(3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) illegal recreational drug in increasing use since the 1980s. It is a modified amphetamine with mild psychedelic effects, and works by releasing large a mounts of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) from the brain. The effects of the drug are to intensify the perception of colour, sound, and even emotion in a user, which can last up to six hours, depending on the dose taken. The comedown from the drug causes lethargy and depression (due to the depletion of the brainseverals serotonin supplies) that can persist for several weeks. It has been found that regular use ecstasy permanently reduces serotonin levels, but most of its other long-term effects are unknown.
An international study carried out by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, in 2004 reported that ecstasy users were 23% more likely to suffer long-term memory loss that non-users. A United Nations report in 2003 showed that some 8 million people worldwide used the drug.
Ecstasy was first synthesized in 1914 by the Merck pharmaceutical company in Germany, and was one of eight psychedelics tested by the US army in 1953, but was otherwise largely forgotten until the mid-1970s. It can be synthesized from nutmeg oil.
Ecstasy is a class-A drug in the UK. From 1998 to 2003 around 200 people had died in the UK in connection with ecstasy use. Most of these deaths were at clubs or raves, where dehydration and overheating is a major factor. In 2003, a United Nations report showed that over 730,000 people in the UK were active users of ecstasy (around 2.2% of the population).
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