Kim Kardashian shocked about three people with her big reveal this week that she was on the drug ecstasy when she filmed her famous, career-launching 2003 sex tape that circulated widely in 2007. There are many reasons so few are shocked, but among them is that ecstasy was at that time the pleasure drug of choice among Western teens and twentysomethings — a staple at music festivals and seemingly anywhere else youth gathered, outside of church functions.
These days most of the drug news concerns the ravages of the so-called “opioid epidemic” — a mind-numbingly widespread problem wreaking havoc on America’s communities. But does the opioid focus mean that Ecstasy is a thing of the past? Hardly. Ecstasy, which is a popular and seductive nickname for the drug MDMA, produces “feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception” according to DrugAbuse.gov — very different from the pain-numbing, catatonia-inducing qualities produced by opioid drugs, which include heroin, morphine, fentanyl and other prescriptions. Drugs that produce feelings of increased energy and pleasure rarely go away.
Predictably, Kardashian’s sex tape drug is still popular, even though opioids get the headlines. Created by Merck more than a hundred years ago, MDMA has no medical value according to medical professionals, but it remains popular in club culture and among youth looking for kicks — even when there’s no video camera around. And not only is MDMA still popular, ecstasy is more dangerous than it was when Kardashian used it to get famous. BigThink says there’s evidence that MDMA is 5x more powerful than it was as recently as 2009. And a survey covered by The Guardian says that the more powerful — more “pure” — version of the drug has helped it make a “comeback.”