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Evolution of a Love Drug: A Brief History of MDMA


Ecstasy pills


1912
A Merck chemist synthesizes MDMA while attempting to create a blood coagulant.

1953
The U.S. Army tests the toxic effects of MDMA on animals.

1977
Alexander Shulgin, a former Dow chemist, introduces it to psychotherapist Leo Zeff, who dubs the molecule Adam for its ability to return the user to a "primordial" state.

1978
Timothy Leary marries his fourth wife after sharing his first Ecstasy experience with her; he later cautions against "a sixties situation... where sleazy characters hang around college dorms peddling pills they falsely call XTC to lazy thrill-seekers."

Early 1980s
MDMA becomes popular in New York gay clubs Paradise Garage and the Saint.

1982
In San Francisco, users of an MDMA-like designer drug—synthetic heroin—are stricken with Parkinson's-like symptoms, leading to nationwide fears that Ecstasy produces such effects.

1985
The U.S. outlaws MDMA.

1987
The modern-day rave is born on the island of Ibiza.

1992
New York DJ Frankie Bones brings U.K.-style warehouse raves—known as Storm Raves—to Brooklyn.

1996
In Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet, Mercutio offers Romeo a pill that resembles Ecstasy.

1999
"I wrote two songs for the next album on Ecstasy," Eminem admits in Rolling Stone, referring to the Slim Shady LP; during the interview, he pops three tabs.

2000
Ecstasy lands on the cover of Time; one interviewee touts it as "a six-hour orgasm."

2001
A congressional hearing reports that Ecstasy seizures by U.S. Customs rose to over 9 million tablets in the previous year, up from 400,000 in 1997.

2002
A study using MDMA to treat PTSD conducted at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid yields positive results.

2002
24 Hour Party People, which memorializes the E-fueled "Madchester" scene led by Factory Records head and Hacienda nightclub owner Tony Wilson, is released.

2009
Jay-Z releases "Empire State of Mind," which features the lyric: "MDMA got you feeling like a champion."

March 2012
Playing a serial killer (think next-gen Patrick Bateman) in French synth-pop group the Shoes' video for "Time to Dance," Jake Gyllenhaal murders an unsuspecting hipster couple, then dips into their bag of Molly.


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