Book Review: Pursuit of Ecstasy

Spring 1994 Vol. 04, No. 4 Laying the Groundwork

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First, I must declare my interest: last April I wrote and published a similar book, E for Ecstasy. And although mine appeared some 10 months earlier, there was no cribbing as the two were completed at the same time.

Pursuit of Ecstasy kicks off with three lively descriptions of the drug by very different people, exemplifying the three main types of user: The Dancer, The Seeker and The Hedonist.

From then on, the book takes on the stance of an objective, sociological enquiry, but nevertheless is easy to read. The Plan of the Book, they announce, is first to set the stage with the drugs history; then to explore the diverse social worlds where it is used; the reasons people use the drug; why they give it up; and negative aspects. Finally they at-tempt to answer the question "What should be done about Ecstasy?"

The authors explore various ‘scenes’ where Ecstasy is used, and went to Dallas less than two years after prohibition where they "conducted seven formal interviews" with people who were involved in the renowned scene that caused its own downfall:

[It was] 85, and I moved into a small apartment by myself. That’s when I found some good X. It started becoming so much more available. All you had to do was get out in the street life the night life. Thats when it was all over the street life. I mean, suddenly it was like within one weekend, boom! It was everywhere and you could get it anywhere on the streets, in the bars, for 20 bucks a hit from anybody.Points that particularly interested me include:


One is that the drug ‘does things to you’, so that the effects noticed are those of the drug itself. The other is that the drug allows the user free expression, so the effects reflect aspects of the users personality that are normally suppressed.

Group experience

Some New Agers relate the MDMA experience to ‘morphic resonance’, a term coined by Rupert Sheldrake, as though the MDMA allows them to tap into a field of cumulative collective experience. The forerunners of Raves were Grateful Dead concerts that have been going ever since 1965, and where a large number of people take drugs and feel a group-mind experience.


Ecstasy was used and accepted by straight people who saw it as safe or not a drug, particularly before it was prohibited. Several examples of this are given, from the Dallas hedonists (who were well-off young professionals) to New Agers who see the MDMA state as real, not as a stoned state.

Truth serum

"I believe it lowers your sense of fear and you fall in love with yourself. When you do that, you’re more willing to take risks, and one of the risks is telling the truth". It enables one to speak the truth, but does not prevent one from lying.


Prostitutes found MDMA helpful in creating a better atmosphere with clients, and a topless dancer was able to accept and feel less abused by gross behaviour, and to earn more tips as a result. Some people became open to new kinds of sexual experiences.


One person described MDMA as an artistic ‘flavour enhancer’ and would use frequent small amounts to help study. A writer described how Ecstasy allowed him to engross himself more in the content, and to allow his description to flow more spontaneously.

Lasting effects

It was easy to integrate experience into everyday life. The most frequently reported spiritual effect was a profound feeling of connectedness with all of nature and mankind. It made marriage break ups easier. A psychotherapist believed MDMA helped him to know himself better, and therefore be more open with clients.

Bad effects

Recreational users seem to have hangovers, while therapeutic users would value the ‘afterglow’. Users who tried more than 200 mg reported less good effects.


Does not occur in long term. Although many users have binged, the after effects put people off and frequent users find they need a break to regain effects.


Fenfluramine has been approved for daily use although, at only 1.25 times normal dose, it produces a similar type of damage to MDMA overdoses.


The book concludes by commenting that the benefits experienced from Ecstasy can be seen as a measure of how stressful and isolating our society is.I believe that this book will be more influential in crediting MDMA as a tool with valuable potential than previous books such as my own. It does not patronize nor preach to the converted, and its academic style does not allow it to be dismissed lightly.