From Adam to ecstacy; legal use of MDMA in the 1970s and 1980s
background mdma is currently a controversial psychedelic in the Netherlands: it is banned under the Opium Act, but widely used as a recreational drug. According to the government, the normalization of mdma must be combated, others argue in favour of legalization. Meanwhile, in recent years psychiatry has become interested in renewed therapeutic use of mdma.
aim To place the current discussion of mdma in the context of recent history. What can we learn from the way mdma was used in America and Western Europe in the period between the (re)discovery of the drug in the 1970s and its legal prohibition in the 1980s?
method Survey of the literature on the history of mdma, and additional source research.
conclusion In the period before mdma became illegal, its use was closely linked to the pursuit of self-actualisation in therapeutic, spiritual and recreational contexts. History shows that the meaning that people attach to a psychoactive substance like mdma is highly dependent on the context of use. Like all drugs, mdma also has multiple functionalities and ‘framings’. The psychoactive substance cannot be reduced to one valuation or essence.