MDMA, EDM and the love/hate affair

EDM (electronic dance music) and MDMA (ecstasy) are so intrinsically linked in their evolution that a CBS reporter recently confused the two.

MDMA was originally synthesised in Germany in 1912 with the aim of creating an appetite suppressant. But it wasn’t until 1976 that the drug reappeared when Alexander Shulgin created its purist form from his greenhouse in California.

It has been said that if Shulgin is the ‘Godfather of Ecstasy’ then he is also the ‘Uncle of EDM’. In the 1980s the use of MDMA co-developed with the rave scene. The reason for this is the unique effects that the drug has on the body – so unique in fact that a new category of drug had to be created for it: empathogens.

MDMA works by releasing serotonin in the brain, causing euphoria and a sense of intimacy with others, with a heightened perception of sound and colour.

In his book E, The Incredibly Strange History of Ecstasy, Dr Douglas Ruskoff explains that the rhythm of EDM is about 120 beats per minute. This is the same as the foetal heartbeat and is believed to be the same beat used by South American shamans to bring their tribes into a trance. The use of MDMA creates a feeling of togetherness and community, combining music to focus a group of people on a common stimulus.

However, it appears the MDMA and EDM may not be a match made in heaven after all. There are concerns amongst the EDM community that the feeling of togetherness is starting to disappear. New waves of revellers are being targeted by drug dealers. They have the perception that ecstasy is safe and aren’t questioning what they are being sold.

Ecstasy does carry risks, such as high blood pressure, panic attacks and in extreme cases seizures. But the biggest concern is that dealers are now selling ecstasy cut with more harmful drugs, including research chemicals and cheaper amphetamine substitutes.

This has led to some of EDM’s highest profile artists, such as A-Trak, Kaskade and Tommie Sunshine, speaking out against the drug culture associated with the community. Some have acknowledged that ecstasy will remain part of the culture, but advocate more care being taken when buying it and awareness of the risks involved.

Others have encouraged the disassociation of drugs and EDM. After all, the body is naturally pretty magical, so EDM can still be enjoyed without MDMA.

Holly Edwards

Image: The Debrecen Sun

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