3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as MDMA is a synthetic recreational drug that is often abused due to its psychoactive effects. Users laud it for increased sociability, energy, enhanced mood and an intense feeling of social excitement that has been linked to addiction. Critics of the drug have time and again raised the red flag regarding long-term use ostensibly because of its conversion to MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) which is primarily thought to have neurotoxic properties. The drug traces its origin to Germany, when Merck, a pharmaceutical company, developed it in 1912 with the sole goal of using it for psychotherapeutic reasons. Nonetheless, the drug soon became a hit among young adults in the 1980s, later becoming widespread and was ultimately prohibited in 1985 from medical use. Despite the ban, MDMA is still sold illegally around the globe with the United Nations (UN) estimating that close to 18.9 million individuals had used it globally by the year 2016 (Karch, 2007, p. 67). Dealers often sell it in pills form with most users preferring to combine it with other psychoactive substances such as ephedrine, Tylenol or caffeine. Though demonized for its adverse effects on the human body, nascent research is now providing new information that point to the positive results of using MDMA. In this essay, I will give a detailed analysis of the positive aspects of using MDMA while also mentioning the potential harm that the drug may have on users.
Controversy has for a long time courted MDMA. It has been the source of ecstasy for thousands of young adults who find themselves in dance parties and festivals which are necessarily “highly social” situations. It is this attribute that first caught the attention of researchers. Studies now prove that MDMA promotes pro-social demeanor, especially in individuals with high social anxiety. If used in moderate doses, say 75g, the effect is that the individual addicted to the drug can inhibit their anxiety and strengthen bonds with those around them (“Impact of Positive and Negative Ecstasy-related Information on Ecstasy Use Among College Students: Results of a Longitudinal Study,” 2010). The main reason for this positive effect is an increase in Oxytocin known for its vital role in social behavior. Many therapists therefore strongly believe that its use is vital in family and couples therapy. Moreover, scientists have recently viewed the use of MDMA as a novel strategy in the treatment of individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Various clinical trials on persons who have chronic PTSD indicate that there are marked improvements in their affliction’s symptoms. It can consequently be used in psychotherapy to treat brain abnormalities that have been associated with PTSD and reduce fear among these persons (“3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA): Current Perspectives,” 2013). MDMA can also be used as a treatment option in tackling a Neurodegenerative disease which includes Parkinson’s disease that has proven difficult to treat. Exposure to individuals suffering from severe symptoms such as uncontrolled limb movements has revealed that MDMA reduces these motor symptoms, making the condition manageable.
On the flipside, it is import also to remember that MDMA is a highly addictive drug that often has adverse effects on users. As mentioned earlier, the drug has adverse impacts on a cellular level as it interrupts the normal functional integrity of the mitochondria. Such a structural effect is dangerous since the mitochondrion is responsible for producing the energy that drives the cells. The resultant effect is a toxic rise in Oxidative stress levels inside the cell that ultimately damages nucleic acids and lipids. Furthermore, addiction to MDMA has been linked to paranoia, memory loss, and excessive perspiration linked to deaths resulting from dehydration caused by a spike in body temperature. Mood swings are also a typical result of long-term use of the drug due to an increase in neurotransmitter use, which soon become depleted when the person in question stops using (Coon & Coon, 2006, p. 45). As a result, the subject is caught up in a recurrent cycle that involves mood swings that cause them to be severely apathetic, hopeless and depressed. Additionally, chemical changes often occur in the brain creating a state of dependence on the drug. Withdrawal symptoms are the most common indicator of addiction as fiends manifest psychological symptoms that may include trouble concentrating, sleep deprivation and fatigue.
In conclusion, there has been a lot of stigma associated with the use of Schedule 1 drugs such as MDMA in a society that is yet to embrace it wholeheartedly. Researchers have nevertheless continued to conduct research that proves the positive effects that addiction to the drug might have on the users such as pro-social demeanor, managing PTSD symptoms and treatment of Neurodegenerative diseases. Even with these benefits, it is still important to remember that MDMA is an addictive synthetic drug that has the capability of increasing cell toxicity, increase in memory loss and mood swings. It is therefore prudent to strike a healthy balance in its use to avoid falling into the abyss.