Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine
Better known as “ecstasy”, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a small molecule that has played a prominent role in defining the ethos of today’s teenagers and young adults, much like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) did in the 1960s. Though MDMA possesses structural similarities to compounds like amphetamine and mescaline, it produces subjective effects that are unlike any of the classical psychostimulants or hallucinogens and is one of the few compounds capable of reliably producing prosocial behavioral states. As a result, MDMA has captured the attention of recreational users, the media, artists, psychiatrists, and neuropharmacologists alike. Here, we detail the synthesis of MDMA as well as its pharmacology, metabolism, adverse effects, and potential use in medicine. Finally, we discuss its history and why it is perhaps the most important compound for the future of psychedelic science—having the potential to either facilitate new psychedelic research initiatives, or to usher in a second Dark Age for the field.