Cite this article

NIDA. (2004, May 1). NIDA Community Drug Alert Bulletin - Club Drugs. Retrieved from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/publications/nida-community-drug-alert-bulletin-club-drugs

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Methylenedioxy- methamphetamine (MDMA)

Slang or Street Names: Ecstasy, XTC, X, Adam, Clarity, Lover's Speed

Chemically, MDMA is similar to the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. MDMA can produce both stimulant and mild sensory-altering effects.

  • Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA), and paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA) are chemically similar to MDMA, are sometimes found in ecstasy tablets, and can produce deleterious health effects.
  • MDMA is usually taken orally, via a tablet or capsule. Its effects last approximately 3 to 6 hours, though depression, sleep problems, and anxiety have been reported for days to weeks afterwards.
  • MDMA can produce a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure and a sense of alertness similar to that associated with amphetamine use.
  • MDMA can cause a marked increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), which may further be exacerbated by hot and crowded conditions characteristic of the rave environment. Hyperthermia can lead to liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure. MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown), so repeated use over a short interval of time can lead to especially harmful levels in the body.
  • MDMA users can become dehydrated, prompting increased water consumption. In some cases, this has led to the problem of "water intoxication" or hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition in which excessive water consumption causes a dramatic decrease in electrolytes. MDMA can affect the hormone that regulates the amount of sodium in the blood, which can also cause hyponatremia.
  • In animal studies, repeated administration of MDMA was found to produce long-lasting, perhaps permanent, damage to the neurons that release serotonin. In humans, chronic use of MDMA has been associated with memory impairment, which may indicate damage to the parts of the brain involved in memory processing.
  • Recent animal studies have shown that binge use of MDMA is toxic to the heart. Health effects observed included arrhythmia, heart muscle damage, and reductions in heart rate and blood pressure. (Initially, MDMA increases heart rate and blood pressure, but following repeated use, this effect is reversed.)
  • Newborn rats exposed to MDMA develop impairments of spatial learning and memory that are seen when the rats become young adults. The newborn stage of rodent brain development is analogous to late third trimester in humans.
  • NIDA's 2003 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study reported that 2.1 percent of 8th-graders, 3.0 percent of 10th-graders, and 4.5 percent of 12th-graders had used MDMA in the 12 months prior to the survey. This is a decrease from 2001 peak rates of 3.5, 6.2, and 9.2 percent, respectively.

*MDMA abuse has been reported across the country, including most of the 21 areas that are monitored by NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG), a network of researchers that provide ongoing community-level surveillance of drug abuse. CEWG cities in which MDMA use has been reported include: Chicago, Denver, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Boston, Detroit, New York, St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

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