Is MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly) ‘Penicillin For The Soul’?

What is MDMA?


MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), was first developed in the early 1900s in Germany as a parent compound to be used to synthesize other pharmaceuticals. It was patented in 1914 by a drug company called Merck, and at first, scientists originally thought it could be used as an appetite suppressant. During the 1970s, in the United States, psychiatrists experimented in using MDMA as a psychotherapeutic tool. MDMA gathered a small following among psychiatrists between the late 70s and early 80s, and it earned the moniker “penicillin for the soul” – as it was thought to enhance communication in patient sessions and reportedly also helped user find accountability and insights for their problems.

In late 2000 the FDA approved the first small clinical trial for MDMA in psychotherapy and it was determined to aid in recovery from post traumatic stress disorder.

Recreationally speaking, MDMA is commonly known as “Ecstasy” or “Molly”, and is consumed primarily for its euphoric/empathogenic effects. It is also known for having psychedelic effects similar to mescaline. Pharmacologically speaking, MDMA acts as a serotonin-norepinephrine-dopaminereleasing agent and reuptake inhibitor.

In popular culture MDMA is sometimes referred to as a “club drug” because it is favored in the nightlife scene, at raves, as well as music festivals/concerts.


How Does MDMA Work?

MDMA works by increasing the activity of three neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of brain cells): serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The effects are also believed to be very similar to stimulants/amphetamines.

Serotonin is responsible for controlling feeling of pain, our moods, and our sexual desires. When the extra serotonin is released by MDMA, it causes mood-elevating effects in its users, such as euphoria, alertness, intensified sense of touch as well as feelings of love, sexual arousal and trust. Users typically report feeling heightened senses of emotional closeness as well as empathy.


How is MDMA Used?


MDMA is typically taken in the form of a pill or capsule, which are sometimes different colors, and have cartoonish images on them. When taken as “Molly” (slang for “molecular”) it is in the form of pure crystalline powder. It is also often taken in conjunction with other psychoactive drugs, such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and ketamine. Users sometimes use mentholated products while taking MDMA for its cooling sensation.

The effects generally begin 15 minutes after ingestion, and last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. It is not uncommon for users to take several subsequent doses of MDMA once the effects of the first dose begin to wane.


Positive Side Effects of MDMA

Positive effects include…

  • Euphoria
  • Intense feelings of well-being/happiness
  • Increased sociability
  • Ease in communication
  • Sense of inner peace
  • Mild hallucinations
  • Enhanced sensation, perception and sexuality
  • Increased stamina/energy
  • Alertness
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Increased feeling of connection to others
  • Enhanced connection to music
  • Happiness
  • Empathy

Negative Side Effects of MDMA

Negative effects include…

  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tension
  • Teeth clenching
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Blurred vision
  • Faintness
  • Chills or sweating
  • Higher body temperature (can lead to serious heart, liver, or kidney problems)

Long term abuse of MDMA can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys, and also increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. MDMA use has also been shown to produce brain lesions, a form of brain damage, in the serotonergic neural pathways of animals, but it is unclear if typical MDMA users may suffer similar neurotoxic brain lesions.

Adverse changes to neuroplasticity and white matter in the brain, also occur when humans use low doses of MDMA. Damage can also be done to the teeth and gums of those who abuse the substance, as oftentimes it can cause the user to grind teeth – which can lead to cavities and gum disease.


Therapeutic Usage of MDMA

MAPS is in the process of funding clinical trials using MDMA as a tool to assist psychotherapy for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to their research, “Preliminary studies have shown that MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy can help people overcome PTSD, and possibly other disorders as well. MDMA is known for increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others, which could make an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD”.

Studies are also being done with MDMA in relation to enhancing the quality of life in autistic adults with social anxiety as well.

MDMA Legality

Possession of MDMA is illegal in most countries, but limited exceptions exist for scientific and medical research. It is currently placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the United States.

In 2013 it was reported that between 9 and 28 million people used ecstasy (0.2% to 0.6% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65).  According to reports, this percentage was broadly similar to the number of users for cocaine, substituted amphetamines, and opioids, but far fewer than the number of cannabis users.



About MDMA

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  1.' nezzyidy on September 22, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    It’s my understanding that while heavy, extended MDMA use is certainly damaging to the brain, there are many questions regarding the lasting effects on the human brain. Also, what dosage represents a harmful dose? Thanks to it’s schedule 1 rating, scientific study has proven very difficult. The discussion of brain lesions is often not how it is discussed by members of the scientific community. On Wikipedia’s MDMA page, the cited source for the sentence about brain lesions cites an article by Scheffel which specifically calls it “lesions of serotonin neurons”. That same study also suggests that the brain may recover from serotonergic damage but the amount of bounce back is unknown. The main success of that study on a single baboon was that it showed that a PET analysis mostly agreed with the analysis that was revealed after sacrificing the animal and performing an autopsy. After this information was made public, a study was performed on human subjects by McCann in 1998 with the knowledge that PET analysis could be mostly relied upon.

    Positron emission tomographic evidence of toxic effect of MDMA . . ., The Lancet Vol 352, Oct 31, 1998, 1437

    The 1998 study compared 14 heavy MDMA users with 14 control subjects. They used sophisticated PET scans to try to measure the amount of serotonin axons in each subject. It found that heavy MDMA users (500 mg average dosage between 70 and 400 times) tended to have somewhat lower serotonin axon counts. No behavioral or functional impairment was found in these users.

    An interesting side note was that the first mentioned baboon study “In Vivo Detection of Short- and Long-Term MDMA Neurotoxicity—A PositronEmission Tomography Studying the Living Baboon Brain – SCHEFFEL”, one of the cited sources is for a study by Dr. George A. Ricaurte of Johns Hopkins University of toxic doses in squirrel monkeys where 25% of them died. That paper and three other connected papers were later retracted by the editor when it was found that the researcher used methamphetamine instead of MDMA, causing many research professionals to call into question the research done throughout his entire career. He claims that the medication was mislabeled by the supplier but the supplier denies this. In any case the results were not at all in line with previous research and that should have been immediately apparent to him after reviewing the test results. To this day he enjoys a prestigious career where he is well funded by government money.

    •' Sonata on October 20, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you for caring and posting it!!! Great info!!

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