Ecstasy

In contrast to heroin and cocaine, ecstasy is a more widely used but non-addictive drug. It has been estimated that more than a quarter of teenagers have used it at least once, making it the most widely used illegal drug. Ecstasy, often referred to simply as 'E', is methylene dioxy-metamphetamine, abbreviated to MDMA. It is an amphetamine derivative and is related to the naturally occurring drug mescaline. It was first made in 1912 in Germany and intended for use as an appetite suppressant, but its properties prevented its being used. It was reintroduced in the 1950s for use by psychotherapists, but its use was restricted in 1977 in the UK and 1985 in the USA.

It is reported to cause feelings of self-confidence, great energy, and drive. Users also experience a feeling of warmth toward others and increased sensitivity to sound and touch, as well as a reduction in anxiety and a general feeling of euphoria. The drug causes these effects by affecting the type of neurones that produce the neurotransmitter 5HT (5-hydroxytryptamine), which leads to an increase in the release of this neurotransmitter. This substance is associated with feelings of euphoria and plays a role in making us feel gregarious.

Ecstasy is not without negative effects, however, and some time after use there may be feelings of irritability, tiredness, and depression which can last for several days. Repeated users can experience depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, and psychiatric disorders. More seriously, there have been cases of fatal toxicity following, in some cases, a single tablet of the drug.

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