A readable and balanced article in TIME magazine, already from 2000, about the benefits and downsides of ecstasy, also known as MDMA.
I particularly like the description of the effects of MDMA, and honestly believe that, in making people peaceful and empathetic and lowering socially constructed barriers, it can have therapeutic effects on people. On the other hand, the dangers are also documented. These are slight, however, in comparison to other drugs (including marihuana) and especially alcohol. Most of them are short-term and situational, while the scientific debate about long-term effects is still going on. But most likely, long-term effects only play a role with big time users.
No wonder that it’s increasingly being studied again by medical scientists for its therapeutic value.
What’s the appeal of ecstasy? As a user put it, it’s “a six-hour orgasm.” About half an hour after you swallow a hit of e, you begin to feel peaceful, empathetic and energetic–not edgy, just clear. Pot relaxes but sometimes confuses; LSD stupefies; cocaine wires. Ecstasy has none of those immediate downsides. “Jack,” 29, an Indiana native who has taken ecstasy about 40 times, said the only time he felt as good as he does on e was when he found out he had won a Rhodes scholarship. He enjoys feeling logorrheic: ecstasy users often talk endlessly, maybe about a silly song that’s playing or maybe about a terrible burden on them. E allows the mind to wander, but not into hallucinations. Users retain control. Jack can allow his social defenses to crumble on ecstasy, and he finds he can get close to people from different backgrounds. “People I would never have talked to, because I’m mostly in the Manhattan business world, I talk to on ecstasy. I’ve made some friends I never would have had.”
All this marveling should raise suspicions, however. It’s probably not a good idea to try to duplicate the best moment of one’s life 40 times, if only because it will cheapen the truly good times. And even as they help open the mind to new experiences, drugs also can distort the reality to which users ineluctably return. Is ecstasy snake oil? And how harmful is it?
This is what we know:
An ecstasy pill most probably won’t kill you or cure you.
There’s a long-standing debate about MDMA’s dangers, which will take much more research to resolve. The theory is that MDMA’s perils spring from the same neurochemical reaction that causes its pleasures. After MDMA enters the bloodstream, it aims with laser-like precision at the brain cells that release serotonin, a chemical that is the body’s primary regulator of mood. MDMA causes these cells to disgorge their contents and flood the brain with serotonin.
Normally, serotonin levels are exquisitely maintained, which is crucial because the chemical helps manage not only mood but also body temperature. In fact, overheating is MDMA’s worst short-term danger. Flushing the system with serotonin, particularly when users take several pills over the course of one night, can short-circuit the body’s ability to control its temperature. Dancing in close quarters doesn’t help, and because some novice users don’t know to drink water, e users’ temperatures can climb as high as 110[degrees]. At such extremes, the blood starts to coagulate.
Ricaurte told TIME that “the vast majority of people who have experimented with MDMA appear normal, and there’s no obvious indication that something is amiss.”