What is Mdma?

Popularly known as ecstasy, MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), a derivative of phenethylamine, has a special place in the hearts of street drug users during night club parties “the raves”.  It is a psychoactive drug with hallucinogenic and stimulant effects on its users. It plays with one’s sensations, energy levels, and pleasure perception.

It is also a research chemical investigated for its probable useful effects in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.

Substance users take Mdma in the form of pills, smoke crystal powders and vaporize molly.


The first official use of Mdma in humans was recorded in 1978 when Alexander Shulgin, American psych pharmacologist, first tried it himself. German Pharmaceutical Brand, Merck, first developed Mdma in 1912. In the early 1970s, it was used in psychotherapy and suppress appetite. Only a few years later, in the 1980s, became a famous street drug. It wasn’t until then that this recreational drug became a famous rave and dance party drug.

Street names

Mdma is sold worldwide by following different street names. These names targeted at making the drug more attractive. Ecstasy

  • XTC
  • E
  • X
  • Beans
  • Adams
  • Eckies
  • Glass
  • Rave energy
  • Essence
  • Disco Biscuits

Mechanism of action

According to the studies, Mdma exerts its effects via the following three pathways:

1-    Dopaminergic pathway

Through dopaminergic neurons, Mdma activates pleasure and reward centers in the brain. It increases energy levels and boosts behavioral responses.

2-    Serotonergic pathway

Serotonin is the most important neurotransmitter in the human body which functions to regulate mood. Through its serotonergic effects, Mdma regulates mood, memory and social behavior. It arouses sexual activity and pleasurable feelings. It also increases the emotions, feelings of closeness and empathy.

3-   Norepinephrine pathway

Through the nor-epinephrine pathway, Mdma produces sympathetic effects like an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, and dilatation of pupils.


The onset of action of Mdma is 30-60minutes while the effects peaking around a 70-140th minute.


With its psych effective properties, this street drug produces a feeling of euphoria and happiness. The user develops enhanced perception and communication, become more sociable. There is an increase in the feeling of closeness with oneself as well as others and being in one’s shoe, also known as empathy.

Entactogenic effects

Mdma reduces anxiety helps its users feel relaxed and peaceful in himself and with others. The user feels emotionally open and develops the feeling of sympathy and empathy


Mdma produces mild hallucinogenic effects, enhancing one’s sensations, the ability of perception and sexual activity. It enhances the sensory effects of music during nightclub parties hence called “the raves”.


Through its serotonergic effects, Mdma enhances the feeling of pleasure and increases one’s sexual desire and activity.

Toxic Effects


Although less than drugs like cocaine, Mdma does have abuse potential. It is supported by finding the following withdrawal symptoms experienced by its users:

  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • A feeling of tiredness and fatigue
  • Reduced ability to concentrate                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Fatal neurological complications

Since Mdma is an amphetamine derivative it comes with a risk of life-threatening neurological complications owing to its hypertensive and dehydrating effects.

Sympathetic hyperstimulation

Toxic doses of Mdma can cause hypertension, increased heart rate, perspiration, erectile dysfunction, diarrhea, nausea, blurred vision, hyperthermia, and insomnia.

During pregnancy

Mdma has teratogenic potential and is contraindicated in pregnancy due to its neurotoxic and cardiotoxic effects on the fetus.

Drug Interactions

Mdma interacts with the following drugs to produce alter effects:

  • CYP450 inhibitors e.g ritonavir
  • Other serotonergic drugs to produce serotonin syndrome
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors

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