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Concept.png MDMA 
A widely used recreational drug with therapeutic potential and unclear addictive potential.

MDMA is a drug used recreationally. It is used by millions of people annually.


The drug was first made in 1912 and patented in 1913. It was was intended as a diet pill, however Merck abandoned it.[1] Later it was investigated by the CIA mind control research project MK Ultra.[2]


It was popularised in USA after Alexander Shulgin took a liking to the drug and reported favourably about it. US psychotherapists in the late 1970s and early 1980s manufactured it and it was used for therapy and as a dance drug. Use escalated, centered on the city of Dallas, Texas. As it started to cut into the cocaine market, the DEA decided to make it illegal. In spite of opposition from therapists and users, the DEA made the drug illegal as of 1 July 1985. It remains illegal more or less globally to this day.

Therapeutic value

Research suggests that MDMA may help in cases of PTSD.[3]

Large busts

In 2008, Australian Customs "seized 4.4 tons of MDMA from a sprawling mansion in Griffith. The pills were hidden in cans of tomato shipped from Italy."[4]

In 2013, 1000kg of MDMA and 18.5 tons of ecstasy precursor were seized from a farm in Belgium, and 11 people of Belgian, Polish and Turkish nationality were arrested.[5]

In 2014, a 1917kg shipment of MDMA was sent to Australia from Hamburg, Germany before being seized.[6]

In 2016, over 1200kg was seized by the Australian Federal Police in Sydney.[7] Two men were arrested.[8]

In September 2018, 496kg of MDMA was seized in Sydney in a joint operation by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Border Force. Three arrests were made.[9]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
File:Cannabis comparative risk assessment.pdfReport30 January 2015Jürgen Rehm
Dirk Lachenmeier
Comparative risk assessment of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other illicit drugs using the margin of exposure approach
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