The Essential Psychedelic Guide
Ecstasy is a synthetic compound developed in 1914 as a potential dietary aid. However, its psychoactive effects were not discovered until the mid-Seventies. It was used widely in therapy from this time until 1985 when it was made illegal. Its chemical name is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), commonly known as "X", "E", or "Adam." It usually comes as a white crystalline powder or made into tablets.
125 mg. (1/8th of a gram) is generally considered a single dose of ecstasy. This amount will produce an experience lasting about four hours total, with the intensity dropping off a couple hours into the high. Many recreational X users do what's called "double dosing," taking an additional 125 mg. as soon as the first dose starts wearing off. My personal preference is to take one large dose of 150 to 170 mg. which produces an intense but short lasting experience. I prefer this method because it reduces the side effects a double dose of X can produce. Ecstasy should be taken on an empty stomach. If one ingests it on a full stomach they might not get high at all, or may have a delayed trip.
When ecstasy is coming on it feels fantastically exhilarating. Users report feeling blissed out, energetic, and emotionally opened and loving. The ride up usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour. One then reaches a plateau where they'll be for the next one to two hours, followed by a slow drift back to baseline. Taking multiple doses will change the timing of these periods.
Most X users report that their first couple of experiences are like being in heaven, and leave a strong impression. Experiences after this are still enjoyable but can't match the initial ride. After numerous X trips, I've concluded that lasting and beneficial experiences are derived primarily from deep bonding with other people while one is high. Nearly all of my better X experiences happened when I was with either one other person or a small group of close friends. This framework for using ecstasy closely parallels how it was used in therapeutic settings. Ecstasy's ability to allow emotions to flow more easily and naturally, and to create an atmosphere of nonjudgment and acceptance, is conducive to deep bonding and healing. I find that the more general feeling of "connectedness," which users report feeling with larger groups of people at events such as raves, tends to dissipate, leaving one feeling hollow by the time the drug wears off.
Ecstasy is not really "psychedelic" in the same way as other substances in this journal. It does not have the potential to produce the fine level of detail in hallucinations that is possible with substances like LSD or mushrooms. Indeed many users experience no visual phenomena at all with ecstasy. Ecstasy also does not heighten one's senses to the level of infinite sharpness that is common with the traditional psychedelics. Ecstasy is sometimes called an empathogen because of its ability to facilitate emotional empathy and communication. I've also heard it referred to as a "selective psychedelic." I think this describes it the best. Ecstasy opens one's mind in a psychedelic way, but much of the personality and perceptual structure are left intact that would be diminished on other, non-selective psychedelics. This makes ecstasy usable by many people who could not handle the effects of something like LSD. With ecstasy one does not go through the dissolution of identity, and can not get into the multitude of "weird" head spaces that can be experienced during an LSD trip. More than any other psychedelic, ecstasy seems to produce very similar experiences in different people, generally described as loving and emotionally opened. While advantageous to the novice psychedelic user, ecstasy's limited experience-producing range provides a low ceiling to the more adventurous psychonaut.
Ecstasy rarely produces a bad experience, but there are some negative aspects to ecstasy's signature. I find ecstasy can be one of the hardest psychedelics to come down from, particularly if I've double dosed. I tend to feel depressed as the blissful ecstasy feelings slip away. My previous personality feels "sticky" at this point, and I feel I have less options choosing my return personality than I would returning from the traditional psychedelics. Ecstasy also produces some side effects: a speedy feeling throughout the experience, often accompanied by jaw clenching (it is in the amphetamine family), a loss of appetite, and sometimes a hangover the next day.
Ecstasy is the only psychedelic I've used which leaves me feeling any less than perfect the next day, and this experience seems to be common among most users of ecstasy. Based on this, I suspect that ecstasy is not the most benign substance to take into one's body, and I've reduced my consumption to an infrequent basis.
There have been a few cases of people who died from heat stroke following the use of ecstasy in dance clubs. They became dehydrated after dancing for hours without drinking any fluids. Although this is rare, it's a reminder for one to pay attention to their body's basic needs while using ecstasy or any other substance.
I've read numerous clinical articles on ecstasy. There does not appear to be conclusive evidence one way or the other as to whether it causes any type of damage to humans, or whether any potential damage caused is permanent or reversible. However, many who are concerned with safe use have gleaned suggestions from these articles.
Although large doses of ecstasy produced some neurotoxicity  in lab animals, damage was significantly less to non-existent with a smaller dose (equivalent to 100-150 mg. for most humans.) Other experiments showed that a single dose of Prozac (a prescription anti-depressant drug) will completely block the neurotoxic effects ecstasy can produce in lab animals.
The Prozac can be taken up to six hours after the ecstasy. I've taken Prozac toward the end of about 20 X trips, and in most cases I've felt better the next day than I normally do after taking ecstasy alone. Prozac is considered a controversial drug. Some of the people to whom it was prescribed on a regular basis claim it gave them suicidal tendencies. Apparently a small percentage of the people who try Prozac have some type of negative mental reaction. Several people I know have first tried Prozac by itself, to see what their reaction to it is, before taking it at the end of an ecstasy trip.
As mentioned above, taking ecstasy without Prozac, especially multiple doses, has a tendency to give one a hangover the next day. This can leave one feeling physically drained and mentally frizzled. One's chances of feeling bad the next day can be greatly reduced by taking just a single dose of X. Another method of reducing or eliminating this hangover is to take amino acids such as DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA) or other neurotransmitter precursors prior to and after ingesting the ecstasy. These nutrients are available from health food and vitamin stores and are frequently included in "smart drinks." I've also read that all of the phenethylamine drugs produce free radicals, and that taking anti-oxidant formulas, also available at most health food stores, can help prevent damage from their use.
LSD - Ecstasy is frequently taken with LSD, a combination commonly known as "candyflip." I find the feelings produced by this combination can be much deeper and more visual than on ecstasy alone. But since the ecstasy has a much heavier signature than the acid, I tend to experience more of an intensified ecstasy high, and lose the depth I would experience on acid alone. If taken around the same time, the ecstasy will wear off first, while the residual high from the acid provides for a smoother recovery.
NITROUS OXIDE - Using nitrous with X is growing in popularity, particularly in the rave scene. See the LSD chapter for information on nitrous oxide.
Ecstasy may be significantly intensified and possibly dangerous if combined with MAO inhibitors.
See the 2C-B chapter.
1. Neurotoxicity was measured in these cases as a reduction in the levels of serotinin, a neurotransmitter present in the brain tissue.