molecule ecstasyTo a chemist the name describes what the molecule consists of. The word ‘Methyl is sometimes abbreviated to ‘Meth’, and the letter ‘N’ and numbers ‘3,4’ are often omitted, leaving the more usual ‘Methylenedioxymethamphetamine’. (The 3,4 indicates the way in which the components of the molecule are joined together, as it is possible to produce an isomer which has all the same components joined differently).

Similarly, the initials are sometimes reduced to MDM (although this is old-fashioned) and of course there are the various popular names such as E, Adam, X and Empathy. Many people believe that the name implies a mixture of ingredients but this is wrong – just as water is not a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen although its molecule consists of oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

Like water, MDMA is a compound, not a mixture. So, although the name contains the word ‘amphetamine’ and the law refers to MDMA as a ‘psychedelic amphetamine’, MDMA contains no amphetamine. The amphetamine-like effects may be related to dopamine release.

Excerpted from Ecstasy: Dance, Trance, and Transformation by Nicholas Saunders (