MDMA, otherwise known as “ecstasy” has been in circulation since for many decades. Once a tool for psychologists it eventually devolved into a street narcotic. Sometimes, if not always, it can be very dangerous to the user. With a variety of side effects that are alluring to the typical miscreant, MDMA/ecstasy has built itself a strong reputation as one of the more fun street drugs, despite its dangers.
In 1912, Anton Kollisch was a Merck chemist and the first person to synthesize MDMA in a lab. Initially, the drug was being developed in an attempt to stop abnormal bleeding. In 1927, Max Oberlin became the first to record MDMA’s effects on smooth muscles and blood sugar, noting it was much the same as ephedrine. The United States ordered toxicology reports of MDMA in 1953. In 1954, they ordered a study of behavioral effects, as well. After proving to have hallucinogenic and damaging properties, the United States Army used MDMA as an interrogation tool under the name MKUltra. By 1970, MDMA had made its way to the streets of the United States and was being taken recreationally. Alexander Shulgin, a professor at Berkley in 1975, overheard his students talking about the strange properties of MDMA (1358). One student in particular interested him, citing that MDMA had helped defeat his stutter. He and his partner, David E. Nichols, began synthesizing MDMA and experimenting with it, publishing reports on how it altered consciousness. Shulgin began offering it to his friends and in 1979, gave it to Leo Zeff, a psychotherapist known for using drugs in his practice. Zeff was very interested in MDMA, and began experimenting with it himself. Believing so much in the drug’s benefits, he came out of retirement in an effort to help patients and train other psychotherapists in how to use it during their sessions. At the time, MDMA was gaining a reputation as a communication enhancer and a therapeutic tool. This progress was short-lived, however, when younger crowds in the 1980’s began taking MDMA in clubs for recreational purposes only. Most commonly found at raves, it was classified as a controlled substance by 1985 (1384). Today, MDMA is known as one of the most widely used illicit drugs, along with marijuana, cocaine, and heroine.
MDMA has many effects on its user. It is a psychotropic drug; depending on the dosage it can evoke very powerful hallucinations. It lowers inhibitions, as well. This is one of the reasons therapists believed it enhanced communication during therapy sessions: clients would be more willing to open up while under the influence of MDMA. However if an individual takes too much, what they begin to say fails to make sense. Shulgin often took MDMA for relaxation, describing its effects as that of a strong drink. The dose he took was very small compared to average clubbers in America during the 1980’s and elicited a pleasant aftereffect, like that of an alcohol buzz. The youth in America as well as the United Kingdom, who were taking high doses of MDMA in clubs or at raves, were having severe hallucinations, as well as anxiety, paranoia, fatigue, emotional sensitivity, and a variety of other unstable feelings (321). Physical effects often included exhaustion, dizziness, and insomnia. Overdose was a possible side effect of MDMA use. The user would begin experiencing disorientation or delusions followed by anterograde amnesia (323). Physically they would go into convulsions or their muscles may go rigid. They may experience tachycardia or heart palpitation, among others. After these or several other side effects took place they would eventually lose consciousness as their kidneys shut down, experiencing total renal failure. Finally, they would fall into a coma and die. Though there was not sufficient evidence to support that MDMA was addictive, there was evidence to suggest that even after quitting MDMA, the compound of the drug may damage the brain, leaving it predisposed to depression (324).
The impact MDMA had on society was swift and severe. To begin with the impact it had was behind the curtains: the army used it in interrogation efforts. After that, psychotherapists began using it as a tool to help their patients. Believing it would strengthen the bond between therapist and client, it was administered as part of standard sessions with some psychotherapists. In small doses, it did open up channels of emotion as well as help some individuals communicate (289). The public was hesitant about this but did not have enough information to halt the practice entirely. Studies performed by the government had deemed the drug, not dangerous which helped ease the public’s mind. However, in the 1980’s when youth in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, began taking MDMA recreationally, getting high and sometimes dying from the drug, the public grew very concerned (290). In a matter of years, MDMA was considered a criminalized drug and psychotherapists were no longer allowed to use it in their practice (295).
In sum, MDMA began modestly enough. An innocent Merck chemist wanted to find a way to stop abnormal bleeding and believed MDMA was the solution. As it evolved, MDMA was used for both good and bad. First it was used against the opposition by the United States Army. Then, believing it to have healing properties, it was used for therapy. Finally, its truly harmful characteristics were revealed as young people in clubs and raves began to die from the drug. There is no argument that MDMA has had a very strong impact on society, as well as a very influential history on the world of narcotics.
Marijuana should be legalized. There are many medicinal properties to the drug. It can help those who are recovering from chemotherapy, struggling with epilepsy, or suffering from chronic pain. It can also help a variety of other patients. While it is easy to compare marijuana to MDMA, because it began innocently as well, it is not fair to do so. MDMA causes renal failure, while there are no reported cases of death caused by marijuana. In fact, it is impossible to overdose on marijuana.
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