Ecstasy pills look a lot like candy. They are small, brightly colored, and stamped with funny images or clever symbols. They look like harmless little bits of nothingness people might swallow by the handful after a night of trick-or-treating. In reality, each ecstasy pill can do a great deal of damage. While people might eat them like candy, those who do so could face serious consequences. And those consequences come about due to the ingredients found in each ecstasy pill.
How Is Ecstasy Made?
To better understand why ecstasy, Molly, and other MDMA-based drugs are so dangerous, it can help to know how the drugs are made and in what conditions. Illicit drugs are typically made without oversight, so getting a specific dose of these chemicals is nearly impossible. Additionally, they may be manufactured with substitute chemicals, so the effects can be unpredictable.
Ecstasy is a manmade drug that is similar in chemical structure to amphetamine. Like amphetamine, this is a drug that is made in a laboratory by people who follow a very specific recipe and a preordained set of manufacturing steps.
An analysis in Slate suggests that ecstasy pills are not hard to create. Anyone with a background in chemistry should, in theory, be able to make these pills. But, the authors say, the United States has tight regulations on the ingredients that go into Ecstasy pills. Those ingredients include chemicals like isosafrole and MDP2P. People who buy large quantities of these chemicals draw the attention of law enforcement, and their labs could be closed. As a result, most of the ecstasy that comes into this country is made in other countries.
Importers of ecstasy can buy a powdered form of the drug that they can press into pills, or they can buy pills in bulk and sell those pills.
The chemicals used to make ecstasy cannot be considered safe. Once people inject ecstasy pills, the body goes through a series of chemical reactions that can result in a dramatic increase in body temperature. That could lead to:
- Liver damage
- Kidney damage
- Brain damage
- Heart failure
Other risks associated with ecstasy come from contamination. Makers of ecstasy, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse may place other drugs in the ecstasy pills they sell. Those other drugs can include dextromethorphan, amphetamine, and PCP. Some pills contain dangerous chemicals found in illicit drugs known as bath salts.
This is a concern shared by the Australian Government Department of Health. That organization suggests that ecstasy pills could contain methamphetamine,combined with a synthetic hallucinogen known as para-methoxyampheramine.
Additions like this can be unpredictable. It is hard for users to know how their bodies will react to these substances if they have not taken them in the past.
And it can be hard for users to know exactly what is inside the pills they take, as dealers rarely disclose that information. If users have a bad reaction and need medical assistance, they may not be able to tell their doctors what they have taken and why they feel ill.
Ecstasy can do an intense amount of damage in a short amount of time, and users who take the drug may find that out when it is much too late. As a result, experts suggest that all people avoid all forms of ecstasy at all times.
People tout the safety of “pure” ecstasy, but regardless of whether MDMA is pure or impure, it is not safe. Those who find it hard to avoid the drug because they are addicted to it should ask for help. There are treatment programs that can be remarkably effective.
How Is Sassafras Used in Ecstasy Production?
Sassafras is a type of tree native to parts of the US and Cambodia. Although the link between this herbal plant and MDMA production is not obvious, sassafras is being harvested in Southeast Asia to produce significant quantities of safrole, an oil extract used in the manufacture of amphetamines like MDMA, Molly, and ecstasy. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cracks down on retailers and individuals who handle safrole in substantial amounts because the oil is the main raw ingredient used in the production of ecstasy. Cambodian authorities have also put pressure on the illicit manufacture of this oil by tearing down rare sassafras trees, but production has continued to go up as greater demand for ecstasy and variations on MDMA-related amphetamines increases all over the world.
Because of its correlation with ecstasy production, safrole is greatly restricted in the United States, European Union, and by the United Nations.
What Is Molly Made From?
Molly is one of the nicknames for MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a synthetic chemical manufactured in clandestine labs, which is then sold on the black market for recreational use. The process starts with safrole, the oil produced from the sassafras tree, although chemicals synthesized from safrole like isosafrole or piperonal can also be used. In its original production in 1912, in the Merck Company pharmaceutical labs, safrole was mixed with hydrobromic acid to produce bromosafrole; that chemical was then mixed with methylamine to produce MDMA. There are other, simpler methods used in modern production, which can vary based on the lab.
Many clandestine Molly labs use dangerous additives, including caffeine, other amphetamines, and even drugs like fentanyl to bulk up the product or to change its potency. Molly may contain lots of unknown chemicals, which can be very dangerous.
Where Does Most Ecstasy Come From?
Many of the chemicals used in ecstasy are legal in China, and manufacturing dozens of illicit substances is legal in that country. China has become a large exporter of black market drugs to the US, including ecstasy and Molly. Additionally, the bulk of ecstasy in the US is manufactured in Canada, which outpaced Denmark as the original main supplier.
What Substances Can Mimic the Effects of Ecstasy?
Ecstasy, MDMA, and Molly are all in a family of similar amphetamines, but other amphetamines can produce effects like these drugs. For example, speed and methamphetamine can produce a rush of energy, increase blood pressure and heart rate, raise body temperature to dangerous levels, produce a sudden adrenaline rush, cause panic or anxiety, produce dissociate effects, and lead to dehydration through sweating.
Gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, is sometimes referred to as “liquid ecstasy” because its effects are so similar. However, GHB produces more sedative effects on top of the dissociative and euphoric effects of ecstasy.
Two designer drugs – methylone and mephedrone – are legal in the United States but very dangerous. These drugs are forms of cathinone, a synthetic chemical related to cocaine. The serotonin released by these drugs may lead to serotonin syndrome.
How Do You Know if Ecstasy Is Real?
Some websites will say that ecstasy, MDMA, or Molly should be pure white, even glittery or shimmery. There are outlets online that sell home test kits, but these are not very reliable. Ultimately, MDMA and related drugs are manufactured with no regulations or oversight, so there is no way to know what adulterants have been mixed into ecstasy pills or powder.
Taking an illicit street drug like ecstasy, which is notoriously contaminated or mixed with other drugs, puts a person at a higher risk of taking something they do not intend to ingest. This increases the risk of overdose and death. Taking ecstasy mixed with other drugs also increases the risk of addiction and polydrug abuse. There is no safe way to take this illicit drug.