The story that ecstasy was first created by a German pharmaceutical company as they were looking for the ultimate appetite suppressant has been around for a long time.
Like so many drug stories there is an element of truth within the tale but much of it is an urban myth.
Last week the German company involved, Merck, decided to set the record straight and release their historical records, and the story is fascinating.
According to popular history, the drug, first discovered in 1912, was developed as a way to suppress the appetites of soldiers in the German army, a plot foiled by reports of bizarre side effects among the first human guinea pigs.
Merck, as some versions of the story goes, was forced to drop the drug and there MDMA stayed until resurrected by 1970s drug guru Alexander Shulgin. This version of events often appears in journal articles, medical reports, newspaper articles, textbooks and even on the official website of the US drug enforcement administration.
So what did Merck find during their digging around in their vaults? The company did develop the drug in 1912, but the appetite suppressant story is an urban myth, passed on over time.
Instead, documents from the time show that MDMA was first synthesised during the company’s efforts to develop a potentially life-saving medicine that would help blood to clot. It would appear there were no experiments to test the biological effects of ecstasy, then known as methylsafrylamin.
Merck’s recent report states: In clear contrast to what is usually claimed by the -˜ecstasy’ literature, MDMA was neither studied in animals nor humans at Merck around 1912. So where did the appetite suppressant story come from? The company believes this myth began because a US laboratory studied a similar compound called MDA as a possible diet drug between 1949 and 1957.
Merck revived its interest in MDMA in 1927, when the first tests were carried out on animals. Research was halted because of steep rises in the price of chemicals needed to make the drug, with the researchers recommending that the company keep an eye on this field.
Interestingly, further Merck tests in 1952 showed that the compound was toxic to flies. More controversial and much more difficult to establish is the first testing on humans. It is believed that the US air force carried out secret tests of MDMA and other drugs (including LSD) in the early 1950s.
Although these experiments are often described as a search for a truth serum, they were carried out on animals, and it is more likely the military was searching for new chemical weapons.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>