How Is Ecstasy Made?
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 Produced?
Manufacturing ecstasy requires several toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde, mercury, and ammonium chloride, which is often used as a fertilizer. These are the steps that are required to make ecstasy.
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.
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.
Step 3: Use the Wacker Process to create MDP2P.
MDP2P is a chemical compound that is formed during the Wacker process, which consists of the oxidation of ethylene to acetaldehyde. 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.
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 MDMA tablets.
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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 750,000 people tried ecstasy for the first time in 2013. 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:
- Memory loss
Ecstasy is addictive, but it is never too late to seek help. If a loved one exhibits signs of MDMA abuse, family and friends should step in and offer their unwavering support and encouragement. With the right treatment approach in the right setting, it is entirely possible to recover from an addiction to ecstasy.