Happiness can mean many different things to many different people. A hard worker may define it as completing a difficult task. A hopeless romantic may define it as finding true love. A religious person may define it as achieving a specific level of spirituality. Webster’s definition of happiness is “good fortune; a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Some synonyms included for happiness are bliss, felicity, joy, and ecstasy. It is therefore obvious how the euphoria-inducing amphetamine relates to its name. People that are uneducated in the area of drugs may associate ecstasy only with the issue of substance abuse. However, to fully understand ecstasy and all its related topics, it is vital to identify the chemical structure and history of MDMA, the corresponding effects, and then the recreational abuse.
The chemical name for ecstasy is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA. Besides the name ecstasy, MDMA has other names normally used on the streets such as Adam, XTC, hug, beans, and love drugs (NIDA InfoFacts 1). MDMA is described to be a “synthetic, psychoactive drug possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties” (Ecstasy Hazards 1). As in the case of other amphetamines, the process to produce ecstasy is not that complicated. The simplest method is clandestine production, which starts with PMK . If not, it can still be produced from piperonal, isosafrole, or safrole but even then, these chemicals have to be converted to PMK before they could be turned into ecstasy (Iversen 149-150). The molecule itself is a combination of 11 carbons, 2 oxygens, 6 hydrogens, and 1 nitrogen as seen in the figure (Chemical Structure 1).
As in other amphetamines, MDMA is the source of monoamine neurotransmitters. Instead of having a direct effect on the functions of the brain, it produces these neurotransmitters that do the job for it. However, there are areas that ecstasy affects directly such as nerves containing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Of these three, ecstasy is most powerful with serotonin (Iversen 155). The sole responsibility of the serotonin system is to control mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain. Because of how crucial these behavioral functions are, any manipulation by ecstasy, or any other drug for that matter, could and will ultimately result in drastic malfunctions. Generally, ecstasy is extremely harmful to the body and can generate conditions as critical as brain damage. In the most severe cases, it has been known to be the cause of death.
In 1914, a German drug company named Merck was the first to create and patent MDMA. It was believed that ecstasy would help to control hunger and appetite. Later on in the 1970s, psychologists used it to help patients relax and talk about their feelings and emotions with ease. However, as soon as animal studies in MDMA showed brain damage as one of the effects of ecstasy, all medical use of it was brought to...