Ecstasy is big on the party scene, used to enhance rave experiences and such, but what really is going on with those “happy pills”?
General Background: Certain variations of ecstasy, or N-methyl3,4methylenedioxy-amphetamine, namely MDMA, have been around since 1914, when it was synthesized in a lab and rather promptly forgotten. That is, until the 70’s when the general populous got their hands on it, but it’s popularity never peaked until the 80’s. Once the DEA caught a whiff of the extensive use and possible neurological effects, they finally declared it a Schedule I controlled substance in 1985, meaning it has no legitimate uses and is illegal under any circumstances.
The Good Stuff: For a mere $20 or $30 a pill, an ecstasy tablet will light up your brain’s pleasure-reward system. The user will feel more confident, have a quicker heart-rate, and feel more alert and aroused while remaining relaxed, due to boosts in the brain in levels of both norepinephrine and dopamine. Even therapists commend ecstasy for its ability to boost insight, enhance empathy and communication, and aid patients in overcoming emotional blocks without the unpredictability of LSD, suggesting possible usefulness in depression and PTSD treatment.
The Bad Stuff: While MDMA causes less dissociation and fewer panic reactions than other psychedelic drugs, studies have shown that the drug attacks areas in brain cells that manufacture serotonin. In these studies, researchers found that half of serotonin producing neurons still remained damaged eight weeks later, and even low-dose first time usage could lead to long-term memory problems. Other side-effects of normal dosages include hyperthermia, as the drug raises body-temperatures to excessively high levels, heart attacks in cardiac arrhythmia patients, and liver damage after long-term repeated use. Upon overdose, minor side-effects include anxiety, delusions, and paranoia.