Ecstasy: designer drug of the nineties

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Ecstasy has become one of the most popular and widely used illegal drugs in the world, here are some details about its origins and social history.

* Ecstasy, commonly referred to as E, pills, XTC, is often described as the original designer drug because of its relationship with rave culture in the early 1990s.

* Known in the medical world as MDMA, the drug was first developed in 1912 as part of a German company's efforts to develop a medicine to aid blood clotting.

* The drug re-emerged in America in the mid 1980s where it was used recreationally by clubbers.

* Once crossing the Atlantic to the UK and in the late 1980s it became an integral part of the burgeoning rave scene, with a number of rave acts referring to ecstasy in their lyrics.

* Ecstasy creates a feeling of euphoria in the user and provides an energy buzz. The effects take hold after half an hour to an hour and last from three to six hours, followed by a gradual comedown.

* It's possible to build up tolerance to ecstasy, meaning users take more of the drug to get the same buzz.

* There's uncertainty about the long-term side effects of using the drug, but evidence suggests it can cause damage to the brain, causing long-term problems such as depression, personality change and memory loss.

* The drug is usually sold on the street in tablet form and more rarely as powder. Prices vary from around £3 to £8 depending on the type of pill and region of the country where it was bought.

* Ecstasy use is linked to around 30 deaths-per-year, up from 10-per-year in the early 1990s.

* Fatalities are caused by massive organ failure from overheating or the effects of drinking too much water.