Introducton

      MDMA is a designer drug that, although structurally similar to both hallucinogens and amphetamines, is often classified in its own unique category. This class is called entactogens or empathogens because such drugs result in increased feelings of empathy. Due to this unique effect, MDMA has become a very popular recreational drug. It is apparent, however, that MDMA is also potentially hazardous. Complications and fatalities have occurred in recreational users of MDMA, who usually consume it in the form of pills or capsules (normally referred to as ecstasy ).

      As the group of ecstasy users grows and the age of its members decreases, concern with the drug’s more subtle effects has become prominent. Research shows that MDMA produces changes in the brains of laboratory animals, including monkeys, but there is no certainty that such results can be generalized to humans. Since MDMA is a restricted substance, it is difficult for researchers to gain permission to study its effects in humans. Because, however, scientists are not sure what these effects are, they are unable to provide recreational users with concrete information regarding the dangers of the drug.

      This situation creates a considerable amount of controversy. Because MDMA is illegal, street ecstasy, which supposedly contains MDMA, often really contains a cocktail of other drugs. This means that ecstasy users frequently ingest other drugs that are potentially more hazardous than MDMA. It cannot be said, however, that the supposedly fatal potential of MDMA should be attributed solely to such instances of impurity. There are many examples of ecstasy-related deaths where the victims tested positive for the presence of MDMA in their blood. But what is not known for certain is what the specific properties of MDMA are and how they can interact with the brain and body to produce both the positive and negative effects that are associated with the drug. Researchers have made considerable progress, however, in the effort to discover these mechanisms. On these pages, you will find a summary of MDMA research that should help you to understand the way that this drug creates changes in the brain.

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