Ask Dr. Shulgin Online

ARCHIVE:  April 10, 2002

MDMA (Ecstasy) Tolerance

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

Can you explain to me why MDMA has what appears to be such a prolonged occurrence of tolerance? I've heard a bunch of my raver friends tell me they just don't roll as hard as they used to and I find it hard to believe this can simply be written off as a decrease in the quality of pills. Many of my friends even tell me the first few times they rolled were the best but they just don't feel the effects as much anymore.

I would feel a lot more confident in your assurances that MDMA isn't neurotoxic if I perceived a tolerance to MDMA that was similar to psilocybin or LSD...but I just don't. Can you help me out here Sasha? I'm worried!

-- Moecat


Dear Dr. Shulgin:

After my first 150 MDMA pills, with any MDMA pill I took the positive effects were very low and negative were high. I was still trying to get that loveable feeling but I get absolutely nothing but a nasty hangover. I quit for a couple of months then tried it again and nothing but an awful hangover...will I ever get the loveable feeling back or is it gone forever?

-- Specialist

Dear Moecat and Specialist:

I have combined your letters in that both of you are experiencing the same property that MDMA invokes with repeated usage, and you are both asking the same question looking for some explanation.  

The property you are experiencing is what I call the loss of the magic of that first experience. My first experience with this drug was indeed magical. I was suddenly one with myself, one with the world; I was a person who had no secrets from himself and one who could trust others to be as honest with him as he was with himself. Almost everyone has a vivid recollection of his first experience. That is what I call the "magic." But that is usually lost after a few experiences and, I do believe, is never recovered. The stimulant properties are still there, and the eye-twitch and tooth-grinding are still there, and some of the warmth and comfortable interactions, but the magic is gone.

This is not tolerance from the pharmacological point of view. Tolerance is lost with time. I do not believe that this "magic" loss is itself ever recovered. It appears that, after a certain number of drug uses, the magic slips away. The exact number probably varies with the person.

Which brings up your second points, those regarding the reports that MDMA may be neurotoxic. Despite the extensive research that has been spent upon it, there is still no objective evidence that MDMA damages human nerves. But I certainly can't argue but that there are brain changes that could be assignable. Take this "loss of magic" thing. Some brain change has occurred, and it does not appear to be reversible. Is this evidence of "damage?" I don't think so, but I don't know. Change? Yes. We can never walk the same path twice so the assignment of responsibility, of causality, is uncertain. Definitions that would distinguish between damage and change might help.

-- Dr. Shulgin

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