Ecstasy Was Named And Popularized By A Catholic Priest

“To have been happy, madame, adds to calamity.” —Beaumont and Fletcher, The Fair Maid of the Inn

In A Nutshell

MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, has been around for almost 100 years. It was in use as a counseling tool for a large network of therapists in the ’70s, but was made illegal in 1985 after a fervent attempt by its strongest champion to bring it to the masses—Catholic priest Michael Clegg.

The Whole Bushel

For the first half-century or so after MDMA was first synthesized by German pharmaceutical company Merck, nobody had any idea what to do with it. Structurally similar to adrenaline, experiments were performed on animals with no conclusive results; the CIA, of course, invited MDMA to the MKULTRA mind control experiment party of the ’50s and ’60s, but the drug didn’t perform well there, either. Curious, chemist Alexander Shulgin whipped up a batch in 1965. Then it sat on his shelf for a couple years—it wasn’t until 1967 that he ingested some, and needless to say, he was surprised at the effect.

It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that Shulgin gave some to a psychologist friend, who thought it could have myriad applications in psychology (the friend, Leo Zeff, had been preparing to retire, but after trying MDMA, he decided not to). Slowly, over the next several years, a network of shrinks developed—about 4,000 of them—who used the drug regularly in their practices. They found it incredibly effective in removing emotional barriers; one called it “penicillin for the soul.” Some used it in marriage counseling sessions, others to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

The spread of MDMA in clinical settings went completely unnoticed by law enforcement until 1984. Of course, some had leaked out onto the streets, and it was in limited circulation as a party drug; that’s how it fell into the hands of seminary student Michael Clegg in the late ’70s, who says taking it was like “hearing Moses on the mountain.” Anxious for others to share the experience, he began giving it to friends, then selling it to cover his costs, then selling it for profit. But MDMA seemed too clinical, so he came up with a brand name: ecstasy. By this time, Clegg was a full-on Catholic priest.

By 1984, Clegg was moving tons of the drug to local nightclubs and had even set up a mail-order service with a toll-free number; his business had made him a millionaire. Of course, this finally made authorities sit up and take notice. By the following year, MDMA was illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic. By definition, this means it has no medicinal or therapeutic value—but tell that to the many patients whose lives it changed before its outlawing. It should, of course, be noted that these patients took it under supervision and that any drug can be incredibly harmful if used irresponsibly.

Show Me The Proof Ecstasy—In the Beginning…
Take your love to a higher level
About a Drug: MDMA

  • jamezb

    The criminalization of chemicals in our society is….criminal.

    • gillybean

      Too right! People say drug users are criminals but the fact is most drug users are only criminal because the drugs they take are illegal,not because they get high and go on crime-sprees!

      • Liege_Lord

        I agree and I am pro decreasing crimilalization without a doubt, ~40% of our jails being saturated with drug offenders is ridiculous. That said, I think we need to reorganize our drug categorization/schedules; lessen the peanalization for certain drugs (I.E Marijuana) and make certain drug violations have penalties not involving jail time.

        I think the issue is draconian incarceration laws. Chemicals and drugs, especially around children, still need to be regulated for public saftey.

        • gillybean

          Absolutely, kids and vulnerable adults should always be protected. I’m always just amazed that alcohol, with the devastation that it can cause, is so widely legal. As a regular pot smoker I can honestly say I have never been too stoned to get myself home. With alcohol, that’s another story.

          • Jack Shen

            to your point, I’ve met tons of people who are willing to admit, “yeah I’m too stoned to drive, can you give me a ride home, or you mind if I hangout till I can drive?”, vs with alcohol, “I’m not DRUNK! – I can drive – gimme my damn keys back! I don’t need a babysitter!”

          • Dumas911

            I totally agree. I’m a police officer and not once have I stopped someone on pot for speeding or reckless driving. If anything they were driving way to slow! Lol if marijuana were legalized it would destroy the money making abilities for cartels selling it, and the taxes from it alone would take a HUGE chunk out of the national defecit.

          • T seikert

            marijuana destroys ambition obey the government unless it contradicts other christian scripture

          • Dumas911

            Shit you don’t think Jobs, Wazniak, and Gates didn’t partake while creating PC’s? I bet Einstein grew his own personal strains! Lol

  • Mom424

    It’s unfortunate that potential for abuse is reason enough to cut off therapeutic uses. Heroin too, should be legal for the terminally ill. Junkies can always get their fix—it’s the cancer patients that can’t.

    • Nigel van Dalfsen

      It is actualy legal for medical use under the name of diacetylmorphine.

    • Jack Shen

      Fentanyl is also pretty close – but yeah I’ve seen diacetylmorphine in clinical setting before.

  • Liege_Lord

    Holly crap… while this article is verry interesting, can you please put some medical warnings and some facts down?? This article read to me as, “go out and do MDMA, its the tits!”. I have a psychology major from a prestigious university and I can tell you right now MDMA is incredibly unhealthy for you, overdosing can be fatal, and the benefits are tentative to proper use for extremely rare cases, not for “raving” as a treatment. The author of this article really should clarify before stating “a network of 4,000 psychologists developed… some called penicillin for the soul”. I am not going to rant, I really would like everyone to do their own research on the matter, but MDMA is very bad for you, it permanently alters your brain chemistry and will burn out your ability to produce Serotonine. The fact that someone was about to retire and took the drug, then changed his entire life and centered his life around said drug should say something.

    My advice: Life is hard, emotions are difficult. Learn to deal with then naturally and you will be a better person from it, please dont read this article and leave thinking “why have I not done MDMA before”, research it; you will read all sorts of things saying its perfectly healthy and others saying its absolutely terrible. I won’t deny that it may have applicable use in psychotherapy for people with PTSD, but that is a VERY case specific and depends on the maturity of the individual.
    As yourself if you know anyone who has said MDMA has turned their life around and made them a better and more productive person. Then ask yourself how many people you know who have dome MDMA who have OD’ed, lost their path to success, gotten caught up in the party scene, etc. It is far more detrimental at the moment than it is helpful.–taking-just-cause-brain-damage.html

    • Dumas911

      Name one person who took MDMA and then robbed, or murdered a bunch of people. Other than overdoses (which can happen with ANY drug, it has not been known to cause any violent actions other than it being simply illegal. Of all the drugs out there I (as a police officer that’s seen the effects of all) belive that Heroin, Meth, PCP, and LSD-(unless monitored heavily) should be illegal. Marijuana, Cocaine, Opium-(taken as prescribed exclusively), and MDMA do have positive effects in medicinal uses, and only because they’re illegal do they cause bloodshed, etc…If legalized Marijuana alone would solve not only the destruction of rain forests for numerous products that Hemp could be made into, but would also destroy the trillions of national debt we have by collecting taxes from it’s sale. I’ve never arrested a violent, or reckless person driving in excessive speeds either. The only dangerous side effect I would have problem with is legalized marijuana would explode the population crisis of morbidly obese people in the world (especially us in the U.S.

    • Jakeyboi

      Incredibly unhealthy? Hmm maybe if your taking it every weekend for a year or two than yes it can be stressful on the brain… But otherwise if you don’t take these drugs then don’t have a fucking opinion and keep your fucking ignorance to yourself

      • Liege_Lord

        If I don’t take drugs I can’t have an opinion? Good thing drugs are based on science and not opinion, this isn’t politics sir.
        Good day to you.

        • Jakeyboi

          No if you don’t take the drugs your arguing about (e.g either pot or ecstasy) then no you don’t have a right to an opinion… Maybe Coz ahhhhhhh…. You dont know a single thing about it????

          • Liege_Lord

            ya mannn, I’m a square bro, just because I don’t advertise my recreational habits on a globally public forum… on and your right; everyone is effected differently from drugs. Go do 10 eight balls and drink a bottle of vodka, tell me how that works out for you, since science has no place in drug measurement and you can’t speculate on outcomes or anything, maybe you’ll be fine. Guess this is how evolution wittles out the dumb ones.

          • Jakeyboi

            What the fuck are you talking about you cracked cunt…. How does evolution come into this haha…just an attempt to make yourself seem smart… Btw an 8 ball is 3.5 grams of coke not e so you would die after 10 8 balls haha

          • Liege_Lord

            that… that is entirely my point…. although everyone reacts differently to drugs, there are measurable thresholds which everyone has a similiar response. Also, you sound stupid when you write, so I don’t need to try to make myself seem smart, your doing a good enough job for the both of us.

          • Jakeyboi

            Whatever man

          • Dumas911

            I’ve got 5 ruptured discs in my thoracic spine that no dr so far will operate on. I was being kept comfortable with some quality of life, but because scientific dickheads at the FDA/FDC are worried about illegal users OD’ing, they’ve past laws where I can’t even leave the house except for Dr appts. They’re dying over heroin and Fentanyl anyway, not pills anymore. My life, health, and well being should be my determination. Med boards should be made up of people with painful injuries, or at least part of the boards so we have representation. It’s the extreme laws turning people to heroin because the drs are being hog tied on prescribing.

    • Amy Lou

      Apparently Lord Liege has not done his research. People typically do NOT OD on MDMA. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a case where someone has OD on MDMA – the reason why some people have died is due to lack of information provided by the gov’t and people like you. MDMA dehydrates so people must hydrate with water when taking MDMA. However, lots of kids who don’t know better, attend RAVES, and drink alcohol which also dehydrates – when those three things occur, some people have died from dehydration. I’m 54 and perfectly healthy and I took a LOT of MDMA in my 20s.

  • weareallhuman

    dmt would bring world peace if everyone tried it once…or so I’ve heard

    • John

      I made an account here solely to tell you, yes. That would happen. If everyone smoked DMT, world peace would be inevitable.

  • YourDad

    Anyone who supports these crazy ass drugs is just a loser with no or low paid job with little or no education. Wonder how the world will be if einstein or other men of science were junkies like the bunch of white trash wankers and niggers blabbering to get it legalized. Anything which messes up with your mind should be banned and its use restricted.

    Its true that people who do these drugs probably never have committed a hideous crime but one thing is common – they all are bunch of losers, high school drop outs, working cheap ass jobs, prostitutes, and all of them have nothing to contribute in the world.

    The jails are full of drug abusers because the laws arent strict enough. I bet how many of you wankers will still do the drugs if it came with a 10,000 dollar fine, confiscation of driving license along with other hard penalty. Jails only are full when people arent afraid of committing crimes because of easy punishments.

    • Rick

      How has this retard not been IP banned from this website with his ignorant racist comments.

    • Rick

      And you seriously think people would choose jail over losing their ability to drive legally. How fucking dumb are you?

    • Jakeyboi

      Haha I like comments from bigots like you who associate drugs with a loser community… But of course we’re all the same people.. We all have low paying jobs and dropped out of high school hahahaha It just shows how little you ignorant bigots know about both drug use and the people who use it in general… But continue being a shit cunt until Weed is made legal globally

    • Dumas911

      Einstein did pot.

  • Catmeat

    I’m curious as to how it feels. As an adult I should be able to legally try it..

  • Say, you got a nice blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Cool.