The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform

MDMA (Ecstasy)


As it has no legal medical usage, MDMA is generally produced in large illicit labs, mostly in Holland. Small scale manufacturing centres in other countries are rare. The process for manufacturing MDMA uses sassafras oil, and has been linked to environmental concerns in Southeast Asia. The MDMA itself is then often cut with a binding agent and pressed into pills, called ecstasy, with brands indented on them.


MDMA tends to be in the highest category for illegal drugs in countries where it is controlled, such as Class A in the UK. It was added to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Drugs, being put in schedule 1 (the harshest category, which includes drugs with no supposed potential for medical usage.)

Medical Usage

MDMA has no legal medical usage, although there have been studies where it has been recommended for therapeutic use. Its causation of increased empathy and decreased fear means that psychotherapeutic studies have recommended it for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Recreational Use

Recreationally known as ecstasy, MDMA causes a heightened sense of well-being and can produce a powerful euphoria in the user. It is popular in dance clubs and users report an increased enjoyment of music and repetitive action, notably dancing. MDMA can also increase empathy and have a stimulant like effect. A significant proportion of street ecstasy pills do not contain MDMA, and instead contain the similar chemicals MDA and MDEA.



MDMA is one of the safer illegal drugs, and the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs have recommended that it should be downgraded to Class B classification. It has been known to cause dehydration and overheating in users, which in some cases has lead to death. It should be noted that users have died from drinking too much water. Excessive MDMA use can cause short term depression, but it has no long term health risks associated with it.

Channel 4 – Drugs Live

Channel 4′s MDMA Trials were televised on the 26th & 27th September 2012. Participants were given MDMA and underwent several  tests as part of an ongoing research collaboration between the Beckley Foundation and Imperial College. The research investigates the possible therapeutic benefits of MDMA as an aid to psychotherapy – particularly for PTSD – and also as a potential treatment for depression.

The MDMA research follows on from the ground-breaking Beckley-Imperial psilocybin studies, the results of which were published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of America (PNAS) and the British Journal of Psychiatry.With over 2 million viewers Drugs Live was the most watched television programme of its kin to date.