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MDMA is the active drug in ecstasy and is an amphetamine.

It works by combining by stimulating and relaxing effects on the body and mind and can in some cases produce hallucinogenic effects.
It was accidentally made by German chemists in search of a blood clotting agent in 1912.

When the US Army were on the hunt for truth serum around 40 years later they sponsored a secret study on how the drug affected animals because of its structural similarity to the hallucinogenic Mescaline.
After an American psychopharmacologist tested it on himself and noted how it affected his inhibitions it was shortly distributed around the world to many psychotherapists were it had significant success in couples therapy, were it gained the term Penicillin for the soul. Research into the drugs potential medicinal uses was cut short after the drug exploded on to the recreational drug scene and was made illegal in the 1980s

Psychological:

Physiological:

Euphoria Reduced anxiety Increased empathy Increased sociability Increased self-confidence Mild psychedelia

Increased heart rate Increased blood pressure Increased body temp Pupil dilation Trisma (Jawclenching/Gurning)

In a normal system serotonin is released from the pre-synaptic membrane, travels across the synapse, binds to the post-synaptic receptor and is then reabsorbed by the presynaptic membrane.
MDMA disrupts this cycle because it mimics serotonin. This causes the serotonin transporters which usually remove serotonin from the post-synaptic cleft to be deceived and instead of binding to serotonin they bind to MDMA. This results in an excessive of amount of serotonin being left in the synapse and allowed to keep binding to the postsynaptic receptors, essentially blocking reuptake. Evidence also shows that MDMA causes the serotonin transporters to have their roles reversed by increasing the amount of serotonin released which floods the brain with impulses Animation: http://thedea.org/MDMAatwork.html Greater levels of serotonin results in more active neurotransmission and more electrical signals are sent to the brain as a result These elevated serotonin levels can influence the release of more dopamine which provides a more pleasurable sensation

MDMA causes several physiological changes such as: Increased heart rate

Irregular heart beat (Arrhythmia)


Increased blood pressure Can lead to hyperthermia

The hypothalamus is also affected causing more antidiuretic hormones to be secreted which essentially prevents the kidneys from producing urine. If the individual continues to drink excessive amounts of water complications can occur which can consequent in osmosis destroying body cells Drinking excessive water can also cause hyponatremia which is were sodium levels in the blood are lower than normal and this electrolyte imbalance can cause swelling of the brain

Around 6 hours after taking a form of MDMA your serotonin supplies have been significantly depleted. The day after when your body is trying to recover is often referred to as a come down and is characterised by low mood (depression, anxiety), poor sleep, lack of appetite and other problems. Serotonin levels can be restored to their normal levels but this can take around 3-4 weeks and if MDMA is used again during the recovery stage then recovery can be prolonged. Some studies show long-term use of the drug can impair the ability for serotonin to bind with receptors, however there isnt sufficient evidence to support these claims. A Dutch study shows long-term use appears to damage and reduce numbers of serotonin axons in the thalamus and cerebral cortex. When serotonin is depleted the reuptake transporters are left vacant, dopamine then can bind with the transporter and be absorbed into the serotonin axon where it doesnt belong. Dopamine has been shown to be toxic to serotonin cells, and to make matters worse Monoamine Oxidase then breaks Dopamine down into Hydrogen Peroxide which is also toxic and oxidises parts of the cell that shouldnt be

Serotonin is also important for the ensuring thoughts are orderly. When in REM sleep the serotonin system is switched off, therefore there is no control on the structure of thoughts and this is where dreaming occurs producing many scattered, inexplicable thoughts. LSD also suppresses the serotonin system which explains the hallucinogenic experiences. For serotonin to be replenished the amino acid 5-HTP is needed. MDMA also appears to trigger the release of oxytocin, a powerful hormone in human bonding which is also released during sex. MDMA has now been used in post-traumatic stress disorder patients and figures claim around a 80% success

What two neurotransmitters does MDMA affect the concentrations of? (2) How does MDMA increase levels of serotonin? (2)

Dopamine and serotonin Prevents serotonin from being absorbed by reuptake transporters as it mimics the shape of serotonin. Causes the serotonin transport system to work in reverse by pumping MDMA into the pre-synaptic membrane and pumping serotonin out