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Drugs in the 1990s


‘Ecstasy’ was the street name given to methylenedioxymethamphetamine – MDMA for short – which was formulated by the German company Merck in 1914 as a “sleep suppressant”.

For decades it was bandied about for experimentation by drug companies, doctors and psychologists who never reached any satisfactory conclusions about it. In Britain, it became a Class A controlled drug in 1977 under the Misuse Of Drugs Act.

In America, though, because of wrangling about its medical value – some heavyweight psychiatrists lauded its ability to break down inhibitions – it went through a legal loophole period when it was freely available for some years up to 1985. That’s when supplies and suppliers were established and it became a widely used “recreational” drug whose only side effects if taken in moderation, appeared to be “fatigue, spots and panic attacks”.

It was first heard of on the London club scene in 1985 at the smart arty set’s now-defunct Taboo, then was encountered by a completely different group of people the following year in Ibiza.

Then journalists began to take an interest. First, magazines mentioned it in the context of an Acid House wild night out. That was the groundwork done. All that was required then was the floodlight of national publicity and, in the autumn, the tabloids provided it with their huge headlines and ranting pulpit tone.

The publicity served only to alert a much wider public to the existence of Ecstasy, potential buyers and potential vendors.