Medical Definition of Ecstasy

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

Ecstasy: 1. A state of rapture and trancelike elation.
2. A street name for 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), best known on the street as "Ecstacy." An illicit drug, considered a recreational or party drug. It acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Ecstasy achieves its high by preventing the brain from reabsorbing the chemical serotonin, thereby prolonging its effects in the body.

Ecstasy also appears to impair the thought process. German researchers studied 28 ecstasy users (who had used the drug an average of 3.5 times a month for about 2 years) and found they performed significantly worse on tests of memory, learning, and general intelligence than nondrug users and than pot smokers. (Ref.: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2000;68:719-725).

Ecstasy is also considered a "possible" teratogen, an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or fetus. British researchers have reported that of 136 pregnancies during which the mothers took Ecstasy, 78 babies were born alive and of these, 15.4% had birth defects including clubfoot, skull defects, toe malformations and two cases of congenital heart defects. By comparison, the malformation rate for pregnant women in the general population is about 3%. This study was not large enough to prove a link between Ecstasy and birth defects, but these findings are good evidence that Ecstasy should be completely avoided by pregnant women. (Ref.: Lancet 1999;354:1441-1442.)

See also: Methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018