Ecstasy (Drugs: The Straight Facts)

Brock E. Schroeder

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In 1912 the German pharmaceutical company Merck first synthesized and patented a compound called 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA for short. At the time, many new chemicals were synthesized in the hopes that they might be useful in future research. MDMA, as an amphetamine-derivative, had potential as a diet drug. However, like many other compounds, research on MDMA was soon abandoned by Merck. Many pharmaceutical companies at that time applied for and received patents on everything they synthesized, just in case the compound was ever found to be useful or in case they ever decided to do more research on the compound. Many of these chemical products, like MDMA, did not show enough promise to be investigated further, and thus research was abandoned.

More than 50 years later, an American scientist named Alexander Shulgin resynthesized the compound and began experimenting with it. Shulgin believed that MDMA would be useful medically, perhaps in treating people for psychological disorders. (As will be discussed in Chapter 4, many current researchers do not believe that MDMA has useful medicinal benefits, especially when weighed against the harm that it is thought to cause.) Shortly after, in the early 1980s, MDMA (soon to be known worldwide as “Ecstasy”) was just beginning to be used as a recreational drug. Ecstasy was actually named by an enterprising drug dealer, who was seeking to capitalize on this new drug. MDMA was first called...
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