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Ecstasy Essay, Research Paper

In the year 1998, there were approximately 1.2 million ecstasy pills coming into the United States which increased ten fold by the year 1999, bringing in 12.1 million tablets. It is the most widely used drug next to marijuana among young adults and dominates the rave and club scene. Ecstasy is a ‘psychedelic amphetamine’ that has gained popularity over the past 20 years because of its ability to produce strong feelings of comfort, empathy, and connection to others. MDMA use is closely tied to the underground rave (and dance club) scene throughout the world, but has also been widely used by therapists as an adjunct to psychotherapy.

Ecstasy is a semi synthetic compound called methylenedioxy methamphetamine or MDMA. Often, the drug is referred to as E, X, the hug drug, or rolls. It usually comes in the form of small, pressed pills, though also available as loose powder and sometimes in capsules. Tablets are taken orally and one pill contains an active dose. For many non-regular users, half a tablet is sufficient. There are thousands of pill labels, each looking different, that come and go: Y2K’s, Mitsubishi’s, Clovers, Zorro’s, Rockets, etc. However, these generally mean little since quality can, and generally does, vary considerably between batches. Well-known brand names are also the most counterfeited. MDMA was patented as long ago as 1913 by the German company Merck. Rumor has it that the drug was sold as a slimming pill along with comic descriptions of its strange side effects, although it was never marketed and the patent doesn’t mention uses. The next time it came to light was in 1953 when the US army tested a number of drugs for military applications – again, folklore says it was tried as a truth drug, but there is no evidence for this. The father of MDMA – or ’stepfather’ as he describes himself – is Alexander Shulgin. After obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, Shulgin got a job as a research chemist with Dow Chemicals, for whom he invented a profitable insecticide. As a reward, the company gave him a free hand and his own lab. Having had an exciting experience on Mescaline, Shulgin used the opportunity to research psychedelic drugs. An accepted test for psychedelic effects was to observe how fighting fish change their behavior. But there were problems with this method; fish cannot say when they are under the influence. His answer was to ’suck it and see’. Shulgin proceeded to test the drug MDMA on himself as well as several of his patients. It is impossible to ever know the true breadth of therapeutic MDMA usage achieved during the remaining years of his life, but at his memorial service, an old friend of his said, “Well, I’ve thought about that, and I think probably around four thousand, give or take a few.” Those first psychotherapists to use MDMA were keenly aware that they had found a valuable new tool. As one put it, “MDMA is penicillin for the soul, and you don’t give up prescribing penicillin, once you’ve seen what it can do”. They were equally aware that if MDMA became a popular street drug, it could follow in the footsteps of LSD and be criminalized by the US government. They agreed to do as much informal research as possible without bringing the drug to public attention, and did pretty well; MDMA only gradually became known as a fun drug and it wasn’t until 1984 that the bubble burst. Those years 1977 to 1985 are looked back on as the ‘golden age’ of Ecstasy or Adam as it was then known. In psychotherapy, its use only appealed to a few experimental therapists since it didn’t fit in with the usual fifty-minute psychotherapy session, but they did include some of the most dynamic people in the field, including some who claimed that a five hour Adam session was as good as five months of therapy. There was also a select a group of ‘explorers’ who used the drug in various ways, but, surprisingly, they never discovered its potential as a dance drug.

By 1984 the drug was still legal and was being used widely among students in the USA under its new name ‘Ecstasy’. It is rumored that a big-time dealer called it ‘Empathy’, but, although the name is more appropriate, he found that Ecstasy had more sales appeal. In Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, Ecstasy was even on sale in bars where you could pay by credit card, where it replaced cocaine as the drug of choice among yuppies and even spread to people who normally kept well clear of drugs. However, it was this public and unashamed use that resulted in the drug being outlawed. During 1985, Ecstasy got into the mass media because a small group of people sued the US Drug Enforcement Agency to try to prevent them from outlawing the drug. The controversy provided free advertising which made Ecstasy spread like wildfire throughout the US. It was a case of bad timing. The previous year there had been a widely publicized disaster that made the authorities overreact to any new scare. A batch of ‘China White’, a so-called designer drug which was sold to heroin addicts as a legal substitute, had contained a poisonous impurity, and, tragically, it caused a form of severe brain damage similar to Parkinson’s disease. As a result, the US Congress passed a new law allowing the DEA to put an emergency ban on any drug it thought might be a danger to the public. On July 1, 1985, this right was used for the first time to ban MDMA. It was put in the most restrictive category of all, reserved for damaging and addictive drugs without medical use. The effect of prohibition was to curtail research into the drug without changing the attitudes of recreational users. However, the Agency’s haste was at the expense of not following the letter of the law, leaving the ruling to be overturned in subsequent court cases.

The temporary ban only lasted for a year; meanwhile a hearing was set up to decide what permanent measures should be taken against the drug. The case received much publicity and was accompanied by press reports advancing the kind of scare stories now current in Europe, which added to the pressure to make the ban permanent. One widely publicized report referred to evidence that another drug, MDA, caused brain damage in rats and concluded that MDMA could cause brain damage in humans. The media indulged in horror scenarios of ‘our kids’ brains rotting by the time they were thirty, although there was no evidence that MDMA caused brain damage in rats at the dosage levels used by humans. On the other side were the psychotherapists who gave evidence of the benefits of the drug, but they had failed to prepare their ground by carrying out scientifically acceptable trials, so their evidence was regarded as ‘anecdotal’.

The case ended with the judge recommending that MDMA be placed in a less restrictive category, Schedule three, which would have allowed it to be manufactured, to be used on prescription and to be the subject of research. But the recommendation was ignored by the DEA, which refused to back down and instead placed MDMA permanently in Schedule one. A group of MDMA supporters made a successful challenge to this decision in the Federal Court of Appeal, but their objections were overturned on March 23, 1988. The fight is still continuing on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional, that the correct procedure was not followed. and that the DEA did not take all the evidence into account.

The criminalization of MDMA in America has had wide-ranging consequences. The first was to prevent the drug being used by professional therapists, except in Switzerland. The second was to reduce the quality of the drug as sold on the street, because demand was now met by clandestine laboratories and the drug was distributed through the criminal network. Although the number of users was dramatically reduced at first, criminalization did not prevent the drug’s popularity spreading worldwide. The rave scene started on the hippy holiday island of Ibiza in 1987, where Ecstasy joined LSD and hashish at all-night dance parties. In England raves took the form of both large outdoor and warehouse parties. Warehouses were prepared secretly so as to avoid local people obtaining a court order to prevent the raves happening. Tickets were sold in advance without the address, but with a phone number to ring on the night for instructions regarding a meeting place. such as a motorway service station. from where a convoy would proceed to the venue. Opposition to raves was fierce since people living up to two miles away could be kept awake all night. By 1990, the British government had passed a law, the Entertainment’s (Increased Penalties Act), which effectively put an end to these big gatherings. The result was to push ravers into dance clubs. The Hacienda in Manchester led the trend in 1988 with the now prevalent style: DJs who never spoke, but teased the dancers with their subtle scratching establishing the “Manchester sound.” From there clubbing on E came to London, the rest of Europe, and eventually back to E’s native California. “The English ravers hit San Francisco in the winter of 1991. We were suddenly surrounded by these kids, moving here from England. They were coming here in droves and bringing with them a new sensibility, a new style of clothes,” as reported in the San Francisco examiner.

By this time Ecstasy had reached nearly every corner of society in England and by the winter of 1991-2, demand had outstripped supply, partly due to some massive police seizures. Dealers responded by selling any old tablet as Ecstasy and no doubt made huge profits, but as a result people had disappointing experiences and turned away from the drug. Many turned to LSD instead for the simple reason that the dose cannot be adulterated as it is microscopic (a thousand times smaller than a dose of MDMA) and is normally sold absorbed into a ‘blotter’, a tiny piece of paper too small to absorb active quantities of any other popular drug. However, people gradually turned back to Ecstasy use throughout the nineties and it became the most popular drug on the rave and club scene among young adults. But by 1994 the quality of Ecstasy improved and it became re-established as the dance drug of choice.

MDMA is used by a wider variety of people than other illicit drugs, and has been credited with bringing together types of people who would not mix previously. All over Europe and north America Ecstasy is found in city dance clubs, and in Britain, it has spread out to people living in the country. Young people are the most receptive to Ecstasy. Among British schoolchildren, Ecstasy is the drug most frequently encountered apart from cannabis, with girls trying it earlier than boys. But Ecstasy has spread to some surprising quarters. Peter McDermott, editor of The International Journal on Drug Policy, describes how it hit a group in Liverpool: “I went down to the local pub, and some of the regular four-pints-a-night drinkers were there – drinking orange juice and giggling: they had discovered Ecstasy.”

When raving was new to Britain, ravers described it as one big happy family and would feel at home at any event where people were using E. But over the years, and particularly from 1993, the scene has divided up into distinct subgroups – each with their own style of music and clothes, their own music, and drugs of choice. At one extreme are some younger Northerners who wave white gloved hands and blow whistles, while at the other are the upwardly mobile professionals who have absorbed Ecstasy and rave-type parties into their lifestyle, dressing much as they would for an office party and starting the evening with a few drinks. Along with these diversification’s in consumption of drugs, the atmosphere at events also varies widely and in general is less open-hearted. Overall, it seems that, like all counter-cultures, raving has become mainstream, but in a diluted form. Rather than being the exception, it is now normal to take E in a club, but the proportion of those on E is far smaller and many of them have also had a few drinks. Clubs need E available to provide a good atmosphere, so they encourage dealers on one hand while pretending to try to keep them out.

A new trend is commercialization of “chill out” parties. Formerly, ravers would invite others back to their homes for impromptu chill out parties. This was very much part of the culture and still goes on, but now some clubs cater for the same needs of somewhere to go while coming down off E with comfort and ambient music. On Ibiza there is a club that opens daily at 6am for the purpose. Some users of MDMA experience a dramatic worsening of mood as the peak effects wear off, often called the “crash”. This is often the result of coming down from a wonderful experience, not wanting the feelings to go away, and being sad, scared, or annoyed afterwards. Crashes do not happen after every experience and some users never experience them. One of the primary problems associated with crashing is that some users find themselves redosing in order to stave it off.

One of the primary problems with MDMA is the low quality of street ecstasy. Street ecstasy, especially pressed pills, is often mixed with a wide variety of adulterants that can cause a variety of negative side effects both unpleasant and dangerous. There is currently a raging debate about the possible neurotoxicity of MDMA. There have been and continue to be many into the effects of MDMA on users. There seems to be evidence of some changes to the brain in those who take Ecstasy heavily and/or frequently, though there are very few clinical studies showing any measurable negative effects. This is a very complicated issue because Ecstasy is such a new drug. It is too early to know a lot about any possible long-term symptoms. Negative effects can include overheating, nausea, vomiting, jaw-clenching, eye-twitching, and dizziness, as well as depression and fatigue in following days. After frequent or heavy use, some users report bouts of dizziness or vertigo which gradually subside after cessation of use. There have been problems with MDMA users experiencing , exhaustion, blackouts, and a few cases of death generally while using MDMA at clubs or raves. Ravers must be sure to drink water and take occasional breaks.

In conclusion, Ecstasy, just second to marijuana, is the most commonly used drug among young people at rave and clubs. Some would say that MDMA is doing for ravers today what marijuana did for the hippies. The common creed for all ravers is P.L.U.R. – peace, love, unity, and respect. The idea of was originally to forget about the troubles of the world and get together under a common bond. This creed developed almost immediately to promote peace within the community, and life as well. Even though the term P.L.U.R. developed later, and it is a basis commonly forgot by today’s “trend” ravers. P.L.U.R. is the embodiment of , it is the essence of the unity of everyone with a common goal. And Ecstasy is the choice drug of ravers and clubbers to use in order to achieve that inner peace and happiness.

Various Types of Ecstacy Pills:

A double-stacked A “Mitsubishi” A “4 Leaf “White Zorro” Clover”

Pictures Inside Raves And Clubs:


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