenethylamines, and it is closely related to other illicit drugs, like mescaline, or MDA, which is also known as methylenedioxyamphetamine.
These types of drugs are technically known as hallucinogenic stimulants, or psychedelic amphetamines, but they are actually not hallucinogenic in the same way that for instance, LSD is.
Born in a Lab
One of the major differences between ecstasy and drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, is that it is not derived from any plant, or any other natural substance.
MDMA can only be made in a laboratory, using a process known as synthesis. Chemists – either in legitimate labs or in illegal drug labs, who know what they are doing, can create the drug fairly easily, and very cheaply.
Making MDMA may be easy for chemists, or those who know the process, but it is generally not something you can do unless you know exactly what you are doing.
So What Are the Ingredients of Ecstasy?
At an atomic level, the ingredients of ecstasy on their own are fairly harmless. An N-methyl group of carbon and hydrogen attach themselves to a nitrogen compound. Methylene with a dioxy molecule (two atoms of oxygen) link this to more carbon, and there are molecules of benzene and propane in the mix as well.
Most of the ingredients that go into ecstasy can be bought without prescription, from any pharmacy, and as long as the chemist in question knows how to combine them, and how to prepare them, they can create the drug, literally, at a cost of pennies.
What Does Pure Ecstasy Look Like?
Just as the ingredients that make up ecstasy are fairly common, the compound itself looks very straightforward too. In fact, it is a simple, pure white powder – nothing like the colourful pills or capsules that you would buy on the street!
From Powder to Pill – What Happens Next
The next step in the process from basic ecstasy ingredients to street drug is the one where MDMA is most likely to become dangerous or fatal.
That is because once they have created the pure ecstasy powder in a lab, chemists and drug manufacturers will start to add other compounds to it. These might include caffeine, pseudoephedrine, LSD, other hallucinogens, cornstarch or many other compounds or ingredients. Some are harmful on their own, and some might trigger an allergic or another dangerous reaction.
The proportions in which these other ingredients are mixed in to ecstasy tablets for sale on the street are never consistent, and that makes them dangerous in two ways: first, because the ingredients themselves are dangerous, and second, because you can never be sure what strength the MDMA in your tablets is. This makes overdosing, even for people used to taking the drug regularly, a very real possibility.
How Much MDMA Goes Into A Street ‘Dose’
There is no hard and fast rule as to how much MDMA goes into a street capsule or tablet. There are no regulations, and no one controls how much, or little, goes into each dose.
However, in order to be effective, most people will need to take at least 75mgs orally. Most tablets available on the street will contain between 80 and 120mgs of the powder itself, however, it may be more, or less.
This is exactly why taking more than one tablet can be dangerous – if you are used to tablets containing, on average, 80mgs of MDMA each, and you usually take two without ill effect, accidentally buying tablets containing 120mgs would mean, in effect, that you would be dosing yourself with a full additional tablet, unknowingly.
Not As Innocuous As It Seems
Many people who use ecstasy see it as a relatively harmless drug. They take it socially, are not physically addicted, and see it as a harmless alternative to drugs like LSD, cocaine or meth.
The truth is, however, that even though ecstasy is made from fairly run of the mill ingredients, and even if it is not addictive in the way some other drugs are, it can still be dangerous, or even deadly.
Extreme Caution Necessary!
Even though MDMA or ecstasy is illegal in most parts of the world, people continue to take it. The best advice for those people is to exercise extreme caution, and to avoid taking more than one tablet at a time.
Remember that there are no rules governing illegal drug manufacture, and there are no guarantees about what you are getting when you buy ecstasy. Always treat every tablet as having the potential to be dangerous, never take the drug alone, and if you begin to feel strange, seek medical attention.
Most illegal drugs have only moderate proportions of the actual drug in them, and ecstasy is no exception to that rule.