What Is MDMA?
Methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is a psychoactive drug that has both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. The drug is usually taken orally in a tablet form, but can be snorted or injected. Known on the street as ecstasy, Adam, XTC, beans or the Love Drug, ecstasy is a neurotoxin that can cause sharp increases in body temperature. This malignant hyperthermia can cause muscle catabolism, kidney failure and cardiovascular failure.
The Effects Of MDMA
In the short term, MDMA causes subjective effects such as increased positive emotions and a sense of well-being. Users experience greater sociability and feelings of closeness and connection with others, as well as feeling more insightful. Physiological effects of MDMA include pupil dilation, impaired vision and nystagmus – a rapid, involuntary eye movement where the eyes move quickly in one direction, and then slowly back in the other direction. Heart rate and blood pressure increase in response to MDMA, and users are often restless and unable to sleep. As the effects of MDMA wear off, depression often sets in. Depression may last for a few hours, but can last for several weeks.
Use of MDMA can have dangerous and sometimes lethal effects. The greatest danger to MDMA users is over-heating. The drug causes surface blood vessels to constrict, reducing the body’s capacity to shed heat. In users who become dehydrated and cannot sweat, these effects are magnified. If a user is dancing or physically active, the body’s thirst and exhaustion responses can be masked.
The inability to maintain a consistent core body temperature may lead to skeletal muscle breakdown, which may cause renal failure or death. Some users drink too much water while they are under the effect of MDMA, which can cause hyponatremia. This condition occurs when cellular salt levels are imbalanced and causes nausea, headache, loss of consciousness and sometimes, death. MDMA can also cause users to involuntarily clench their jaw or grind their teeth, which can result in teeth damage or mouth ulcers if the cheek is accidentally bitten.
Whether or not MDMA is addictive is somewhat controversial. Some scientists have found that MDMA meets at least half the criteria of a dependence-inducing drug; however, other researchers argue that it is less addictive than alcohol and tobacco. It is generally acknowledged that some users of MDMA display characteristics of dependence. Further, addiction is more likely in those individuals who use larger doses of the drug for longer periods of time.
The long-term adverse effects of MDMA are also heavily debated, although there is some evidence that consistent use of MDMA may induce ‘hallucinogen persisting perception disorder’. Tolerance of MDMA, where users need to take increasingly large doses to induce the same effect is, however, well-established.
Despite the lack of consensus about the addictiveness of MDMA, the harmful effects of the drug in both the short and long term mean that it is not advisable to take the drug. Using it rarely at a dance party or more frequently are equally dangerous to your health.