Australian Institute of Criminology

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Ecstasy is the street name for a range of drugs including, or similar in chemical structure to MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Some of these include MDA, MDEA and PMA. Ecstasy belongs to the family of synthetic drugs known as phenethylamines. Ecstasy tablets may contain varying mixtures of MDMA and related drugs (including amphetamine) as well other substances. Many ecstasy pills are fake and contain little or no MDMA.

In its original form, ecstasy is a white, bitter-tasting oil. It is usually available in tablet form and sometimes as capsules. Tablets vary in colour, size and design. Tablets may be crushed to give the appearance of a powder.

Ecstasy has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Like other stimulants, ecstasy causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. It can also lead to increased confidence and euphoria. The hallucinogenic properties can lead to altered perception.

Users may experience clenching of the jaw, grinding of the teeth, nausea, anxiety, as well as profuse sweating, a tingling feeling and blurred vision. Used in high doses, MDMA may lead to an amphetamine like psychosis, vomiting, convulsions and kidney failure. Overdose is characterised by very high body temperatures and blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat and hallucinations.

In addition to deaths caused directly by the drug, people have died by becoming overheated, sometimes through the combination of ecstasy use, vigorous dancing and hot humid venues, or from dilution hyponatremia, a flooding of the brain due to excess fluid consumption.

Ecstasy is usually taken orally either in tablet or capsule form. The powdered form can be snorted, smoked or injected. In some cases, the pill is crushed and swallowed inside a folded napkin, known as "parachuting" or "bombing", or is inserted in the anus or vagina, a method known as "shelving", "plugging" or "shafting".

The possession, use, manufacture and distribution of amphetamines is illegal throughout Australia, as is its importation.

Many states have restricted access to the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of the drug and their importation is strictly controlled.

In a 2004 survey, approximately 1.2 million people aged 14 years and over indicated they had used ecstasy in their life, with over half a million indicating use in the previous 12 months. The majority of ecstasy used in Australia is believed to have been illegally imported. The Netherlands is the world's major producer of ecstasy and many of the seizures in this country have originated from Europe. There is some evidence that MDMA production is occurring in Asia with a transportation route through Indonesia. There has also been an observed increase in production in Eastern Europe.

High level dealing and importation is conducted by Southeast Asian organised crime gangs, often in conjunction with heroin smuggling. Outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminal groups of Middle Eastern decent are involved in the distribution of the drug within Australia.

Surveys indicate that most ecstasy users source their drugs from friends, acquaintances or at venues. Often these deals took place at private residences.

There is a significant level of dealing in "fake ecstasy", drugs marketed as ecstasy but containing drugs other than MDMA, such as amphetamines.

Ecstasy is available particularly in the nightclub and dance party scene. However it appears to be more difficult to obtain outside of capital cities and major regional centres.

Street Names

Molly, E, Adam, XTC, eccies, the love drug, the hug drug.