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User's Guide

Welcome to TheDEA.org: The definitive guide to the drug MDMA (Molly, ecstasy) since 2003.

Science and Statistics

How dangerous is MDMA (Molly, ecstasy)? Can it really make holes in your brain?

The User's Guide

The legendary guide to fun and safety!

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The origins and results of the ‘War on Drugs’

A new day and a new site!

If you’ve seen the ‘old’ TheDEA.org, you know it was ancient and ugly enough to make your eyes bleed. Well, after years of promising some updates, it’s finally happened! The site has been reorganized, stuffed with gorgeous new graphics, and moved to a modern responsive design that looks and works great on your cell phone.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, updating more of the graphics (particularly charts and tables), and I’m starting work on updating the research behind the site (so in time it will once again have all the latest and greatest findings from the lab boys.) Thanks for your patience…and enjoy!

The Mystery of 'Meth Mouth'

Long-term use of meth can take a heavy toll on a person, of course, but few examples of meth wear-and-tear are as graphic as the sort of severe tooth deterioration seen here. (Photo from TeethPictures.org.)

severe tooth decay from meth abuse

Usually the mainstream ‘authorities’ will tell you that this happens because of all the horrible, toxic chemicals used to make meth, like drain clog removers. The real story is a bit more complicated, so hold down your lunch and let’s talk tooth science!

Bacteria like to live on our teeth, since they get fed whenever we eat. In order to make sure they can (literally) stick around in the mouth the bacteria turn sugar into the sticky stuff we know as plaque. The metabolism of the bacteria creates a lot of acid as a waste product.

The outer layer of a tooth (the white part we see) is enamel. The enamel is mostly a crystal of calcium phosphate, which acid can slowly eat away. Our body’s main defense against this damage is saliva, which helps to wash away the acid being produced by bacteria before it can do too much damage. That’s why sugar-free gum can actually help prevent tooth decay: Chewing gum increases saliva production. Our main behavioral defense is brushing our teeth, since brushing can remove most of the bacteria and plaque that have built up during the day.

Heavy meth use is a sort of perfect storm for tooth destruction. It reduces saliva production (part of a water-conserving stress response that also contributes to hyponatremia deaths among ecstasy users), making it easier for acid levels to build up. People on a binge tend to have lousy nutrition (sugary drinks like soda seem to be particularly popular), and personal hygiene tends to be neglected (so the bacterial population isn’t being held in check by brushing.) Heavy meth users tend not to visit a dentist, either for regular checkups (or even when there clearly is deterioration.) As a result, the bacteria are free to run wild, creating a lot of acid to break down the user’s teeth.

‘Meth mouth’ can happen no matter how you get the drug into your system, although smoking probably makes things even worse, since the meth itself contains some acid. (The acid acts like tiny magnets, holding the meth molecules together into crystals. If you removed the acid, you would have methamphetamine freebase, which is an oily liquid; a bit hard to transport and sell.)

Stimulants like meth (and ecstasy, for that matter) also tend to cause bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth.) This can wear down enamel by itself, can create grooves in your teeth that make a great hiding place for bacteria to grow in, and in severe cases can even crack the enamel (after all, it’s a crystal.)

If you’re going to use meth (or any other drug), I think the best advice is to be very careful about the frequency of use creeping up over time. Addiction doesn’t simply leap into existence over-night. Nobody gets addicted from one dose. Instead, you get hooked a little bit at a time, slowly and subtly enough that you usually don’t even notice it’s happening until it’s too late.

The only entirely safe drug use is not to use. If you do use, safer drug use means limiting dosages and the frequency of use. Pay attention to how often you use, how much you take, and whether you’re getting cravings to use. If your usage (or side effects) creep upwards over time, take a break for several months. If that seems like too much of a sacrifice, that’s all the more reason to be afraid of where things might be going.

Merck Pharmaceuticals digs the lost history of MDMA (Ecstasy) out of their archives (8/23/06)

It’s become conventional wisdom among a lot of people that MDMA was originally developed as an appetite suppressant. There was never any evidence to support such claims, but that hasn’t stopped them from popping up in even respectable research journals. Perhaps taking a new interest in what may become a commercially valuable drug, Merck, the company that first created MDMA in 1912, has gone through their own records to find out what exactly they did create the substance for.

Nobody knew MDMA was a psychoactive drug at first. Instead, they created what would eventually become ‘ecstasy’ as an insignificant intermediate chemical used to manufacture other, potentially useful medications to control bleeding.

In 1927, a Merck researcher rediscovered MDMA, noting that it had a structural similarity to adrenaline. Animal experiments were performed, but the details have been lost beyond some notes that MDMA was somewhat toxic and promoted muscle contraction, etc. His investigation was apparently brief, noting that the chemicals needed to produce MDMA were expensive and it’s potential use as a stimulant was intriguing but unproven.

In 1952 MDMA appeared again at Merck in the form of a brief note that flies exposed to the substance became unconscious, then died.

In 1959, an investigation into MDMA’s potential use as a stimulant was again undertaken, but the details have been lost. The first human tests may have occurred in 1959 or shortly thereafter. Thirteen years later, MDMA was discovered being sold as a drug in Chicago.

See: What is Molly? The history of MDMA.

Depressed, Anxious Children More Likely To Try 'Ecstasy' (1/1/06)

Reporting on the results of a study of 1580 Dutch children over a 14 year period, researchers have found that depression or anxiety problems during childhood doubled the likelihood that a child would eventually try ‘ecstasy’. This result is consistent with earlier findings that psychological problems in general increased the likelihood of ‘ecstasy’ use later in life.

This correlation between childhood emotional problems and drug use is not in of itself new, although detailed data of the connection between specific problems and ‘ecstasy’ use is. Given that emotionally troubled people are also at greater risk of drug addiction, childhood mental health intervention may prove to be an invaluable tool for combating drug abuse and addiction later in life.

Read the journal article.

Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Use of Psychedelic Tea (Ayahuasca) (2/21/06)

In an 8-0 ruling led by the conservative new Chief Justice Roberts, the US Supreme Court has struck down government efforts to prevent the religious group O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV) from importing and using ayahuasca (‘huasca’), a hallucinogenic tea containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT, a Schedule 1 drug.)

The use of ayahuasca for shamanic practices and healing rituals dates back thousands of years in South America. The UDV church was founded in Brazil, combining Christian teachings with the shamanic traditions of the rain forest’s native peoples. There are about 130 members in the US (although the church has a far larger presence in Brazil.)

The group came under fire when customs intercepted a shipment of the sacramental tea (apparently 14 previous shipments of the drug-laced liquid had gone unnoticed.) Faced with the loss of their central religious sacrament and threats of arrest, the Church sued the US government, claiming that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (a law passed in 1993 primarily to protect the rights of peyote using Native American tribes) exempted them from the Controlled Substances Act (which outlaws DMT.) The government countered that there was a compelling interest (as required by the RFR Act) to stop the use of ayahuasca to 1. Protect the health of Church members; 2. Prevent diversion of the tea to the black market; and 3. To uphold international (UN) drug control treaties. The court ruled that the government had failed to make a convincing argument on any of these grounds, upholding the decision of a lower court that the Church had the right to practice their religion by using ayahuasca.

While certainly a triumph for the UDV, this ruling may also pave the way for other religious groups who use psychoactive drugs as part of their practices (such as the Rastafarians, who use marijuana, albeit in a less ritualized manner than the UDV uses ayahuasca.)

Read the Supreme Court Ruling

The curious case of the missing 'date rape drug' victims (9/15/05)

Lurid tales of drinks spiked with incapacitating drugs have long been a press favorite, whipping up public hysteria over drugs like GHB and Rohypnol, in spite of such cases paling in numbers compared to alcohol-facilitated rapes. British researchers, however, have recently thrown some doubt on the scale of the problem in the form of a study of the toxicology results from over a thousand people who believed that they had been drugged in order to make them vulnerable to sexual assault. (These are people so sure that they had been drugged that they went to the police and were drug tested.)

Of the 1,014 alleged drugging victims, only 2% (21 people) tested positive for a drug that they had not knowingly taken. The data has it’s limitations; because some drugs are rapidly broken down and eliminated, all of the common sedatives could only be conclusively eliminated in a third of the cases. Still, the research paints a very surprising picture: The vast majority of people who believe they have been drugged (‘spiked drinks’ and the like) were simply victims of their own excessive drug and alcohol use. None the less, if you believe you may have been drugged without your knowledge, don’t wait to go to the police or a hospital; the longer you wait, the more likely the evidence is to be lost.


Pre-publication copy of article (without data tables.) (Sorry, haven’t been able to get a PDF of the published form.)