MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse Research Report

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) continues to be used by millions of Americans across the country. This illegal drug is often taken for the feelings of well-being, stimulation, and distortions in time and sensory perceptions that it produces.1,2 MDMA first became popular in the all-night party scene (e.g., “raves”),3 but its use has now spread to a wide range of settings. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 18 million people in the United States have tried MDMA at least once in their lifetime.4

MDMA is a synthetic drug that became popular in the 1980s,5 leading researchers to begin investigating its effects. Their efforts identified a number of potentially serious negative side effects. For example, MDMA can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature that can be fatal in some environments.6

MDMA can also stress the heart, increasing heart rate7 and blood pressure,8 and can damage the kidneys.9 Animal studies show that MDMA may also damage specific neurons in the brain,10–12 but research on MDMA’s effects on the human brain is not conclusive at this time.13 However, a number of studies show that long-term, heavy MDMA use is associated with cognitive deficits, including problems with learning and memory.14