HomePsychedelicsMDMA – A brief history

MDMA – A brief history

MDMA (MethyleneDioxy-MethylAphetamine) was developed in 1912 by the German pharmaceutical company Merck and their chemist Anton Köllisch.

The aim was to create a parent compound to synthesize medications that control bleeding. It is often incorrectly stated that MDMA was created to control appetite, but this is not the case.

Despite being discovered in 1912, many decades past until research into MDMA took place. Alexander Shulgin, an experimental pyschopharmacologist rediscovered the drug and completed experiments on himself.

MDMA – A long time coming

In 1976, Shulgin introduced the drug to psychologist Leo Zeff. Zeff used MDMA as an aid in talk therapy.

Shulgin first published his results of the effects on humans in 1978.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the drug was largely restricted to experimental therapeutic studies. Approximately half a million doses were administered to participants of these studies.

Psychotherapists that used MDMA on their patients believed that the drug removed the typical fear response seen in patients and improved communication.

Unintended effects of criminalisation

When MDMA became a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S. in 1985, the majority of these experiments stopped.

Initially, the main recreational users were the psychotherapists, psychiatrists, and the users of psychedelics. To avoid criminalisation like LSD, these users limited the spread of information regarding MDMA.

Separate to the therapeutic experiments, It became a popular drug in both the U.S. and European party scenes in the 1980s. This continues throughout to this day.

Within Europe, MDMA became particularly associated with the rave culture via acid house. The drug gave the party goers enough energy for a full night of raving and often there was a lack of access to alcohol as the location was commonly improvised. This made MDMA the ideal substitute.

Risks associated with MDMA have commonly been portrayed by the government due to deaths. Unfortunately, many of these deaths have come from MDMA mixed with other chemicals or being mislabelled.

In more recent years, new research has begun on the potential uses for the drug within medicine. In 2017, doctors in the UK looked at using the drug for alcohol use disorder.

It has also been used in studies pertaining to PTSD with reason results looking positive.


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