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I took MDMA for the first time and have some questions
July 26, 2009 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I took MDMA aka ecstasy for the first time the other night. I was nervous about taking it, but now looking back, I don't regret it at all. I can easily say it was one of my best experiences. But...

I would probably do it again, but I am afraid of damaging my brain. After all, I am only 20 years old and have a whole life ahead of me. I have a friend who goes to lots of jam band festivals and trips on psylocibin, LSD, and MDMA simultaneously. He is brilliant, and is very motivated and hard working. He says serotonin syndrome is BS and I don't have anything to worry about.

Is there any harm in doing it once every other month or so?
posted by ascetic to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have a lot of knowledge of drugs or their side-effects, but I know others who do.

One concern that seems to be common from the people I know who take MDMA is what it has been cut with. I get the sense that it's sometimes cut with some some bad stuff.

Could it be urban legend though?
posted by TheOtherSide at 11:54 AM on July 26, 2009


Yeah, the significant risk is contaminants. There's nobody to appeal to if you get ripped off or harmed. You can't exactly call the FDA about the ingredients or the BBB about poor customer service. (Well you could, but the person you got the ecstasy from probably isn't a member.)

Buying anything unlicensed is about trust: how much do you trust the supplier, and should you? As in any significant purchase, check references and be cautious.

The effects, side-effects and risks of actual MDMA itself are well documented in peer-reviewed scientific literature all over the world, and even all over the internet.

But the risks of contaminants and what they might do to you is harder to measure or evaluate, since as TOS implies, some fraction of the statistics is certainly FUD being spread by anti-drug concerns to frighten children, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It sounds like you had a good experience. Next time, get it from the same place to be safe.
posted by rokusan at 12:02 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not specifically a risk in the case of MDMA, but the MPTP tragedy is an object lesson in what could happen when taking drugs brewed in a bathtub.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know a good number of people who do it at that frequency, and they've reported no adverse effects. But it's all anecdote, so who knows.

I think once a month is okay. In the global scheme of drug-using, that's a very low frequency.

As to it being cut with stuff, by far the most common additive is meth. You'll be able to spot meth-cut ecstasy really easily: in addition to the ecstasy euphoria, you may get the chills, have trouble urinating, tons of physical energy, etc. Meth is terrible when used chronically but not a big deal when taken at ecstasy frequency.

MDMA research data is currently being reviewed by the FDA for potential use in treating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:
"In laboratory studies, MDMA has been proven sufficiently safe for human consumption when taken a limited number of times in moderate doses."
http://www.maps.org/mdma/
posted by dualityofmind at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2009


I know maybe 5 or 6 people who took MDMA quite regularly for several years at around your age, and they all eventually dropped out of the rave scene and stopped. Their brains seem to work as well as they ever did. And of course, they all know bunches of people who behaved similarly, and I've never heard any talk of anyone suffering any extended effects.

But, you know... be careful. Stick close to friends when you're tripping and think about things really hard if you ever find yourself doing it outside normal party experiences.
posted by chudmonkey at 12:12 PM on July 26, 2009


The problem with ecstasy is that everytime you take it, it gets a little less wonderful in comparison to those first initial experiences. MDMA remains in the system for a long time. Because of that, if you want to reach a similar high then you will have to make up for the reduction in intensity by taking a larger dose than usual. And, as you may guess, this sort of behavior results in the 'pillheads' who take ecstasy every weekend and require up to five times the amount they needed when they first started taking it. This is bad for the brain, and your general mood (serotonin/sleep deprivation = no fun) I wouldn't recommend taking it more than twice a year -- reserve it for special occasions, or just don't do it at all.
posted by heylight at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


He says serotonin syndrome is BS and I don't have anything to worry about.

Well, if he says so, he must be right. He is, after all, a brilliant habitual multi-narcotic user whose judgment on the issue cannot possibly have been compromised in any way.

Just anecdotal, but everyone I know who used MDMA a lot in their 20s is messed up in their 30s. And none of them "noticed" any adverse effects until it was way too late.
posted by The World Famous at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2009 [12 favorites]


Once in a while is fine, but like others said, you need to be reasonably certain that what you're taking is MDMA, and not some other crap.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's common to have a sometimes week-long depression post-MDMA use. I experienced this the first few times I did it, but it lessened in severity over time.

I also did notice the resistance issue. Be warned that you'll never again feel quite as amazing as you did that first time.

I agree with the two to three times a year approach. And do always be with people you really trust.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 12:26 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


If the question is “Will I be able to tie my shoes in a year if I continue using MDMA?”, then the answer is, in the absence of problematic contamination, yes. But that is not synonymous with the question, “Does MDMA cause any cognitive harm?”

All drugs have some effect on the brain. If they didn’t, there would be no high worth seeking. So the question is what sort of effect are you comfortable with? If you see yourself working as a clerk in a book store for 20 years, then you’re fine – monthly use of MDMA will have little to no relevant detrimental harm.

But if you want to pursue a field that is competitive and rigorous – say, medicine or law – where the tiniest edge makes a difference between being in the top 10 percent and the top 20 percent, which can lead to completely different levels of socioeconomic status, then yes, any and all drug use (including alcohol/tobacco/etc.) will have a significant, and possibly permanent, effect.

But even that fact should be weighed. Is the loss of that edge later in life of grater value than the experience today? That’s both a call that only you can make, and a call that you are realistically unable to make with any sort of authority or objectivity.

As is always the case, context is the answer.

Good luck.
posted by ericc at 12:33 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


You will be fine, the only thing that would harm you is what they cut the pill with if you are taking pills, or any other kind of contaminants. As long as you can get your drugs from a trusted or at least reputable source, then you should be fine.

Remember to drink water, but also remember to stop drinking water, as deaths have occured in the past mainly from people not drinking or drinking too much water, not from the drug itself.
posted by tumples at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2009


Seconding what The World Famous said. I only have anecdotal data, but most people I know who took much MDMA in their 20's wish they hadn't now. Panic disorders, insomnia, and depression in various degrees.
posted by willpie at 12:38 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Panic disorders, insomnia, and depression in various degrees.

I don't know anyone in their mid to late 30's who doesn't suffer from at least one of these - and some of them didn't take a dang thing in their 20's. Correlation does not prove causation.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:43 PM on July 26, 2009 [10 favorites]


I was very close with two people who used ecstasy regularly in their late teens/early twenties (say, at least every weekend - one of them estimates she used up to 60 times in a year). They both began to suffer from serious panic attacks and generalized anxiety after their rave days were over. I know they discussed their prior drug use with their psych doctors and were told there was almost certainly a correlation between their anxiety and their drug use. Obviously, you're not talking about using with the frequency they did, but it's something to consider. . . I guess most of the people I know who were occasional users don't seem to have psychiatric problems with any more frequency than the people I know who never used.
posted by katie at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2009


I should add that the wishing they hadn't I referred to above is to a greater degree than almost any other drug. Indeed, I would say that among people I know, youthful MDMA use is the single most regretted drug behavior.
posted by willpie at 12:44 PM on July 26, 2009


They both began to suffer from serious panic attacks and generalized anxiety after their rave days were over.

As others have said, you're describing middle age, drugs or not.
posted by rokusan at 12:53 PM on July 26, 2009


On preview, The Light Fantastic, I clearly stated that I only have anecdotal evidence. The correlation among my friends and acquaintances is shocking enough that I felt compelled to comment on it.
I do know plenty of 30-somethings without panic disorders, depression, or insomnia, including plenty with drug histories. Make of that what you will, but a knee-jerk you can't prove drugs are dangerous response is not helpful here. Without going into detail on a site where I clearly list my name and occupation, suffice it to say I'm hardly Nancy Reagan and what I've seen of the aftermath of MDMA use is startling.
posted by willpie at 12:53 PM on July 26, 2009


The World Famous said: Well, if he says so, he must be right. He is, after all, a brilliant habitual multi-narcotic user whose judgment on the issue cannot possibly have been compromised in any way.

The harsh reality of serotonin syndrome aside, psylocibin, LSD, and MDMA are NOT narcotics. There's enough misinformation and ignorance when it comes to recreational drugs, let's not add to it, ok?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:59 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Rokusan, I'm not describing middle age, but thanks for assuming so. My friends were both younger than 25 when their panic attacks started. But whatever, it's all anecdotal -as is the OP's friend's statement that "serotonin syndrome is BS"- until someone comes in with some clinical evidence one way or the other. I'm certainly not saying that occasional use dooms anyone to a life of misery and brain damage, but I do know a number of people who regret their trips down the rabbit hole.
posted by katie at 1:04 PM on July 26, 2009


Be warned that you'll never again feel quite as amazing as you did that first time.

That's pretty much the way everything works, isn't it?
posted by tybeet at 1:24 PM on July 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Serotonin syndrome is different than the long-term effects of MDMA use that people are discussing here. Serotonin syndrome is an acute, life-threatening condition caused by very high levels of serotonin in the brain and body. Symptoms include extremely high blood pressure, temperature, and a horrible headache. It's rare among MDMA users but it does happen, especially when combined with certain other medications like MAOIs. So, if your friend was really talking about serotonin syndrome, it's not something most MDMA users need to worry about though caution is warranted if you're on long-term brain-chemistry meds. It's also not something you'd get as an after-effect. If you're going to experience serotonin syndrome from MDMA, it'll be while you're high.

As to the long-term after effects of MDMA usage, there's not much more than anecdotal evidence to go on. There are lots of animal studies which typically use very high doses of the drug, and whose results may or may not apply to humans. There's not much good data which looks at humans taking typical doses at typical frequency. It's really hard to isolate the long-term effects of MDMA from that of other drugs and lifestyle choices. However, MDMA has been popular since the 80's and there are lots of functional ex-users out there so a strategy of moderation seems low risk. Just don't do it too often and listen to your brain if it's feeling worn out.
posted by rhiannon at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"When you get the message, hang up the phone." - Alan Watts, on psychedelics
posted by phrontist at 1:37 PM on July 26, 2009 [27 favorites]


If I was going to take a drug on a monthly basis I would review the scientific literature first before relying on anecdotal evidence supplied by a public forum. Remembering that with illegal drugs the biggest risk is purity and dosage. If you consume don't draw attention to yourself or participate in risky behaviors such as DUI.
posted by govtrust at 1:38 PM on July 26, 2009


I work in a lab that studies on recreational drugs. I'm no scientist but my bosses are; to give you an idea of their background, they wrote this article, and Matt wrote most of the Wikipedia page on MDMA. For the past three months I've been helping Matt with this study, on the role of serotonin in MDMA's effects. I don't want to overstate my own credentials - again, I'm no scientist, I just work for them - but a lot of my job consists of discussing risks of MDMA use with potential subjects, and even more of it consists of giving someone MDMA and then monitoring them while they trip balls, do computerized tasks, and ask if they can pet my hair.

I say all this because misinformation on illicit drug use is rampant, and I want you to take me (and that) seriously. Most of the public perception of drug use is based on propaganda and anecdote. Look at how many of these responses begins with "I have a friend who..." Anecdotes don't tell you nothing, but they also don't tell you much of anything - especially with regards to how a certain drug will affect you personally.

If your friend really said that "serotonin syndrome is BS" he doesn't know what he's talking about - Serotonin syndrome is a real, possibly fatal phenomenon that has been associated with MDMA (among other things).

HOWEVER, I suspect he didn't actually mean "serotonin syndrome" - he meant the reported risk of fucking up your serotonin levels permanently due to MDMA use. The consensus on that is that we don't know enough to say one way or another, but with occasional users, the risk seems very very low.

I'm going to paste the relevant bits from out informed consent, which we have our subjects read carefully and sign before participating. It's long, but it's probably the most readable and accurate summary that you can find anywhere.

All that said, two comments from me.

1. The public perception of the risks of MDMA use are probably exaggerated. Its addiction potential is low. Its effects are predictable - pretty much everyone who takes it becomes really happy and friendly. It's pretty rare to have a "bad trip" from MDMA. It wears off within a few hours (we let people drive home 6 hours after dosing). The death rates are REALLY low - most people who are said to die from "MDMA intoxication" were probably mixing it with other drugs, took way too much, or experienced hyperthermia or hyponatremia (mentioned below). If you've already taken it once and it was a great experience, I don't think need to worry much if you take it every once in awhile in the future.

2. Despite the above, I have never taken MDMA and I wouldn't take it because of my history of depression and current use of an antidepressant. SSRI's tend to block much of not all of the effects of MDMA so I probably wouldn't feel much anyway. But because of the correlation between depression and serotonin, I'd rather not use anything that messes with my serotonin levels. So if you have a predisposition to depression, I'd be warier of using MDMA again.

Onto the risks:

Likely Risks and Side Effects Related to MDMA

• Effects of MDMA: People on MDMA sometimes feel unusually friendly and may reveal feelings or thoughts or behave in a way that they later find embarrassing. MDMA can also produce unpleasant symptoms. Possible short-term unpleasant effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, feeling sensitive to cold, muscle tension (especially tight jaw), feeling fatigued, and difficulty concentrating. These effects may occur in between 10 and 60% of people. Rarely, MDMA can have acute effects such as anxiety and confused thinking. These effects usually resolve within 5-8 hours, are usually mild, and rarely require specific treatment other than time.

• After-effects of MDMA: Some people report feeling mildly depressed or anxious after the acute, main effects of MDMA have ended. Others report having low energy levels or feel they have difficulty concentrating. Some people also experience physical symptoms, such as muscle aches. These changes are not well understood, but studies suggest they may occur in about half of all users and may last up to three days. In most people, these after-effects are mild, but for others, they may be more intense.

Less Likely Risks and Side Effects Related to MDMA

• Addiction: Unlike other illicit substances, it is believed that few users become addicted to MDMA. That is, most people who use MDMA do not become regular and compulsive users. Because you will only receive MDMA on two to four occasions, participating in this study should not increase your risk of MDMA addiction. However, if you currently find your MDMA use to be out-of-control or harmful, or you are currently trying to stop using MDMA, then you should not participate in this study. The researchers can provide you with information on programs that can help you.

Rare but Serious and Uncertain Side Effects Related to MDMA

• Serious Adverse Effects of MDMA. During illegal use of MDMA, several serious adverse effects have occurred. The most common of these are dangerous overheating (called hyperthermia) and abnormally low salt concentration in the blood (called hyponatremia). If left untreated, these effects can cause serious organ damage and even death. During illegal use, the risks of these events are probably lower than 1 in 16,000. These risks should be much lower in this study. This is because users often take high amounts of MDMA, sometimes in combination with other drugs, and may either drink too little or too much water. These conditions will not be present in this study. In addition, as described below, you will be closely monitored for any signs of developing problems and will be treated if serious problems occur. Very rarely, high or repeated MDMA exposure may damage the liver. There are also theoretical concerns that the heart might be damaged by frequent MDMA use. Risks of liver or heart damage in this study are too small to accurately estimate.

• The researchers will be monitoring your psychological and physical functioning in order to detect any adverse effects as early as possible. Should any potentially dangerous effects occur, the experiment will be discontinued immediately, and if necessary your symptoms will be treated. However, as is the case with almost any psychoactive drug, when some effects appear and you wish to discontinue the experiment, it will take perhaps 5-8 hours for the unpleasant drug effects to wear off. Rare serious adverse effects could cause lasting health problems.

• Possible Brain Damage from MDMA. There are certain risks that require careful consideration. Many animal studies have shown that high or repeated doses of MDMA can cause apparent damage at the cellular level in the brain, to parts of neurons (nerve cells) called axons. Axons are the long extensions of neurons that connect one neuron to another, and allow the two neurons to communicate with one another. In animals, MDMA damages axons that are associated with the neurotransmitter serotonin. Knowledgeable scientists disagree whether these changes should be considered a type of brain damage or not. Most studies of animals that received large amounts of MDMA have not been able to find any changes in the behavior of the animals that lasted longer than normal drug effects.

• Studies have also looked at humans who have taken MDMA many times. These studies are difficult to interpret, both because it is not known what these people were like before taking MDMA, and because most heavy MDMA users have used other illicit drugs in addition to MDMA. Some studies have used sophisticated techniques to try to measure changes related to serotonin in the brains of people who have taken MDMA many times. These studies suggest that taking MDMA hundreds of times slightly lowers serotonin levels (and probably the number of serotonin axons) but that levels return to normal with time. However, it is possible that some changes cannot be detected with current technology. Other studies suggest that people who have taken MDMA many times perform worse on tests of memory or mental abilities than those who have not. It is not known if these differences are caused by MDMA or, if they are, whether they improve with time. It is universally acknowledged that the potential consequences of these changes remain almost entirely unknown. This risk is possibly reduced (but not eliminated) because of the low dosage you will be exposed to in this experiment.
posted by granted at 1:53 PM on July 26, 2009 [191 favorites]


The most practical bit of harm reduction you can do if you plan on repeatedly using any illegal drug is to acquire a drug testing kit. In a black market situation that's free of regulation, labeling or measurement for purity, the penalty for adulteration is very low. Information is power. Find out what you're really taking before you take it.
posted by scalefree at 1:57 PM on July 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you are sure of the quality, you'll be ok. Contaminates are a risk and there's the whole hyperthermia/dehydration thing but other than that it's pretty low risk.

It's not zero risk though. Nothing is.
posted by chairface at 2:05 PM on July 26, 2009


Sorry to go on and on like a worried grandma but I wanted to add a couple more things.

First, be careful of what you mix with MDMA. What I've mentioned above pertains to MDMA alone. A lot of people drink while using it, predictably, but that can intensify the effects and also the comedown. Also relevant, as many others have mentioned, is that you often don't know what it's cut with.

Second, keep yourself hydrated but don't drink too much water. This reduces your risk of hyponatremia and hyperthermia but doesn't eliminate it. We had to terminate a subject because when we gave them the MDMA their temperature rose to 101ish degrees, despite feeling very cold (they had four blankets at one point) and drinking the maximum allowed water. So some people are just more susceptible to some adverse effects than others (like with any drug). But since you've already used it once and it was fine, this is less of a concern.
posted by granted at 2:08 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh and don't get caught.
posted by granted at 2:10 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The most practical bit of harm reduction you can do if you plan on repeatedly using any illegal drug is to acquire a drug testing kit.

There's always the DanceSafe Adulterant Screening Kits.

Some background reading in which you might be interested:
Ecstasy: The MDMA Story by Bruce Eisner.

e, the incredibly strange history of ecstasy by Tim Pilcher.

E for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders.
posted by ericb at 2:17 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, great.

I knew someone would ask this question eventually, and I would feel compelled to answer it.

Ecstasy has its effects by binding to NMDA receptors in the brain, where it functions as an agonist-- that is, it activates those receptors.

NMDA receptors, among other things, are ecitotoxic. That means they cause the neuron in question to fire, but also tend to kill that very neuron in the process of activating it.

That in turn means that whatever you feel and experience while high on ecstasy is something you will have less capacity to feel and experience in the future as a direct and inevitable consequence of feeling those feelings and having those experiences while on ecstasy.

If you take a lot of it, I think you'll simply burn the capacity to have those feelings and experiences right out of your brain almost altogether by killing the neurons which are responsible for them.

There are some indications of such consequences just in this thread:

It's common to have a sometimes week-long depression post-MDMA use. I experienced this the first few times I did it, but it lessened in severity over time.

I also did notice the resistance issue. Be warned that you'll never again feel quite as amazing as you did that first time.


Just anecdotal, but everyone I know who used MDMA a lot in their 20s is messed up in their 30s. And none of them "noticed" any adverse effects until it was way too late.

They both began to suffer from serious panic attacks and generalized anxiety after their rave days were over.


In general, people report feelings of empathy, trust, love for the entire world and their fellow human beings, and a sense of profound peace and safety from taking ecstasy. Dialing down those feelings to some degree may actually be conducive to the success you seem to be admiring in your friend (we all know where nice guys end up, right?), though I would say at a cost of drastically curtailing his ability to enjoy that success when he achieves it. At the endpoint, however, "serious panic attacks and generalized anxiety" would seem to be the least of it.

From the point of view of society as a whole, I think ecstasy is a vast disaster. I believe it could be fostering a large segment of our population who have the emotional equipment of principled sociopaths at best.

I think ecstasy is effective in treating PTSD because, although it can't take away your horrible memories, it will take away your capacity to be horrified by them.
posted by jamjam at 2:33 PM on July 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


erowid is your friend. Surprised it's barely been mentioned in this thread.

Thanks, granted, for sharing your information.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:48 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


After-effects of MDMA: Some people report feeling mildly depressed or anxious after the acute, main effects of MDMA have ended. Others report having low energy levels or feel they have difficulty concentrating.

Also known as "Terrible Tuesday." Or, so, I've been told!
posted by ericb at 2:57 PM on July 26, 2009


jamjam put up good information. To boil it down, MDMA basically causes your brain to start firing off all the feel good hormones to the point that it wears out, and you can't feel good any more at all. Or at least, have a lessened ability to feel good. It is a type of amphetamine. Where meth focuses on the reward pathways, MDMA focuses on the feel-good pathways.

I would not make a habit out of using it.
posted by gjc at 2:59 PM on July 26, 2009


If you take a lot of it, I think you'll simply burn the capacity to have those feelings and experiences right out of your brain almost altogether by killing the neurons which are responsible for them.

From the point of view of society as a whole, I think ecstasy is a vast disaster. I believe it could be fostering a large segment of our population who have the emotional equipment of principled sociopaths at best.

I think ecstasy is effective in treating PTSD because, although it can't take away your horrible memories, it will take away your capacity to be horrified by them.


If you have any scientific literature that supports any of these notions, I'd appreciate seeing it. AskMe is not the place for guesses & unsubstantiated theories, especially in a case like this.
posted by scalefree at 3:28 PM on July 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


From the point of view of society as a whole, I think ecstasy is a vast disaster. I believe it could be fostering a large segment of our population who have the emotional equipment of principled sociopaths at best.

I have no idea whether ecstasy does, in fact, exhaust your capacity to feel certain positive emotions over a long period of time. It's an idea I find intuitively quite plausible, and for that reason, I will probably never use MDMA in the absence of very strong evidence to the contrary. However, I find this statement to be absurdly unlikely and borderline hysterical. The relationship between emotional deficiencies and psychopathy is poorly understood, and still a subject of much study - from what I understand, however, the primary deficits are in guilt, fear and shame, not positive emotions like happiness. Empathy, further, seems just as dependent on the capacity to feel negative emotions as positive ones. You're also assuming that sociopathy, a disorder that clinically presents from very early childhood onward, can be induced in individuals who have had ordinary emotional experiences throughout their entire lives, up until ecstasy use. Sociopathy may very well be something you develop early, or not at all. You haven't presented any data on how many people use ecstasy, and how many people use it seriously - which you would need to provide in order to justify your claim that ecstasy abuse is causing sociopathy in a "large" segment of the population. I don't even know if it would be possible to get reliable data on that - you would need to conduct surveys, and this is something people are pretty likely to lie about.
posted by mellifluous at 3:41 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Definitely wait at least a month between dosages. It's not a pace you want to keep up for the rest of your life, but the general consensus is that frequency seems to be (relatively) safe. You need to give your brain chemicals some time to rebalance. You CAN really, really mess up your head if you start dosing very frequently without adequate recovery time.

I found that taking a a 5-HTP supplement for a few days after each trip really helped to get the brain juices flowing in the right direction. Drink as much water as you can during and after your trip, and definitely eat a decent healthy meal the next day. Fruit smoothies are your friend. Learn to relax from your stomach to your jaw (sounds silly, but it's where the tension starts, and it will help you from grinding your teeth too much.)

Please remember: everything in moderation (including moderation).
posted by gnutron at 3:48 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


My two pieces of advice:

1. Make sure you don't have anything important planned for the beginning of the week afterwards. There's nothing wrong with being a bit wrecked for a while after a heavy weekend, but if it starts to mess up your career or your studies, it's a problem.

2. Never, ever, take MDMA in the company of anyone you wouldn't have sex with sober.
posted by teraspawn at 4:13 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Law of diminishing returns. The next time you take it will be an attempt to chase your initial bliss. The fact that your friend feels compelled to take LSD AND psilocybin at the same time should be a big red flag to you that he has severely reduced his sensitivity. Try to look for ways to feel good without playing chemist with unregulated substances.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:23 PM on July 26, 2009


If you take a lot of it, I think you'll simply burn the capacity to have those feelings and experiences right out of your brain almost altogether by killing the neurons which are responsible for them.

And I think magic leprachauns will bring their pot of gold and leave it under your pillow.

Please don't spread baseless propaganda in an effort to scare people.

OP: Granted is just making things up. I'm not saying you should take more ecstasy; I wouldn't, personally. Because it's very much not my thing. But if it is your thing you should make an informed decision instead of listening to Reefer Madness types.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Granted is just making things up.

You've confused granted with jamjam. granted is probably the most knowledgeable person who has posted in this thread so far.
posted by jessamyn at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oops! My apologies, granted. I did mean jamjam. Thanks Jessamyn.
posted by Justinian at 4:56 PM on July 26, 2009


In general, people report feelings of empathy, trust, love for the entire world and their fellow human beings, and a sense of profound peace and safety from taking ecstasy.

Perhaps this is off-topic but you can get this for free and 100% safe through different methods of meditation. Heck, it can even enhance your brain instead of potentially damaging it, lower your blood pressure, beat insomnia, etc.

I see a lot of drug use as a quick and dirty way to experience the benefits of meditation. Its like fast food. You should instead be eating well. If this experience makes you think you need more positive emotions and experiences in your life, more compassion, more love, and more calm, then I suggest you stop the MDMA and move towards the real stuff. You wont be gambling with brain damage and you have a lot to gain if done correctly.

We already know that MDMA is harmful is large doses, we just dont know how bad it is in small doses. Its amazing how quickly meditation kills my insomnia and relaxes me and Im not particulary good at it. YMMV.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:19 PM on July 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


All drugs have some effect on the brain. If they didn’t, there would be no high worth seeking. So the question is what sort of effect are you comfortable with? If you see yourself working as a clerk in a book store for 20 years, then you’re fine – monthly use of MDMA will have little to no relevant detrimental harm.

But if you want to pursue a field that is competitive and rigorous – say, medicine or law – where the tiniest edge makes a difference between being in the top 10 percent and the top 20 percent, which can lead to completely different levels of socioeconomic status, then yes, any and all drug use (including alcohol/tobacco/etc.) will have a significant, and possibly permanent, effect.


I would like to make known my opinion that the above quote is a whole lot of nonsense, silliness, and made-uppery.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:39 PM on July 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sigh. People really need to stick to answering the question that was asked. But I can't let disinformation stand.

But if you want to pursue a field that is competitive and rigorous – say, medicine or law – where the tiniest edge makes a difference between being in the top 10 percent and the top 20 percent, which can lead to completely different levels of socioeconomic status, then yes, any and all drug use (including alcohol/tobacco/etc.) will have a significant, and possibly permanent, effect..

Would that include professional baseball and molecular biology?
posted by scalefree at 9:00 PM on July 26, 2009


Without getting getting into too many details -- I did it weekly for a year or 2. By the end of the 2 years, i was kind of a mess (sleep problems, crazy mood swings, attention/memory problems, etc), but within 2-3 months of stopping (I suppose once the serotonin levels re-adjusted), I was fine. Now, 5 years later I don't feel that I'm any the worse for wear. This is pretty common across all of the people that I partied with in that time period, including some that are STILL regular users -- some of them have been using it off and on for 10 or more years and are fine. They're all professionals with good incomes, a lot of them quit and have families and have gotten on with their lives and seem happy and well adjusted to me.

I had taken IQ tests before and always tested in the 145ish-range, and still end up the 145-ish range when I take them now, but I'm sure if they did fine-tuned attention and short term memory tests, I might have lost a step, but it's not particularly noticeable to me in my everyday life.

The people that I know that 'burned out' did it with other drugs, and usually mixtures of drugs -- LSD, K and Meth, in particular; and now that I think about it, alcohol might actually be the worst offender. The people that I knew that mainly used E are mostly fine.

I think the real risk of using E regularly is the life style and personal choices you make when you're living that lifestyle --- losing friends or jobs, alienating family, getting a huge debt, getting into weird relationships with sketchy people (when you are dealing with drug dealers, as 'cool' as they seem to be, keep in mind you're talking about criminals), taking fake drugs and ending up in the hospital, getting arrested, trashing your car, etc, and so forth, not to mention that you're pissing away a chance at any kind of job in the public that could be damaged by having a criminal history -- I've seen all that happen to my friends. I wouldn't trade that time period of my life for anything, but its something you probably should think about. It can be a hell of a good time, and you can learn alot about yourself and have a lot of amazing experiences, but there are real risks, and you need to be alert for them, because they're a lot more common and dangerous than the slight possibility of mild brain-damage.
posted by empath at 10:24 PM on July 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess to elaborate a bit. Regular E use can make you lose perspective. It makes you feel like your real life is less real, and you get more and more detached from it. Money becomes worthless to you, your job is just something you do to fill time before the weekend, your family and the 'normal' friends you have become distractions at best and 'downers' at worst. Everything is about friday night and all your amazing new friends, and the music, and the parties. It's not hard to stop when you decide to, but it can be really hard to know WHEN it's time to stop.

You NEED to stay grounded. Schedule normal weekends (with family, especially) as much as possible and stick to those schedules. And don't ditch the friends you have now (believe me, it will be tempting to). They'll let you know when you're losing the plot. It really helps to have actual plans for when your new friends call and say 'hey, what are you doing tonight?' And people WILL call you every single weekend, because no one likes to roll by themselves, and they're all your new best friends, obviously.
posted by empath at 10:33 PM on July 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you take a lot of it, I think you'll simply burn the capacity to have those feelings and experiences right out of your brain almost altogether by killing the neurons which are responsible for them.

The last research I'd seen suggested that heavy MDMA use could damage neurons, but that they regenerated after abstinence. There was no firm evidence as to whether this was actually damaging or not (but I haven't read anything recent and I'm not a scientist).

I've seen research that suggested that even ex-users suffered modest declines in some aspects of cognitive ability, even a year after ceasing MDMA usage (this particular study controlled for cannabis use, but not other drugs). But this decline was barely statistically significant, and the ex-users' cognitive ability was still well within the normal range.

To ascetic: There's fairly good evidence that abuse of MDMA can lead to emotional problems. Keeping to once a month seems sensible, assuming you have no underlying psychological problems. If I recall correctly, Ann Shulgin recommended using once every three months or less (she's the wife of Alexander Shulgin; together they are the foremost researchers into psychoactive drugs).

As others have said; get a test kit. It sounds like you actually got MDMA, but there are risks of getting other substances that are less pleasant. Keep hydrated, but don't drink gallons of water. Try to keep cool, and don't dance for hours in hot clubs.

Good sites to research: erowid.org; maps.org; ecstasy.org; bluelight.ru. Other than that, re-read Granted's post. Several times. On preview: empath's posts, especially the second one, are very good.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:25 AM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some basic guidelines that are something like "folk knowledge" among the folks in the techno scenes I've been in:

1. Unless you trust the dealer a lot, start by taking half, see how you feel in 30-40 minutes, then take the other half.

2. E trips last realistically about 4-6 hours (but, as granted says, can last longer), so if you're doing a marathon night, pills should be spaced out 4 hours apart.

3. No more than one liter of water per hour; preferably, one 500ml bottle of water per hour, no less. (Alcohol doesn't count and should be kept low)

4. NEVER twice in one weekend, avoid using it two weekends in a row, and ideally keep it as a "special" event once a month or less often.

5. If you trip on Saturday, you may feel pretty shitty (emotionally, physically) on Monday or Tuesday. You might not. If you notice that it's happening, take steps to cheer yourself up and get yourself away from important / complicated / public tasks.

6. E may open up pleasures and desires that you aren't aware of or wouldn't act on. If you're in a scene where there's already a "culture" of E use, people will likely be more understanding and discreet. If you're among folks who aren't used to the effects, you may embarrass yourself or be taken advantage of.

7. Remember to pee. You'll be surprised how hard this is.

8. If you can't tell when you've "bounced back" from the after-effects of E, you should take a long, long break.

9. MDMA + LSD or other hallucinogen can produce exceptional experiences for those who already do well on LSD. MDMA + Meth is often what you get in pills, anyway. MDMA + Cocaine tends to cancel out the "friendly" and "rushy" effects. MDMA + Heroin is bad news (there was a run of heroin-cut pills back in the late 90s in Canada; nobody I know died, but there were lots and lots of bad trips). Regardless, think long and hard before mixing drugs, read the literature, and make sure you're already OK with the other drug. In general, it is probably at least a little bit bad for you, potentially a lot more.

[note, I'm using E instead of MDMA here, because realistically it's very hard to find real, pure MDMA anymore, and I think these tips evolved with "adulterated" pills in mind]
posted by LMGM at 1:20 AM on July 28, 2009


LMGM, there's a bit of bad information in there. As far as I know, there has never been an e pill cut with heroin, and meth is really uncommon. It was common for people to talk about 'smack-y' pills and 'speed-y' pills, but has nothing to do with heroin or meth. Just for whatever reason (dose, time for onset whatever), sometimes pills made you want to get up and dance, sometimes they made you want to sit down and talk. Generally, they don't cut expensive illegal drugs with other expensive illegal drugs, they'll cut it with cheap or quasi-legal shit like caffeine or K or DXM.

Also, taking e again after 4 hours is basically pissing money away. You've basically already drained all your serotonin, so all you'll get out of it is a speedy dopamine rush, and a really, really horrible "suicide tuesday" 3 days later.
posted by empath at 1:47 AM on July 28, 2009


The most common of these are dangerous overheating (called hyperthermia) and abnormally low salt concentration in the blood (called hyponatremia). If left untreated, these effects can cause serious organ damage and even death.

I've interviewed somebody who suffered major organ failure through either serotonin syndrome or hyperthermia after taking a single dose of MDMA. This would have been around 1991 or 1992 and I think he was the first of the British reported cases who didn't actually die, but he was in a coma for several weeks.

He'd taken the drug before with no adverse consequences -- and if memory serves, bizzare as it may sound, I'm pretty sure he actually took it again *after* the incident without any adverse consequences.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:04 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


We're pretty certain that what he took though, was a single dose of approx 100-125mg of MDMA, based on analysis of the same type of tablets as the tablet he took. He hadn't taken any other drugs on that occasion.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:17 AM on July 28, 2009


"AskMe is not the place for guesses & unsubstantiated theories, especially in a case like this." ?!

If jamjam were making unsubstantiated assertions that going on ecstasy benders was perfectly fine, then I can see your concern about "a case like this." There's nothing at all wrong with a bit of caution when there could be a chance of permanent, neurological damage.
posted by parabola01 at 6:00 AM on July 29, 2009


Caution is one thing, blatant propaganda and made-up evidence to support your case is quite another. Once we open the door to propaganda and made-up evidence (on either side of an issue) we discredit ourselves & become an uncredible source of information. What use is that?
posted by scalefree at 7:37 AM on July 29, 2009


A response to jamjam's post from a reliable source who wants to remain anonymous:

"MDMA has no known affinity for NMDA receptors. They've checked at the PCP
binding site and it doesn't bind there. Also, it doesn't bind to any
metabotropic glutamate receptors. So I think it is very unlikely it'd
bind anyplace on the NMDA glutamate receptor.

Most doses of MDMA (even those that deplete 5-HT, like 10-20 mg/kg
injected) don't cause any detectable cell death in animals. Cell death is
classically identified using silver staining and appears to be absent.

It's an odd and possibly contradictory claim to say that MDMA causes
anxiety and panic but removes ability to feel horror.

And, on the positive emotion side, I bet that those people now in
remission from PTSD in the South Carolina study have more ability to love
and feel joy now than they did before the MDMA psychotherapy.

Overall, I see little evidence that most users are noticeably helped or
hurt by their use of MDMA except in so far as it motivates them to change
their ways of living. There may well be long term tolerance that develops
to MDMA. And no one responsible would ever recommend frequent use. It's
a powerful drug much like meth, not something to be used flippantly."
posted by granted at 10:31 AM on July 29, 2009 [5 favorites]


It should also be noted, if not already plainly obvious, that people who take MDMA under the supervision of research physicians are doing so with a protocol of therapy and controlled environment. That is probably just as important if not more so than the action pharmacological action of the drug. Self-dosing at the dance party is not even in the same timezone as a clinical study.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am incredibly concerned with the state of Metafilter.

The amount of erroneous information in these comments is inappropriate for the standards of Metafilter.

I am extremely saddened by jamjam's comments as they are not only easily refutable in being directly scientifically erroneous, but much more importantly, they encourage the kind of vague oversimplification that goes hand in hand with radical societal reactionism.

I feel I must remind the readers of this thread (if any remain) of the most basic of objective concepts:

A = A
posted by flyinghamster at 2:54 AM on August 16, 2009


I would just like to echo: please ignore the fuck out of the ridiculously stupid crap that jamjam is saying.

Are there side effects to taking MDMA? Yes. Do they get worse with chronic or abusive use? Of course. Do these side effects include damaging your ability to feel? Of course not, that's fucking stupid.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:38 AM on August 22, 2009


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