One of these days, I will figure out how to spell that damn word on the first try. Who am I kidding? I probably won’t. Is it telling of me that I can’t spell that word correctly ever?
I’m an addict, however, most of my drug use has been to mask other issues. I self-medicated with drugs and alcohol to numb the abuse I suffered. It was a symptom of the problem, not the root. I’ve told you about how I’ve tried most drugs and been addicted to others. I’ve talked about my experiences on mushrooms and my issues with crack cocaine. Today, boys and girls, we’re going to talk about Ecstasy.
Ecstasy, X, E, or MDMA, is a drug. It’s an illegal drug. From the wiki I just linked: “MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, diminished anxiety, and mild psychedelia.”
Because my fingers and brain can never come to an agreement on how it’s spelled, I’m going to refer to it as E in this post.
I first tried it sometime in the mid-90s when I was clean from crack cocaine and still wary of becoming addicted to anything again. I was informed that E is very much not addictive, and it’s really not. At least, it’s not physically addictive. Psychologically addictive is another story. I’ve seen people enjoy the high of it so much that they did it regularly enough to be a problem.
Like most drugs, originally, E had a medical purpose. It was thought that it could be used in psychotherapy. Most E available on the street is completely synthetic. It comes in small, brightly colored, happy-looking pills like this:
Each manufacturer of E has their own little brand. As you can see above, one is a white clover and another is green with a Euro on it. Each of those stamps and colors denotes a different manufacturer in the same way that Coca Cola is red and white, and Pepsi is blue and red.
All of those pills are made illegally. It is big business. In the late 90s to early 00s, one pill had a street value of anywhere from $10 to $50, depending on reputation and ease of availability. Some pills that claimed to be genuine, i.e. actually made from Safrole, a colorless or slightly yellow oily liquid, extracted from the root-bark or the fruit of the sassafras tree, could fetch upwards of $100 per pill. Most of them weren’t genuine and all of them were cut with something from baking soda to rat poison. You never quite knew what was in that little pill.
I took a lot of different pills. One pill made me throw up for about six hours straight. I’m pretty sure that one was cut with Rophynol, better known as the date rape drug or roofies. What fun. Others took me up so high that I thought my heart was going to burst. Most were pleasant little middle-ground highs.
A dose of E, when you get a decent grade pill made without rat poison or roofies, is extremely pleasant. Everything feels nice. You love your friends and want to tell them all about it. For possibly the first time ever, you want to hug them and tell them everything they mean to you. Colors are a little crisper. Your senses are heightened. That coat you’re wearing lined with faux fur? That’s the best feeling thing in the whole world. You could rub your hand along it for hours and you will. That forgotten chocolate sitting on the table is the best thing you have ever tasted in your life. Flowers smell like they came straight from heaven. Everything is just a little more three-dimensional. Things that would normally irritate you don’t have any impact. In fact, nothing bothers you at all. Everything is just peachy.
I was in Las Vegas for New Years 2000. In case you’re only thirteen years old, New Years 2000 was a pretty big deal. It was the turn of the century. Everyone had to be somewhere special for it because you would inevitably be asked where you were a lot. There was also that Y2K bug that everyone was worried would end the world. It didn’t, of course, but we didn’t know that at the time. Even for those of us who were sure it was a bunch of over-hyped malarkey, somewhere in the back of our minds was the possibility that the world might end so we better live it up.
So, Las Vegas. Nowadays, I can’t imagine anything much worse than being in Las Vegas for an event that big. Even at the time, the proposition wasn’t thrilling to me, but that’s where my friends decided to go, so I went. Fortunately, we had E.
At 11:30 pm on December 31, 1999, we were at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Blvd. in the middle of the strip. It was so crowded that you couldn’t move. We lost half of our group. At 11:55 pm, we somehow all found each other again. We celebrated this divine intervention with massive hugs that only E can provide. At 11:59 pm, the crowd frenzy was palpable. Our group of friends clung to each other as to not get lost again as thousands of people pushed in all directions. I saw a guy climb up onto a traffic signal pole. He climbed all the way out on the arm where the traffic signals were. As the countdown started, I watched him fall. It was only the next day, when I read the news, that I realized I had watched a man die.
Another time I tried E was in the desert. That’s the Mojave Desert, the largest in the United States. My friends dragged me out there to a rave. I hate raves. There are so many people doing stupid things, but I’d never really been to the desert before and we were going to spend the night. We hippie flipped; we took mushrooms and E at the same time. It was ridiculously amazing and we were totally out of our minds. There were hundreds of people at the rave, but we went the other way, away from them and into this:
Being out of my head on drugs is probably what saved me from totally freaking out at the fact that I was in the middle of the desert, because being in the desert is not something I’m generally fond of. The fact that there is no civilization or source of fresh water for miles and miles around gives me the heebie-geebies. Watching the sun come up over the desert while on mushrooms and E was rather incredible.
The last time I did E was with Male a few years ago, before we both got clean. Male is like me in that he always has music going. We were in his house listening to music when I closed my eyes. For some reason, closing my eyes and listening to music on E had never occurred to me before.
You see, I have music -> visual synesthesia. I see music as color, pattern and movement. It had stupidly never occurred to me to explore this on E before. I am pretty sure we happened to be listening to Beethoven, or at least, it was classical music. I saw an aerial battle.
I’m not kidding you. I saw a World War II aerial battle take place over the Pacific ocean on a clear blue, sunny day. Japanese zeros were swooping in to shoot at an aircraft carrier while allied spitfires and tomahawks chased them away. All of this happened in my mind as if I was watching a movie, except one minute, I was in a plane, the next, I was on an aircraft carrier, and the next, I had an aerial view of the whole thing. I could not even begin to describe it. E and synesthesia together is positively astounding.
This all may sound like an endorsement of E. I assure you, it is not. As high as E takes you up, you come down much harder, like a crash landing. Coming down from E is absolutely no fun at all.
From the MDMA wiki linked above, after effects of E experienced by users, including me, are:
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Impaired attention, focus, and concentration, as well as drive and motivation (due to depleted serotonin levels)
- Residual feelings of empathy, emotional sensitivity, and a sense of closeness to others
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or vertigo
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal disturbances, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Aches and pains, usually from excessive physical activity (e.g., dancing)
- Jaw soreness
I have Major Depressive Disorder. Taking E when you already have depression can be positively life threatening. The down you experience from coming off of E is a hundred times worse than the worst natural depression you’ve ever experienced.
From the MDMA wiki:
Some studies indicate repeated recreational users of MDMA have increased rates of depression and anxiety, even after quitting the drug.
Short-term physical health risks of MDMA consumption include hyperthermia, and hyponatremia. Continuous activity without sufficient rest or rehydration may cause body temperature to rise to dangerous levels, and loss of fluid via excessive perspiration puts the body at further risk as the stimulatory and euphoric qualities of the drug may render the user oblivious to their energy expenditure for quite some time. Diuretics such as alcohol may exacerbate these risks further.
MDMA causes a reduction in the reuptake concentration of serotonin transporters in the brain. The rate at which the brain recovers from serotonergic changes is unclear. Some studies show MDMA may be neurotoxic in humans. Depression and deficits in memory have been shown to occur more frequently in long-term MDMA users.
In other words, bad news. E can make you unhappy in the long-term since it can affect your brain’s seratonin transporters. Seratonin is popularly thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
As cool as the experience of taking E is, and it is sometimes pretty cool, ultimately, it is not worth the risk. Personally, I think E is, in part, responsible for the severe bout of depression I had towards the end of the 00s.
You don’t know what’s in that pill. Even if someone you know has taken it before and can vouch for it, it could be from a different batch. It could be cut with poison. It can cause lasting psychological and physical effects. It could cause an overdose. It can cause depression, memory impairment, convulsions, renal failure, comas, heart attacks, strokes and even death.
The up might be cool, but coming down isn’t worth it. Damaging your organs, impairing mental function, ending up in a coma or even losing your life isn’t worth it. Given the chance to do my life over, I would never have taken it and I’m incredibly lucky to have made it through to the other side.