MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is an illicit synthetic substance that creates powerful euphoric and empathogenic effects. MDMA effects are both stimulating and psychedelic, and the drug is popular among teens and young adults for its ability to alter perception and enhance feelings of empathy, sensitivity, and euphoria. MDMA use carries the risk of major consequences to both physical and mental health. MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Increased dopamine causes feeling of euphoria and increased energy. Increased norepinephrine increased blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to major problems in high doses, or in those with heart or blood vessel problems. Increased serotonin is responsible for the empathogenic effects and elevated mood caused by MDMA. The use of MDMA can cause nausea, sweating, chills, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “MDMA’s effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience: irritability; impulsiveness and aggression; depression; sleep problems; anxiety; memory and attention problems; decreased appetite; decreased interest in and pleasure from sex.” Research is divided over whether or not MDMA is addictive, but users have reported withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, depression, cognitive difficulties, and loss of appetite. One of the greatest dangers of MDMA is the introduction of other chemicals into pills marketed as MDMA or ecstasy. According to the DEA, “Although MDMA is known among users as Ecstasy, researchers have determined that many Ecstasy tablets contain not only MDMA but also a number of other drugs or drug combinations that can be harmful, such as: methamphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, the over-the-counter cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM), the diet drug ephedrine, and caffeine. In addition, other drugs similar to MDMA, such as MDA or PMA, are often sold as Ecstasy, which can lead to overdose and death when the user takes additional doses to obtain the desired effect.” Pills sold as ecstasy often only contain small amounts of MDMA, if any at all. The interactions of the chemicals used in the pills can prove to be immediately lethal.
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