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MDA - Encyclopedia

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MDA is a derivative from MDMA. As they resemble each other in many respects they are regarded as an analogue substance of the other. Their similar chemical structures lead to similar effects. Some psychonauts prefer MDA over MDMA and have pills fabricated for them. However, pills are passed on and on and information on what’s in them gets mixed up. It’s quite possible that MDMA users have unknowingly consumed MDA.
Because the majority prefers MDMA this has given rise to the myth that MDA is a ‘failed’ version of MDMA. This is untrue. The production process may also show some similarities there are differences that prevent the maker from mistakenly producing the one instead of the other. We’ll discuss both similarities and dissimilarities in this article. Unfortunately, on both Google Scholar and Pubmed, no distinction is made when using the full name of MDA and MDMA. This makes finding academic publications on MDA extremely difficult, hence the limited substantiation in this article.


Chemists G. Mannish and W. Jacobsen first synthesized MDA in 1910. Animal testing started in 1939 and testing on human subjects a few years later. It was tested as an antidepressant on 500 subjects between 1949 and 1957 as well as being tested as a hunger suppressant to be used as a slimming agent. All the research was led by Smith, Kline & French, a pharmaceutical company.
The Central Intelligence Agency experienced with MDA under code name EA-1298 in their search for the ultimate ‘truth-drug’. Obviously, a substance like that has never been found. A subject died after intravenous administration of 450 mg MDA in 1953. The company H.D. Brown patented MDA as an anti-cough agent in 1958, Smith, Kline & French patented MDA as anxiety inhibitor in 1960 and in 1962 as a hunger suppressant.
Scientist Gordon Alles studies the effects of MDA and experiences with the drug as well, leaving him very impressed. He published several articles on MDA which he called the ‘hug-drug’. With the prohibition of LSD MDA found its way to the market in 1960 and became much sought after. Nowadays it's classified as a Schedule 1 substance in many countries.


MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) and MDMA share a similar structure, as can be seen on the image below. Due to these similarities, MDA pharmacologically works almost the same as MDMA. Both substances release extra serotonin and dopamine into the brain. The release of serotonin results in a euphoric feeling and an increase in empathetic abilities. 5-HT2a-receptors are much stronger stimulated with MDA than MDMA leading to powerful psychedelic effects. Although MDMA can result in hallucinations they are mostly less profound and only happen after intake of a high dosage. The body partly converts MDMA to MDA after a high dosage. It’s possible that MDMA itself doesn’t produce psychedelic effects and hallucinations that follow can be attributed to MDA.


MDA chemical structure


MDMA chemical structure


An MDA pill takes effect after 20 to 30 minutes. Although the effects resemble MDMA there are differences as well. For starters, MDA lasts about an hour longer.

The psychological effects are as follows:

  • Euphoric feeling. The ‘love-effect’ is slightly less intense as with MDMA. The tripping effects of MDA cause other feelings to be less prominent
  • Increased concentration
  • An increased desire to talk
  • More energy. But less so than with MDMA. MDA may make you feel awake but also very relaxed and less likely to dance all night. It’s one of the reasons its less of a party drug than MDMA
  • Tingly sensations, especially on top of the skull
  • Restlessness
  • Increased libido.
  • A surge in empathy
  • Fewer feelings of anxiety and insecurity
  • More hallucinations compared to MDMA: it may seem like the walls are moving or you may see things not truly there.

Physical effects:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Rotating eyes
  • Increase in blood and pulse pressure
  • A hike in body temperature
  • A difficulty with peeing
  • Not being able to sleep
  • A dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • A stiff jaw. A high dosage can lead to gurning, also known as a ‘swing jaw’
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting, but only likely with a high dose.

Due to its psychedelic effects, MDA is much more unpredictable than MDMA. If you like to trip or not is really quite personal. Some embrace and treasure the tripping traits of MDA and step up the game by administrating it intravenously, leading to an experience like no other. It is said to be a very intense and overwhelming sensation. Intravenous administration of drugs is highly dangerous as it raises the possibility of overdosing. Additionally, MDA is hard to dose intravenously, with as little as 15 mg making the difference between a bad trip and an amazing adventure. It is therefore that taking MDA intravenously is highly discouraged.

Informed use

Because of its psychedelic properties and relative length compared to MDMA, it's inadvisable to take the drug if you aren’t feeling well mentally or if you’re sensitive for psychedelia. In that case, the trip might take an unexpected turn.
The EZ-test helps you find out whether your pill contains MDA or MDMA. It gets a little bit more difficult if there are more substances in there. In a small number of countries, you can bring your pills to a test service if you want to know exactly what’s in them. As MDA uses up the stock of serotonin your brain keeps, causing the feelings of bliss and euphoria during your trip, you may be feeling empty once it’s over and the so-called ‘dip’ sets in. It may be desirable to take some precautionary measures to counter or ease this stage. Making sure your brain has the necessary means to produce new serotonin will go a long way.
The easiest way is to take After D after using MDA (or MDMA for that matter). This solid formula will help you get your serotonin levels back on track with L-tryptophan, an amino acid required for the production of serotonin. After D also consists of a high quality of antioxidants, helping with oxidative stress, and a high dose of magnesium citrate, allowing the muscles to come to a rest.


As mentioned before, a test subject died after being administered 450 mg MDA intravenously, equalling three to four pills. Research has found that a high dose of MDA results in long-lasting brain damage in rats. In a different set of experiments, rats were found to have decreased memory functionality and increased anxiety three months after a high dose of MDMA. MDA is assumed to have the same toxicological values. It’s therefore inadvisable to take high doses of MDA and to use it more than once in six weeks.
There are some acute risks after intake, such as overheating (hyperthermia), water toxicity (hyponatremia), serotonin syndrome, increased potential of heart diseases (cardiovascular diseases), epileptic seizures, excited delirium syndrome, liver damage and physiological complaints.

Medical applications

MDA has been used as an antidepressant in the past but as it decreases serotonin levels, in the long run, MDA does not possess the properties to be a medicine for the treatment of depression. On the contrary, frequent use can trigger depression. It has also been used as a slimming agent as it suppresses the appetite. But it is not recommended to take MDA on a daily basis also because the psychedelic effects also affect the ability to function normally.
Just as MDMA has been used to support psychotherapy, MDA shows to have a healing effect when assisting or treating post-traumatic stress disorder. MDA can help ease the anxiety of talking about feelings, to help open up and experience less anxiety. Therapy sessions that include the use of MDA can help in the treatment of trauma.

Combining MDA

It is not recommended to combine MDA with other substances, including alcohol.


  • Threshold: 60 – 75 mg
  • A light dose: 75 -100 mg
  • An average dose: 100 -150 mg
  • A strong dose: 125 – 175 mg


Do not combine MDA with antidepressants as they can include MAO-inhibitors, causing the serotonin level to rise. MDA does that as well and the combination can lead to a toxic level in serotonin as part of the deadly serotonin syndrome.

In conclusion

It may be clear by now that MDA is not a “failed” version of MDMA. It is a different substance that has similarities, just like methylone, but differs much in effect. Some appreciate those differences, while others do not. Don’t let yourself be surprised by the drugs you take: get them tested if you’re unsure of what’s in them.


1. Rothman RB, Baumann MH (2006). "Therapeutic potential of monoamine transporter substrates". Curr Top Med Chem. 6 (17): 1845–59. doi:10.2174/156802606778249766. PMID 17017961.
2. G Battaglia, S Y Yeh, E O'Hearn, M E Molliver, M J Kuhar, E B De Souza, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine destroy serotonin terminals in rat brain: quantification of neurodegeneration by measurement of [3H]paroxetine-labeled serotonin uptake sites, JPET September 1987 vol. 242 no. 3 911-916
3. Kirsten C Morleya, Jason E Gallatea, Glenn E Huntb, Paul E Malletc, Iain S McGregor European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 433, Issue 1, Increased anxiety and impaired memory in rats 3 months after administration of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“Ecstasy”), 14 December 2001, Pages 91–99
4. Naranjo C. · Shulgin A.T. · Sargent T., Evaluation of 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an Adjunct to Psychotherapy, Medicina et Pharmacologia Experimentalis, Vol. 17, No. 4, 1967

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