How Is Ecstasy Made?

sassafras plants that are used to make ecstasy What is Ecstasy

MDMA is a synthetic drug that is commonly called ecstasy. Because it is a central nervous system stimulant, it enhances sensory perceptions, including that of color, sound, and touch. Ecstasy also has some hallucinogenic properties.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the Merck chemical company originally developed ecstasy in 1912. The drug gained some popularity among psychiatrists in the 1970s and 1980s because some believed it enabled patients to open up and also gain clear insight into their issues. The drug never gained approval for this use by the Food and Drug Administration, however. During this time, recreational use became more common. The New York Times reported on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s intent to schedule the drug over growing concerns of its misuse. The DEA did, in fact, place an emergency ban on the drug that year, and it is still a Schedule I controlled substance.

Ecstasy is sometimes sold as “molly,” a supposedly pure form of MDMA; however, often ecstasy, even when sold as pure “molly” has little to no MDMA at all. Tests on ecstasy samples have revealed that many drugs sold as MDMA are in fact mixtures of other synthetic drugs, such as ketamine, flakka, methamphetamine, or synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”).

How is Ecstasy Made

Manufacturing ecstasy requires several toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, mercury, and ammonium chloride, which is often used as a fertilizer.

Attempting to make MDMA is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS and can cause you permanent injury or kill you. Please do NOT attempt to make MDMA.

Step 1: Extract safrole from the sassafras plant.

Safrole is a phenylpropene that can be extracted from the fruit or bark of the sassafras plant. It is produced by distilling oil from the plant. According to the National Toxicology Program, there is sufficient evidence that safrole has carcinogenic effects on animals, and researchers anticipate that it has similar effects on humans.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is illegal to “knowingly or intentionally to possess or distribute safrole, knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, the safrole will be used to manufacture MDMA.”

Step 2: Make methylamine hydrochloride.

Methylamine hydrochloride is produced by inciting a reaction between formaldehyde and ammonium chloride.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established safe exposure limits to methylamine to be 25ppm over an eight-hour time-weighted average.
machines in lab processing chemicals to make ecstasy

Step 3: Use the Wacker Process to create MDP2P.

MDP2P is a ketone produced during the Wacker process. Because it is a precursor to ecstasy, MDP2P is considered a controlled substance.

Step 4: Distill the MDP2P.

The Wacker process does not produce pure MDP2P, so the substance that results must be distilled first.

Step 5: Incite a reaction between the MDP2P and aluminum amalgam.

compressed tablets of ecstasy

MDMA tablets

Aluminum amalgam can be made by inciting a reaction between aluminum wire and mercury chloride. When combined with MDP2P, aluminum amalgam will reduce it to MDMA oil. The waste produced from the reaction contains mercury. Exposure to mercury can cause serious chronic health issues and even death.

Step 6: Crystallize the MDMA oil by combining it with hydrochloric acid and isopropyl alcohol.

The final step for making MDMA is crystalizing the oil until it becomes a fine, white powder. Manufacturers then use this powder to make

Ecstasy Abuse

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 2.5 million people reported using ecstasy in the previous year

Ecstasy remains a popular drug in certain party scenes despite the many toxic chemicals it contains and the potentially dangerous effects it can have on the body. Long-term side effects of taking ecstasy include:

  • Problems concentrating.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Insomnia.
  • Heart disease.
  • Depression.

If you’re using MDMA compulsively, it is never too late to seek help. With the right treatment approach in the right setting, it is entirely possible to live in recovery from MDMA or any other substance.

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About The Contributor
Amanda Lautieri
Senior Web Content Editor, American Addiction Centers
Amanda Lautieri is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for Sunrise House. She holds a bachelor's degree and has reviewed thousands of medical articles on substance abuse and addiction. She... Read More