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Euphoria-inducing stimulant and hallucinogen. It is a derivative of the amphetamine family and a relative of the stimulant methamphetamine. Taken in pill form, it has a chemical relationship to the psychedelic drug mescaline. Developed in 1913 as an appetite suppressant, the drug was not originally approved for release. In the 1950s and '60s, it began to be used in psychotherapy. The drug increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and blocks its reabsorption in the brain; it also increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Stimulation of the central nervous system gives users feelings of increased energy and lowers social inhibitions. By the 1980s, parties and dances that featured Ecstasy use (known as raves) became popular. Despite its ban in the U.S. and the rest of the world, the drug retained a huge following, and it played an important role in the youth subculture, similar to that of LSD during the 1960s.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Ecstasy, visit Britannica.com.
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