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MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) is an empathogenic drug commonly known as Ecstasy.

Legal status and views

It was placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act over the recommendations of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young.[1] In the 1990s, Ecstacy became one of the four most widely-used illegal drugs in the United States.[2] Jonathan M. Finegold Catalán notes that the government's efforts to prohibit "raves" and other music festivals at which these drugs are used has actually tended to increase harm by diverting users to underground raves at which hydration and medical care resources are not as readily available.[3]

Some of the drug's early proponents believed that MDMA could make the world a better place by causing people to feel and demonstrate more care and concern (sometimes referred to as "love") for their fellow man. This raises an interesting question as to whether inducing a widespread chemically-caused increase in people's tendencies toward altruism would be beneficial to society. It is known that some naturally-occurring chemicals, such as oxytocin, can cause an increased sense of attachment to others, which can influence one's behavior. And it is known that people often take action to release into their bodies chemicals that will act to, at least temporarily, break down social barriers; for example, shaking hands, hugging and other forms of physical affection can cause oxytocin to be released, and alcoholic beverages tend to lower social inhibitions.

Evidently, many people deem the benefits to exceed the costs, because they continue to engage in behaviors that will change the levels of these chemicals in their bodies and create these altered states. Ironically, part of what makes MDMA cause people to be more gregarious is that it reduces their ability to read social cues and be put off by fear and anxiety.[4] At any rate, the empathy-inducing effects of MDMA subside when the drug wears off, and the user tends to return to his former ways of thinking and acting, so it is questionable how great an impact it could have on society. Due in part to possible neurotoxicity, including serotonin changes, it may be impractical for people to take such drugs on a frequent basis.[citation needed]