It’s been making people feel like champions for over a hundred years now, so here’s an overview of its journey from diet aid to the 90s party scene.
MDMA got you feeling like a champion, the city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien - Jay Z
MDMA, for those who don’t know, is the main ingredient in ecstasy, usually mixed with speed or another amphetamine then squished into pill form. The substance was first synthesised 101 years ago in Germany as a diet pill. Then people realised they were having a really fucking great time dieting and it shifted into the world of naughty drugs.
In the 1950s, the US Army and CIA aquired some MDMA and used it in Project Mk-Ultra. The project focused on mind control tests and mainly consisted of giving soldiers and innocent members of society really bad trips. Instead of letting them listen to dance music or roll around, stroking each other, on the carpet, they would let the drug take effect and then question the subjects, or try to brain wash them. Which I would imagine was a real buzz-kill.
The love drug was rediscovered in the 1970s and used for marriage counselling. Hate your wife’s face? Well take a load of MDMA and you’ll love her again. At least for a bit. Therapists even started calling it “penicillin for the soul” as it allowed patients to open up and reveal much more during therapy sessions, resulting in better findings.
A small ecstasy revolution took place in the early 80s with many therapists and chemists prescribing and taking the uncontrolled substance. XTC was big in the gay scene and was known as ‘Adam’, until a Catholic priest called Michael Clegg, who reportedly spent his life wanting to know what God was thinking, realised that MDMA altered his state of mind, and renamed it ecstasy. But it was when Michael Clegg began selling MDMA through a 1-800 number in Texas, that the police decided something needed to be done.
MDMA was eventually banned and ranked as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the US in 1985. Then, just like what happens when Cadbury’s decide to discontinue a chocolate bar, everyone in the world wanted some of it. MDMA’s jump to the frontline of the drug scene was basically seamless, due to the fact its ingredients weren’t controlled and the process to make it fairly straightforward.
Most of the 90s and naughties was spent in a world of jaw tension, dilated pupils and massage orgies, all enclosed within a cocoon of pounding- pounding techno music. The conversations were nonsense and the penises were small and shrivelled. If you weren’t on MD in Ibiza, Amsterdam, London or Berlin, then you missed out on our generation’s answer to LSD at Woodstock. If you remember the nineties or the naughties then you probably weren’t there, you missed the boat mate. It was the calm before the storm, a beautiful, loved-up time, before legal highs crashed over the peaceful cocoon of MDMA and turned young people into mephedrone sniffing morons.
Professor David Nutt, the former UK government’s chief drugs advisor, wrote a report in 2010 on the harmfulness of drugs. He ranked alcohol, heroin and crack in the top end and magic mushrooms, LSD and ecstasy in the bottom. There were subsequent calls to have MDMA lowered to a class B drug, but these were quickly quashed.
MDMA is currently showing great potential as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the US, and tests have recently been commissioned into its possible use in pharmaceutical applications. There were 202 ecstasy associated deaths between 1996 and 2002, compared to the 1,800 people who died of alcohol related diseases in 2002 alone.
So the moral of this protracted yarn is next year, you should probably just scrap Valentine’s Day, get a few pills and go to a rave in the woods.
Featured image: Coaster420, Pic 1: Chris Breikss, Pic 2: Neurotiker
This article is part of Planet Ivy’s Love Week. For other articles from this week see below: