AFP Journal of Education



By Humberto Garciasalas




Table of Contents                                                                                                    Page #


Introduction: What is MDMA? ………………………………………………………..2

History …………………………………………………………………………………...3

Effects ……………………………………………………………………………………5


Dependency and Detection………………………………………………………………8

Rave party/ College students ……………………………………………………………9

Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………….. 11







What is MDMA?


Methlenedioxyamphetamine is a chemical substance called a designer drug or the mellow drug  of America (Carroll, 225). The cousin of Methleneamphetamine is Methyleneamphetamine(MDA), and both chemical substances place users of these drugs into a dream state. Both of these drugs are psychoactive drugs that bring hallucinogenic effects to the user’s mental and bodily functions (Carroll, 225). Hallucinogens are substances that disrupt the mind. MDMA provides the effect of cocaine and of psychedelics (Carroll, 215). Psychedelics refer to mind expansion or the ability of the mind to perceive more than it can tell. For instance, there are major characteristics of the hallucinogenic experience of psychedelic drugs:


Heightened awareness of sensory input,

Experienced as a flood of sensation

An enhanced sense of clarity

Diminished control over what one experiences ( Carroll, 215)


Carroll explains that a person’s sensations are heightened by an intense effect on the mind and the body.  The mind’s functions are expanded to a point that all senses appear to be enhanced. The process of diminished control is from the intense effect on the brain and its senses in the body and outside of the body. The substances of MDMA disrupts the mind’s function, so a person’s ability to have control over senses and bodily functions becomes diminished in his or her experiences.


MDMA is known as “ Ecstacy”, “Adam”, “XTC”, “ M&M”, “the Yuppie Drug”, “ Essence”, “Clarity”, “Venus”, “Zen”, and “Doctor”( Brust, 70).  This drug is available in clubs in the form of pills and powder. These forms of MDMA are taken orally ( Brust, 70). MDMA is a drug that seems to be a pleasure enhancer, yet studies indicate that users of 20 to 180 days have altered serotonin in the central nervous system (Brust, 70).  Many college students and other young people do perceive MDMA as a harmless pleasure drug, but in actuality its effects are dangerous. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and researchers are concerned about young people

taking take this mind altering drug(J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 247).  This research paper discusses three studies on MDMA and its effects: one, on serotonin and MDMA in the brain; two, the toxic activity of MDMA in the brain, and three, on rave party attendees’ abuse of MDMA, so these studies reveal a connection to college students’ behavior and physical condition after ingesting MDMA.



In 1914, the E. Merck Pharmaceutical Company in Darmstadt, Germany produced a drug for German soldiers suffering from acute hunger (Drug Education,Vol 33(3), 245).  The initial purpose of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine was to treat soldiers hunger, so the soldiers used MDMA to suppress their hunger in the field( J.Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 245).


After the 1950’s Methylenedioxyamphetamine was ignored during its use to treat animals, so in the 1980’s,doctors used Methlenedioxyamphetamine for psychotherapy( Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 246).   Doctors prescribed MDMA to their patents because this drug increased self-esteem, self-insight, enhanced empathy, enhanced communication, and interpersonal relations(Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 246).  The use of MDMA became a recreational drug among American college students, because it was legal to buy in the United States from the 1970’s to the 1980’s (Carroll, 224). However, since the mid 1980’s, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) appealed to the Supreme Court that this drug should be illegal to manufacture, use, buy, and sell (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 246).


In 1985, The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) attained a temporary restriction of the use of MDMA under schedule I.  Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, schedule I means that a chemical substance become illegal substance, if it is harmful and unsafe to use( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 245). In July 1985, animals studies reveal that animals that ingested MDMA for periods of one month to 90 days have suffered neurotoxin damage. The DEA used this report to prove that MDMA should be placed on schedule I (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 245).


In 1988, a judge ruled that MDMA should be placed on schedule III, for the reason that there is no evidence to show that this drug is harmful and unsafe (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 245).   Schedule III is a substance used for medical use, so MDMA was being sold in bars and nightclubs (J. Drug Education, 245).


In 1992, the Supreme Court allowed permanent classification for MDMA as schedule I. because the DEA presented more animal studies that explained animals given dosages of  MDMA showed long term effects to serotonin in the brain (J. Drug Education, Volume 33 (3), 246). Since 1990, the DEA were trying to get ruling for federal aid to continue animal studies of MDMA long term effects on serotonin in the brain. The judge also allowed more studies on the long term effects of MDMA on the central nervous system. (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(3), 246).


MDMA users experience positive effects and negative effects, yet these effects range from calmness to nervous and painful. The positive effects of MDMA are on a person’s psychological and sociological functions, which this drug enhances as well as feelings empathy and love (Carroll, 246). MDMA effects are milder and less intense of those effects on users of cocaine and amphetamines, therefore users can experience teeth clenching and Euphoria(Carroll, 225).  The calmness effect of MDMA are associated with the nerves and bodily functions, such reflex and defense mechanisms, increased empathy for other people, and also increased sensual intimate communications, and touching( Carroll 226-227). These effects are the MDMA users experience in their “dream states.” The dream state is a person being calm and exerting relaxed and openness in interactions with people (Carrol, 227).

The negative effects of MDMA are potentially harmful to the central nervous system and the brain, because investigations revealed reports on undesirable effects of MDMA( Carroll, 226). For instance, a MDMA user can receive negative side effects such as psychological difficulties reported by the user include mental

confusion, depression, anxiety, generalized panic, and even paranoia( Carroll, 226).


These are mental reactions to the effects of the chemical substance in MDMA. The common problems are nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and increased heart rate(Carroll, 226).  The long term effects will depend on neurotoxic effects of MDMA , which is currently being investigated, yet the initial evidence suggests that

permanent serotonin depletion( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(1), 62).



            Severe consequences may occur when an abuser’s prolonged use of MDMA, but this drug causes serotonin depletion in the brain ( Carroll, 227). Carlton Blanton and Lou Hughes explain that the levels of serotonin provide increased calmness and combat depression(Blanton, 202).   Serotonin is a chemical that passes messages from one neuron to another neuron in the central nervous system (Blanton, 202).   Serotonin passes the message to the neurotransmitters to the brain in order to bring the feeling of calmness. The purpose of serotonin is to pass messages to the brain to allow a particular thought to soothe pain, reduce anxiety, combat depression, and induce sleep( Blanton, 202).  The serotonin may impact with the chemicals of MDMA in the central nervous system. Consequently, through long term usage, these chemicals of MDMA will cause depletion of serotonin (Burst, 70).

 According to studies by Robert S. Feldman, serontonergic projections from the toxic actions of MDMA in the central nervous system indicate a loss of axon endings.  The central nervous system has its nerves that connect neurotransmitters to the end of each nerve called axon endings( Feldman, 358). Feldman shows pictures of micrographs on the serotonergic fibers of a rat’s forebrain, this picture shows 5T neurotransmitters after 180 days of usage of MDMA.  After the rat’s long term usage of MDMA, the serotonin depleted. This study indicates that human users may suffer serotonin depletion and possible damage to nerves in the brain. The actual consequence for chronic MDMA users may result in an adverse reaction within a year of prolonged usage. An average dosage for humans is two to three times of 40 milligrams, and if this dosage may lead to insomnia for weeks, and flashbacks (Burst, 70).  The adverse reaction will occur with MDMA in a process: first, the lost of the users’ control of the nerves, then resulting in panic, psychosis, delirium, and intravascular coagulation, seizures, coma, and then death (Burst, 70).

Dependency and Detection
            The tolerance of MDMA builds through the abuser’s on going presence in the environment where the drug is available, either in the social scene, clubs or in, where peer pressure the streets influences students and other young people to engage in a lifestyle with use of MDMA( Burst, 70).  According to George S Yacoubian PhD, the underground drug is not detectable, because the venues sell the drug privately in small clubs or rave parties (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2) 194). Yacoubian states that finding this drug,  its dependency and physical detection of ecstacy is difficult, because many users of  MDMA also use other drugs and drink alcohol( J.Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 194).  This data does not show evidence of dependency, because in this study, the means MDMA is compared to other drug uses, and MDMA is low in the usage compared to other drug users.  Because of regular use of alcohol and ingestion MDMA pills or powder, MDMA cannot be smelled or seen. (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 194).  Users of ecstacy may use other drugs such as alcohol and hard drugs, and many other users of different drugs do use MDMA( J. drug Education, Volume 33(1), 66). This study  is based on yearly usage of MDMA in a comparison study of one year users at rave parties in 1997(J. Drug Education, Volume 33(1), 61).  These  comparisons of 12 month users indicate that MDMA users take hard drugs, so the study concludes that because of these users had taken MDMA with other drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine, the patterns of ingestion suggest that

these users seek out ecstacy cut with other drugs( J. Drug Education, Volume, 67). This shows  that there is no research that has explored ecstacy’s place in the drug-using pathway, therefore there is no way to detect those older users who use MDMA at one point.


Rave Party Attendees

                The first research study on college students and alcohol consumption and ecstacy had two methodological logical limitations: one, no studies have focused on rave attendees in the United States; and the second methodological limitation, no studies on the rave attendees had focused on perceived harm of ecstacy (J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 188). For instance, the methodological limitation is due to a research asserting that human beings suffer neurotoxic effects after taking ecstasy for long time (J.Drug Education, 33(1), 62). The first study on college students and alcohol consumption and ecstasy shows broad studies on related rave club attendees in United States and England ( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(1), 67). The reports centered on the moderate use of

12 month day users in organizations and fraternities( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(1), 67).


 The second research study on college students and rave clubs was conducted by two college students as interviewers in May 2002 at Baltimore-Washington.  These college students attended the rave clubs between 10p.m and 5a.m. ( J.Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 189). The interviewers approached all groups of students at the rave club, and attended answers to questions in many interviews(189). The questions ranged from topic of two day use of MDMA to 30 day use to 90 day use( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 189). The interviewers followed a module of questions that focused on the responder’s perception of the harm of MDMA( J.Drug Education, 33(2), 190). The interviewer asked the college students to think about harming themselves as they took this drug( J. Drug Education, 33(2), 190). The college students were asked about long term effects of MDMA (190).



The results were that 80 percent of the 70 students interviewed reported 12 months usage of MDMA, and 40 percent have been using for the last two days( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 190). The interviewers also conducted a T-test which is a self-evaluation test on the effects and harm of the drug ( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2),192). The data for these results were computed as ratios regular chronic use of ecstacy is 1 to 3, and of these users, they believed that MDMA is physically harmful, ratio 1 to 0.


After these interviews, the responses were coded 1, 2, and 3, so the rave attendees were rated at rate risk; 1 for no risk, 2 for moderate risk, 3 for strong risk. Most of these students did not see MDMA as a long term risk ( J. Drug Education, Volume 33(2), 192). The new users’ response was a ( 3 ) on the fact that MDMA is both physically and psychologically harmful. The long term users were rated (1) for the fact that MDMA is both physically and psychologically harmful. (J. Drug Education, Volume 33 (2), 192).




Both studies by Yacoubian and the DEA have shown a tread of argument about MDMA use in rave clubs, which is to prevent future users of MDMA from experiencing the psychological effects and the long term effects on the central nervous system and the brain.   The data from the interviews and other studies of abuse and physical harm indicate that those who are already have drug dependencies for other drugs will add MDMA to their destructive behavior.  Yacoabnian and the interviewers’ information on the long term users (12 month users), which is that they already built a tolerance to adding more drugs to their toxic abuse on their minds.  The date has shown that new users have not experimented with alcohol and other drugs, because their answers show that they see hard drugs as harmful and have gained tolerance for them.  The new users of MDMA have concern for this drug. The new users in general have not used other drugs for a year.  Then tread of the argument in these articles by Yacoubian show that long term ingestion of MDMA should be avoided by new users and other users.





Blanton, C.,Hughes.      Strategies and Techniques for Health Promotion and Drug Prevention


Brust, John C.M.           Neurological Aspects of Substance Abuse  Butterworth-

                                        Heinemann.  Boston. 1993.


Carroll, Charles R.       Drugs in Modern Society Mc Graw Hill. Boston. 2000.


Fieldman, Robert S.      Principles of Neuropsych Pharmacology Sinauer Associates

                                       Massachusettes. 1997.


Yacoubian, George S.  “Correlates of Ecstacy use among students surveyed through

The 1997 college alcohol study.”Journal of Drug Education.

Volume 33(1) PP. 61-69.  2003


Yacoubian, George S.  “ It’s a Rave new world: estimating the prevalence and

                                         Perceived harm of ecstacy and other drug use among club

                                         Rave attendees”  Juurnal of Drug Education.  Volume 33(2)

                                         PP. 187-196. 2003.


Yacoubian, George S.  “ Tracking ecstacy trends in the United States with data from

                                         Three national drug surveillance systems.  Journal of Drug

                                         Education.  Volume 33(3) PP. 245- 258.


Copyright © 2004, Humberto Garciasalas. All rights reserved.


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