Pursuit of Ecstasy

The MDMA Experience

By Jerome Beck & Marsha Rosenbaum

Subjects: Criminology
Series: SUNY series in New Social Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Paperback : 9780791418185, 252 pages, March 1994
Hardcover : 9780791418178, 252 pages, March 1994

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Table of contents


1. Introduction: Varieties of the MDMA Experience

2. Emergence of Adam and Ecstasy: Distribution and Criminalization of MDMA

3. Worlds of Ecstasy: Who Uses MDMA?

4. Attractions of the MDMA Experience: Why People Use Ecstasy

5. Limits to Use: Why People Moderate or Quit Ecstasy

6. Adverse Reactions and Abuse: When Ecstasy Becomes Agony

7. What Should Be Done About Ecstasy? Finding and Recommendations

Appendix A: Theory and Methodology

Appendix B: Respondent Demographics

Appendix C: Respondent Drug Use: Lifetime and Current Use

Appendix D: Respondent Drug Preference and Changes in Use

Appendix E: National Institute on Drug Abuse Capsule on MDMA

Appendix F: American Flight Guides: MDMA Instructional Pamphlets of the Early 1980s

Appendix G: British Harm Reduction Pamphlets

Appendix H: Rave Flyers





The authors have produced the first "on the ground" study (not just clinical or chemical) of MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), or "ecstasy" as it is frequently designated. A psychoactive substance related to both the amphetamines and mescaline, MDMA has become popular in recent years as one of the new "designer" drugs. First used in therapeutic treatment, its recreational or street use has increased in recent years. The authors track the efforts (with psychiatrists and researchers in opposition) of the DEA to ban the drug.

Jerome Beck is Co-Principal Investigator at the Institute for Scientific Analysis in Berkeley, California. Marsha Rosenbaum is the Director of the Center for Drug Studies and Principal Investigator at the Institute for Scientific Analysis in San Francisco, California. She is the author of Women on Heroin, and Just Say What: An Alternative View on Solving America's Drug Problem.


"This is the first serious study, to my knowledge, of the use and effects of MDMA in the 'real world,' as opposed to the pharmacological laboratory. The authors have done a remarkable piece of research, tracking down users, dealers, manufacturers, and other authorities on MDMA. They have analyzed their voluminous materials judiciously and carefully, and answered all of the standard questions in this area clearly and reasonably. It is a model for a research report on a problem of this kind. It explains the questions clearly, handles alternative explanations and possible counter-arguments thoughtfully and fairly, and arrives at an overall picture of the phenomenon that will add a lot to current knowledge. " — Howard S. Becker, University of Washington

"We all live in a drug-hysterical era, in which all aspects of all (illegal) drugs are regarded as pathological. It is refreshing to encounter a study which sets aside hysterical propagandizing (which seems to be the rule these days) and adopts a level-headed, balanced description and analysis of a particular drug scene, largely from the perspective of the demonologizing and its 'insider' approach—how users see the world, especially their use of this drug—are decided pluses. This book is remarkably rich in details about the inside workings of the 'ecstasy' scene. " —Erich Goode, State University of New York at Stony Brook