MDMA is a classical entactogen substance of the amphetamine class. It is the most well-known and widely-used member of the entactogens, a diverse group that includes MDA, methylone, 4-MMC, and 6-APB. It produces its effects by promoting the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.

Ecstasy, Molly, Mandy, Beans, E, XTC, Emma, MD, Rolls, Pingers, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

Subjective effects include stimulation, anxiety suppression, disinhibition, enhanced empathy and sociability, relaxation, and euphoria. It is classified as an entactogen or “empathogen,” due to how it facilitates feelings of closeness with one’s self and others. A notable property of MDMA is that tolerance builds unusually quickly, and many users report that it dramatically loses effectiveness if used on a frequent basis.

MDMA was first developed in 1912 by Dr. Anton Köllisch of the pharmaceutical company, Merck, as a medication to prevent excessive bleeding. In 1965, American chemist Alexander Shulgin synthesized MDMA as an academic exercise but did not test it for psychoactivity. Shulgin claims to have first heard about the effects of MDMA in 1967 from a student, and decided to experiment with it himself. Believing it could have therapeutic utility, he advertised it to therapists and psychiatrists, which led it to gain popularity as an adjunct treatment for various psychological disorders. During this period, psychotherapist Dr. Leo Zeff introduced MDMA to over 4,000 patients. From the mid-1970s to 1980s, there was a growth of clinicians using MDMA (then known as “Adam”) in California. In the early 1980s, it spread into nightlife and rave culture, which eventually resulted in federal scheduling in 1985. By 2014, it was estimated to be one of the most popular recreational drugs in the world, alongside cocaine and cannabis.