Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, Molly, or ecstasy, is an illegal drug in the United States. While ecstasy only has a recreational use, currently there are studies that may lead to a medicinal use in the near future. Until then, though, the drug offers no legal medicinal purpose.
Simply possessing ecstasy can get you into significant legal trouble in the state of California. Worse, if you possess large amounts of ecstasy, you can be charged with possession with an intent to sell, which comes with higher penalties because it is no longer an accusation related to individual drug use.
In either case, you need legal help to avoid a conviction that can alter your future. William S. Kroger is a drug defense lawyer in Los Angeles. With his legal representation, you can fight accusations related to ecstasy.
What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a psychoactive drug that is derived by substituting hydrogen atoms out of the chemical structure of amphetamine with other chemicals. The process can be incredibly complex and can be completed in several different ways, starting with one of a small handful of chemical compounds.
The result of these complicated chemical reactions, though, is an off-white and granular powder that can be made into tablets or gelcaps -– capsule-shaped pills that are filled with gel.
Like many recreational drugs, MDMA was first produced by a pharmaceutical company -– in this case, Merck, back in 1912. However, Merck's first patents involving the drug only used MDMA as an intermediary step towards a different compound. MDMA was not a destination of chemists until the 1960s and 1970s when its effects were first being used by psychotherapists to speed up the therapy process by lowering the inhibitions of patients and catalyzing feelings of empathy.
As more people used ecstasy, though, recreational use became more common. The effects of ecstasy were especially useful for people in the clubbing scene, who benefited from both its increased energy and its psychedelic effects playing against the lights and sounds of a rave party.
Effects of Ecstasy
Ecstasy works by increasing the transmission of three chemicals in the brain:
These chemicals are responsible for how people feel emotions, particularly happiness and pleasure. Their increase after a dose of MDMA, therefore, creates the following potential effects:
- A feeling of well-being and pleasure
- Increased confidence
- Lowered inhibitions with other people
- Increased feelings of communication
- Empathic feelings for others
- Mild hallucinations
- Enhanced feelings and emotions, and/or
- Altered perceptions, including the perception of time.
These effects are typically felt around half an hour after taking an oral dose of ecstasy. Effects typically last anywhere from three to six hours.
Together, these effects fit in with what people are looking for in a party, which is why ecstasy caught on in the clubbing and rave scenes. The increased energy lets users party late into the night, while the euphoric feelings, increased sociability, and skewed perception of time make the party feel far more intense than it is. Finally, ecstasy interacts with the visual effects and sounds of a party in ways that add to the experience.
Once the effects of ecstasy wear off, though, users feel depressed and tired from the loss of the euphoric feelings and the sudden decrease in energy, as well as the sudden realization of how much energy has been expended in the previous several hours.
Ecstasy also comes with numerous side effects, some of which can be dangerous or even fatal.
- Memory problems or even amnesia
- Anxiety or paranoia when not high
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Sleep problems, including insomnia
- Teeth grinding
- Eyesight problems, including blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
In the short term, some of the most dangerous effects of ecstasy come from the increased energy levels that the drug produces. The dehydration and hyperthermia that users can feel can be so severe that they become life-threatening. Even if ecstasy users account for these adverse effects by drinking lots of water, it can produce a life-threatening case of hyponatremia or a dangerously low concentration of sodium in the bloodstream.
Overdosing on ecstasy can quickly become fatal because of the effects that it has on the body. Users who overdose on ecstasy can lose consciousness, fall into a coma, lose control of their muscles, and suffer severe damage to their kidneys.
After the effects of MDMA have worn off, users often feel depressed from the drop in serotonin levels in their brain. The depths of this depression tend to be more severe for people who use ecstasy more often than for only casual users.
In the long term, ecstasy has serious side effects. Lifetime users have shown a tendency to have developed a wide variety of brain injuries, including brain damage, from using ecstasy. Brain lesions are also a common long-term effect of ecstasy. Additionally, many MDMA users have suffered from memory problems, including severe memory loss, from the drug.
Finally, ecstasy is a highly-addictive drug. Most people who take MDMA experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug, pushing them into taking another dose. Ecstasy also develops a tolerance in users, forcing them to take more and more of the drug to get the same effects as before. These lead to a psychological dependence on the drug.
Medical Use of Ecstasy
As of 2018, there is no medically-accepted use of ecstasy. However, researchers have returned to the possibility of using ecstasy in the therapeutic scene, particularly to help people who have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, this research is still in its preliminary stages.
How is Ecstasy Used in LA County and throughout California?
There are several different ways that people can take ecstasy. Unlike many other drugs, though, ecstasy is not normally injected. Instead, most users take MDMA orally, usually in pill or tablet form. However, gelcaps are not uncommon.
Ecstasy can also be snorted when it is in its powder form, though the desired effects of ecstasy are often described as more intense when the drug is taken orally.
MDMA is a Controlled Substance in the U.S.
Because there are still no accepted uses of ecstasy in the medical community and because it is highly addictive, the Drug Enforcement Agency has listed ecstasy as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, the State of California has laws that prohibit ecstasy. Therefore, it is illegal to possess or traffic ecstasy in the U.S. and California.
Possession of Ecstasy in California
Possession of ecstasy is illegal in California under Health and Safety Code 11377. This statute makes it a misdemeanor to possess ecstasy or MDMA and punishes those convicted under the statute with up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. However, if you have a criminal background that includes either a sex crime that requires your registration on a sex offender list or a prior conviction for a serious and violent felony, a charge for possession of ecstasy is a felony offense that carries up to three years in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Because California Health and Safety Code 11377 is a statute dealing with personal drug use, though, you may be eligible for drug diversion as an alternative to jail time. Choosing to take this route, though, is not without its downsides. Talking to a drug defense attorney before making a decision is crucial.
Possession of High Quantities of Ecstasy
If you are arrested while in possession of a large amount of ecstasy, though, you will face charges of possession of ecstasy with an intent to sell it, as law enforcement will assume from the volume that you were not the only one going to use it.
Charges for possession of ecstasy with an intent to sell it are far more serious. Under California Health and Safety Code 11378, possession with an intent to sell ecstasy is a class E felony. A conviction comes with up to three years in jail as well as up to $10,000 in fines. Because this charge is no longer one of an individual's personal drug use, you will no longer be eligible for participation in a drug diversion program as an alternative to jail time.
Los Angeles Drug Defense Lawyer William S. Kroger
Charges related to ecstasy or MDMA are serious. They can end with a stiff jail sentence and fines that can cripple your finances. Perhaps even worse, a conviction can lead to a criminal history that will impact your life for years to come, even after you deal with the other consequences of the conviction.
Hiring a solid criminal defense and drug defense lawyer can be the best way to keep a charge of ecstasy possession, or possession of ecstasy with an intent to sell, from turning into a conviction. This is where William S. Kroger can help. Contact him online or call his Los Angeles law office at (323) 655-5700 for the vigorous defense you need.