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'My First Time on Ecstasy:' 10 True MDMA Stories

Few drug experiences come as hyped as dropping your very first pill.

Ecstasy could be considered the last important street drug to be popularized. MDMA—first engineered way back in 1912 by the German chemist Anton Kollisch under the auspices of Merck pharmaceuticals—sits alongside LSD, heroin and cocaine in the pantheon of psychoactive substances that not only got an entire generation high but left an indelible stamp upon the wider culture. Ecstasy has had its own iconography, music, tabloid scares and legal crackdowns. When the “ Second Summer of Love” exploded in the UK in 1988 (preceding the height of the drug’s popularity stateside), the middle ground seemingly vanished. Some became evangelists for this “wonder drug.” Others were apoplectic, demanding harsh action to protect “the kids” from this “killer pill.”

Professor David Nutt of Imperial College, London, the leading neuropsychopharmacologist and ex-chief drugs adviser to the UK government,  famously declared in 2009 that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than horse riding (naturally, he  was fired for his excessive honesty). Horse riding, of course, always carries some risks—especially if you do it on a frightened horse, or without a helmet. DrugScience, an informative website founded by Nutt, notes: ”Some people taking MDMA have died following severe overheating and other medical emergencies. Deaths following the use of MDMA usually involve high doses and/or the simultaneous use of other substances. MDMA overdoses and drug combinations can also cause serotonin syndrome, which can be fatal. MDMA-associated deaths may alternatively involve overcompensation of the risk of dehydration by drinking much too much water, which coupled with the fact that MDMA may stop a person from urinating, causes fatally low concentrations of salt.”

Like all the “big” drugs, MDMA’s popularity has become cyclical. In the US, after an initial spike between 1999 and 2001, use had steadily declined. But its popularity has been on the rise again—with a 128% spike in MDMA-related ER visits among under-21s between 2005 and 2011,  according to a SAMHSA report. Part of this is down to a successful rebranding job. Those of us who came of age during the first ecstasy boom associate it with smiley faces, baggy pants and acid house. The current generation of E-enthusiasts call it “Molly.” Everyone from Miley Cyrus to Kanye West is singing about it, and the media  acts as if it’s a brand new drug.

Substance.com contacted 10 former and current ecstasy users to ask them two simple questions: Do you remember the first time? And where did your initial experience lead?

1. The Flying Cow

Frankie, 37, the CFO for a software company in Cupertino, California

My first time: I was in LA around 1998. It was Halloween and I was going to the parade with my then-girlfriend. She was really against drugs, so I didn’t tell her I’d done a pill. I was dressed in this ridiculous cow outfit, with these hideous rubber udders. When the pill kicked in I felt utterly incredible. I remember how clean the air tasted and how beautiful everyone looked. We ended up at a club and I remember turning to [my girlfriend] and saying, “I’m a cow on ecstasy.” It felt as if I were imparting some great cosmic secret. She laughed and we kissed. It felt like kissing for the first time. Even though she wasn’t high and she didn’t know I was high, we kissed for like an hour. The sex was incredible and I remember thinking, “This is the greatest drug I have ever done. I wish I could feel like this all the time.”

Where it went from there: I did E pretty regularly for a few years. Then the quality started getting bad and a lot of pills started feeling really speedy. It was never as good as that first time, and I kinda got bored with it. As I’ve gotten older the comedowns have become harder to deal with. I can’t just take a whole day off to recover any more. The last time I did it was at a New Year’s Eve party and I hadn’t done it in a while so I just took half a pill. It was disappointing, kind of weak, and I felt horrible the next day. I’ve not stopped, but I’ve not been in a hurry to do it again.

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