The purpose of this report is to further educate individuals and outline the effects that 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine have on the user’s brain and therefore how it has an effect on the user’s mental health. MDMA is most commonly used as a street drug and associated with dance parties, festivals and social gatherings and can severely affect the user’s mental health.

MDMA has become a popular drug because of the positive effects that a user may experience, effects including feeling of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, empathy towards others, a general sense of well being and decreased anxiety. However, the long-term effects are not as delightful as the short-term effects seem. Regular use of MDMA can be the cause of a variety of mental health issues that include depression, anxiety and a lack of memory. Mental health issues as such are an issue in society already without the influence of MDMA.

Good mental health is characterised by a person’s ability to fulfil a variety of key functions and activities, including the ability to learn, the ability to feel, express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions, ability to form and maintain relationships with other people, the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty. Some people believe MDMA will give the user the encouragement to have the same abilities as a person with good mental health; however, those thoughts only last while the user is under the influence of MDMA.

This report will provide and summarise the effects that MDMA has on the brain and therefore the user’s mental health and what happens to the body and brain while under the influence of MDMA, I will provide an in depth explanation of the production process of MDMA, the raw materials used and the general properties, the reaction pathway, conditions and structure. As well as an explanation of how MDMA enters the bloodstream and the brain's response to MDMA and how the neurotransmitters are affected and a discussion piece on how MDMA affects the user's mental health. I will also be providing a public education piece to advise the general public on the risks associated with the use of MDMA.


The four principal precursors which are mainly used in the manufacture of MDMA and other related drugs are Safrole, Isosafrole, Piperonal and 3,4 – Methylenedioxyphenyl-2-propanone, otherwise pronounced as PMK. Safrole is the first chemical used because the other three can be synthesised from it. In the Merck patent 1914 Safrole was reacted with Hydrobromic Acid, which then formed Bromosafrole, which was then was converted to MDMA with the use of Methylamine. Many other illicit syntheses start with PMK and use various reductive aminations, which is the process by which an amine group is introduced into an organic molecule or the Leuckart route which is the chemical reaction that converts aldehydes or ketones to amines by reductive amination in the presence of heat.

Figure 1: Reaction pathway for producing MDMA, retrieved from

The formal name for MDMA is N-methyl-1-3,4 – methylenedioxyphenyl)Prop-2-amine, it is a member of the larger group of ring – substituted phenethylamines and it also exists in two enantiomeric forms (R & S) which means MDMA has more than one form. MDMA is an N-substituted amphetamine and has a molecule formula that is C11H15NO2 and a molecule weight of 193.246 g/mol, boiling point of 100-110 deg C at 0.4 mmHg and soluble In water, 5,400 mg/L at 25 deg C, melting point of 153 degrees C and is clear coloured, until cut with other chemicals.

MDMA is a highly used drug and is classified as a hallucinogen, which means it causes marked and long lasting changes in the brain's serotonin systems and works. As well as that, MDMA is a ring-substituted amphetamine, which means it interacts with neurotransmitter receptor binding sites in the brain. MDMA is a central nervous system stimulant; in that matter, it enhances sensory senses, including that of colour, touch and sound. However, it also affects the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters control reflexes, emotions and memory all in which are effected under the influence of MDMA. Neurotransmitters are produced naturally by the body and includes small chemicals and hormones. Some which include Dopamine, Histamine, Adrenaline, Insulin and Serotonin.

Figure 2 : What happens to the neurotransmitters in the brain while under the influence of MDMA, retrieved from i
Serotonin is the main stimulant when MDMA is consumed. Serotonin is in control of appetite, sleeping pattern, memory, learning and mood. For example, when something good happens in somebody's life like falling in love there is an increase in release of serotonin from your nerve cells, which make you feel happier. When effective amounts of MDMA are ingested the same cells are been stimulated to release large amounts of serotonin. This change in serotonin levels creates the intense experience of happiness, feeling social, increased empathy and the inability to sleep hence why it is such a popular party drug. The side effects can also severely increase when MDMA is consumed in hot and humid conditions. The social feelings usually last anywhere between 3 – 8 hours as your brain cells work to retain the serotonin. Although, MDMA releases so much serotonin the user's body destroys more than usual, so this means when your brain function is back to normal state there is less serotonin available to bind with the receptors to make you feel good with normal events, this can also lead to a severe hangover or ‘comedown’ with side effects including negative mood, signs of depression, irritability, sleep disturbance and a lack of appetite.

MDMA is taken by pill, capsule, powder and rarely crystal form. An MDMA pill or capsule can be swallowed, crushed and/or snorted, on the other hand, powder formed MDMA can be snorted, licked or put into drinks of such. Crystal form is rare and usually dissolved or crushed. Users generally do not feel any desired effects for up to as long as 30 minutes to an hour because the substance has to be ingested before it enters the bloodstream, which results in not having an immediate reaction.

Once MDMA either is taken through a capsule or pill form and digested or snorted the MDMA makes its way to the stomach where some of the MDMA molecules absorb through the stomach wall and into the bloodstream, from there the remaining MDMA molecules are then taken from the stomach to the small intestine. This happens because MDMA has a weaker base, resulting in easily been able to pick up and lose H+ (Hydrogen) from its surroundings which when in the stomach is the gastric acid


MDMA gives users the feeling of excitement or happiness after ingesting it, it gives users the feeling to be social, increased empathy and the inability to sleep which is why it is such a popular party drug. MDMA is most popular within teenagers and young adults with an estimated ¼ of Australian teens and young adults having tried MDMA at 14 years of ages or older. Due to damaging the brain and central nervous system at such a young age can eventually lead to a lifetime of mental health issues, whether it's physically or emotionally with the increased possible risk of obtaining depression which is extremely unhealthy and common within the younger generation. 

MDMA has many negative effects on the user not only after the drug is taken but also in the long run. After the MDMA is consumed the users serotonin levels highly increase then dramatically decrease resulting in the user not been able to cope with normal day-to-day events. The brain then has to rebuild the serotonin levels because of how much is released when MDMA was taken, in some cases the serotonin levels may not rise back to normal which leave people depressed, anxious and/or paranoid for life. 
Long term use of MDMA can lead to serious depression and memory problems, a user that regularly uses the drug can get long term effects such as reduced ability to control their emotions and feelings, lack of memory and concentration, personality changes, possible disorders and severe depression. MDMA also carries a risk of serotonin syndrome or toxicity, which is caused by mixing MDMA with antidepressant medicines or taking an overdose. Symptoms including agitation, confusion, extremely high body temperature, possibly coma and death. 

When a user is coming down after taking MDMA they may feel depressed that can last for days, irritable, anxious and paranoid. Users can also have trouble sleeping and will increase lack in concentration. High doses of MDMA can affect the body's ability to regulate temperature. This can then cause a spike in the body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney or heart failure or even death. In addition, because MDMA can promote trust and closeness, its use especially when combined with Sildnafil (Viagra) may encourage unsafe sexual behaviours. This increases people's risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS and drug abuse, which is both a major issue in society without the influence of MDMA.


This science journal report provides information on the effects of 3, 4 – Methylenedioxymethamphetamine on the brain and therefore the users mental health. MDMA is one of the most popular party drugs since the 1980’s that is mostly associated with teenagers and young adults, it lowers appetite and sleep disturbance which is why it is such a popular party drug. MDMA works after 30 minutes of the drug been ingested and give users the feeling of increased empathy, happiness, socialness and a general sense of well being. When MDMA is taken it is taken into the bloodstream through the stomach walls then to the brain, when MDMA reaches the brain it interferes with the serotonin in the brain, serotonin been the feeling of happiness which is then released through the neurotransmitters and into the synapse. MDMA highly increases the amount of serotonin released which is what gives users the feeling of closeness, happiness and increased empathy. This high release of serotonin means that when the user is on a comedown the brain needs to reproduce all the serotonin that was released which makes the user feel depressed, anxious and/or paranoid. The result in decreased serotonin levels been released into the brain is actually extremely bad for the users mental health. Due to so much serotonin been released within a short period of time while on a come down the brain needs to reproduce all the serotonin that was released, resulting in low serotonin levels lasting anywhere between one day to one week or even longer. The feeling of happiness and decreased anxiety is what triggers users of MDMA to come back for more to reach the ‘fake high’ which can then go onto greater things such as liver, kidney or heart failure and even death. MDMA has many negative effects on users that is not recognized.

Public Education Piece

My public education piece is a powerpoint that outlines the most important information on MDMA and how it affects the user's mental health to advise the public and more importantly teenagers and young adults on the risks included in taking MDMA from the information learnt from this assignment.


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