- MDMA (Ecstasy) Fast Facts
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- Where does it come from?
- What does it look ?
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- How does it make you feel?
- How long does the feeling last?
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MDMA (Ecstasy) Fast Facts
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) is a synthetic (man-made) drug that causes both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects.
The drug was developed in Germany in the early twentieth century as an appetite suppressant, but today's users consume the drug for its hallucinogenic effects, which they claim heighten their senses and make them feel less inhibited.
Users also consume MDMA for its stimulant properties, which enable them to dance for hours at all-night parties and nightclubs.
What does it look ?
MDMA generally is sold as a tablet, which is taken orally. MDMA tablets are available in various colors and shapes and generally are imprinted with a logo. Popular logos include smiley faces, clover leaves, cartoon characters, and symbols associated with commercial brands such as Mitsubishi, Nike, and Mercedes.
Who uses the drug?
Most MDMA users are teenagers or young adults.
More than 10 percent of high school seniors have tried MDMA at least once, and more than 2 percent have used the drug in the past month, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey.
MDMA users typically come from middle- and upper-class households. MDMA is inexpensive. The average retail price of an MDMA tablet is between $20 and $30 making it attractive and accessible to younger users.
Where is it used?
MDMA is called a club drug because it often is used at all-night dance parties (called raves) or at techno parties and nightclubs. In addition, MDMA increasingly is being used in private homes and on high school and college campuses.
What are the risks?
The effects produced by consuming MDMA can last for 4 to 6 hours, depending upon the potency of the tablet. Using the drug can cause confusion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, craving for the drug, and paranoia.
Use of the drug also may result in muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, tremors, rapid eye movement, sweating, or chills.
People who have circulatory problems or heart disease face particular risks because MDMA can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
MDMA abusers also risk dehydration, hyperthermia (exceptionally high fever), and heart or kidney failure if they use the drug while physically exerting themselves or in hot environments. (These factors pose particular risks to individuals who use MDMA at raves or techno parties, where they may be dancing among crowds of people.)
Users also are at risk of consuming other drugs that may be sold to them as MDMA. In some instances, the synthetic drug PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) has been sold as MDMA. Because PMA's hallucinogenic effects take longer to appear, users may consume too much of the drug, which can result in overdose death.
An additional risk results when other substances are added to MDMA tablets without the user's knowledge. Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine reportedly have been added to MDMA tablets in some parts of the United States.
What is it called?
The most common names for MDMA are ecstasy, Adam, and XTC. (Please see the below for additional names.)
Street Terms for MDMA
Yes, MDMA is illegal. Since 1985 MDMA has been a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances, which include heroin and LSD, have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose.
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Ecstasy | FRANK
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A recreational/club drug taken as ecstasy pills or as MDMA powder.
Ecstasy comes in pill or powder form. When it’s a powder it’s called by its chemical name, MDMA, but it’s the same drug as ecstasy.
Ecstasy pills can be white, coloured, round, square or pressed into any shape. Some pills have designs stamped into them, well known company logos that the pills are then named after.
Ecstasy powder looks white/grey crystals and is called MDMA, mandy or MD.
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed and MDMA is usually rubbed (dabbed) into the user’s gums. They both taste bitter and unpleasant.
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed, although some people crush them up and snort them.The amount of MDMA in ecstasy pills varies massively. Some pills sold as ecstasy actually contain other, more dangerous, drugs that take longer to kick in.
For this reason, you should never take a whole pill in one go, even if you’ve taken ecstasy before.
Drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
People usually take MDMA powder by dabbing it onto their gums or by swallowing it wrapped in a cigarette paper, which is sometimes called ‘bombing’.
MDMA users often start by dabbing just a small amount of powder and waiting for the effects to kick in.
with pills, drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
Most people feel:
- very happy – hence the name
- ‘loved up’ – users often feel love and affection for the people they're with and the strangers around them
- energised and alert
Ecstasy can also make people feel more in tune with their surroundings and the music is more intense, which is why people sometimes take it in nightclubs and at parties.
Some users have reported feelings of:
- panic attacks
- confused episodes
- paranoia and even psychosis after taking ecstasy
Lots of people feel very chatty and uninhibited on ecstasy, which makes them open up and talk about things they might not do normally.
Physical side effects can include:
- dilated pupils
- tingling sensations
- tightening or moving of the jaw muscles (gurning)
- raised body temperature
- a faster heartbeat and nausea
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.
When taken orally, ecstasy normally takes 30 minutes to kick in, but it could take as little as 20 minutes, or it may take over an hour or more. Some other (more dangerous) drugs sold as ecstasy take longer to kick in.
How long it lasts
Users tend to feel high for 2 to 4 hours. You might still experience some physical effects, a fast heart beat or insomnia (not being able to sleep), for a few hours after you stop feeling high – especially if you take a lot.
Some people find that ecstasy makes them feel down and low in mood the next day, known as a ‘comedown’. This can last for several days.
Ecstasy can normally be detected in a urine test between 1 to 4 days after taking it.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
- Because the strength of ecstasy pills are so unpredictable, if you do decide to take ecstasy, you should start by taking half or even a quarter of the pill and then wait for the effects to kick in before taking anymore – you may find that this is enough.
- If you’re taking MDMA, start by dabbing a small amount of powder only, then wait for the effects to kick in.
- Use of ecstasy has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems.
- Some users report getting colds and sore throats more often when they take ecstasy.
- Anyone with a heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have a very dangerous reaction to the drug.
- Ecstasy affects the body's temperature control. Dancing for long periods in a hot atmosphere, a club, increases the chances of overheating and dehydration. Users should take regular breaks from the dance floor to cool down and watch out for any mates who are on it – as they might not realise they're in danger of overheating or getting dehydrated.
- Drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. This is because ecstasy can cause the body to release a hormone which stops it making urine. If you drink too quickly you might affect your body's salt balance, which can be as deadly as not drinking enough water.
Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
Evidence suggests that long-term users can suffer from memory problems and may develop depression and anxiety.
There’s no way of knowing what’s inside your ecstasy pill or MDMA powder until you've taken it. Even testing kits may not find everything.
You may be at risk from other drugs and ingredients added to the pill or powder, as well as to the ecstasy itself.
Ecstasy pills are sometimes cut with amphetamines ( speed), caffeine and other substances that have some similar effects but are cheaper to produce. Some pills are cut with stimulants that are slower to kick in than MDMA, and so users have taken more of the pill (or pills) and then overdosed. Always start by taking a half or a quarter of a pill first – you may find that is enough.
MDMA powder can also be cut with other ingredients. You should always start by taking a very small amount to begin with and wait for the effects to kick in before deciding whether to take anymore.
Yes, any time you mix drugs together you take on new risks. Things that affect your risk include the type of drug, the strength and how much you take.
It's possible to build up tolerance to ecstasy, which means people need to take more of the drug to get the same buzz.
You may also develop a psychological dependence, which is a strong desire to keep on using even if you think your use is having harmful consequences.
- This is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
- Possession can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
- Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.
MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse
3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.
MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties («raves»), but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.
How do people use MDMA?
People who use MDMA usually take it as a capsule or tablet, though some swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder.
The popular nickname Molly (slang for «molecular») often refers to the supposedly «pure» crystalline powder form of MDMA, usually sold in capsules.
However, people who purchase powder or capsules sold as Molly often actually get other drugs such as synthetic cathinones («bath salts») instead (see «Added Risk of MDMA»).
Some people take MDMA in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana.
How does MDMA affect the brain?
MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:
- Dopamine—produces increased energy/activity and acts in the reward system to reinforce behaviors
- Norepinephrine—increases heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with heart and blood vessel problems
- Serotonin—affects mood, appetite, sleep, and other functions. It also triggers hormones that affect sexual arousal and trust. The release of large amounts of serotonin ly causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA.
Other health effects include:
- muscle cramping
- involuntary teeth clenching
- blurred vision
MDMA's effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:
- impulsiveness and aggression
- sleep problems
- memory and attention problems
- decreased appetite
- decreased interest in and pleasure from sex
It's possible that some of these effects may be due to the combined use of MDMA with other drugs, especially marijuana.
What are other health effects of MDMA?
High doses of MDMA can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to a spike in body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.
In addition, because MDMA can promote trust and closeness, its use—especially combined with sildenafil (Viagra®)—may encourage unsafe sexual behavior. This increases people's risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.
Read more about drug use and HIV/AIDS in DrugFacts: HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse
Read more about drug use and hepatitis.
Adding to MDMA's risks is that pills, capsules, or powders sold as Ecstasy and supposedly «pure» Molly may contain other drugs instead of or in addition to MDMA.
Much of the Molly seized by the police contains additives such as cocaine, ketamine, methamphetamine, over-the-counter cough medicine, or synthetic cathinones («bath salts»). These substances may be extremely dangerous if the person does not know what he or she is taking. They may also be dangerous when combined with MDMA.
People who purposely or unknowingly combine such a mixture with other substances, such as marijuana and alcohol, may be putting themselves at even higher risk for harmful health effects.
Is MDMA addictive?
Research results vary on whether MDMA is addictive. Experiments have shown that animals will self-administer MDMA—an important indicator of a drug’s abuse potential—although to a lesser degree than some other drugs such as cocaine.
Some people report signs of addiction, including the following withdrawal symptoms:
- loss of appetite
- trouble concentrating
MDMA was first used in the 1970s as an aid in psychotherapy (mental disorder treatment using «talk therapy»). The drug did not have the support of clinical trials (studies using humans) or approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 1985, The U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) labeled MDMA as an illegal drug with no recognized medicinal use. However, some researchers remain interested in its value in psychotherapy when given to patients under carefully controlled conditions.
MDMA is currently in clinical trials as a possible treatment aid for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); for anxiety in terminally ill patients; and for social anxiety in autistic adults. Recently, the FDA gave MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD a Breakthrough Therapy designation.
More information on MDMA research can be found by contacting sponsors of various MDMA studies listed on clinicaltrials.gov.
How can people get treatment for addiction to MDMA?
There are no specific medical treatments for MDMA addiction. Some people seeking treatment for MDMA addiction have found behavioral therapy to be helpful. Scientists need more research to determine how effective this treatment option is for addiction to MDMA.
- 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception. It is chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens.
- MDMA is commonly called Ecstasy or Molly.
- People who use MDMA typically take it as a capsule or tablet. Many people take it in combination with other drugs.
- MDMA acts by increasing the activity of three brain chemicals: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
- Effects include increased energy, distorted perception, involuntary teeth clenching, dangerously high body temperature, and depression.
- Many people are unaware that Ecstasy and supposedly «pure» Molly also often contain not only pure MDMA but other drugs that may be particularly dangerous when mixed with MDMA.
- Research results vary on whether MDMA is addictive. Some people report signs of addiction.
- Some people seeking treatment for MDMA addiction have found behavioral therapy to be helpful. There are no specific medical treatments for MDMA addiction.
For more information about MDMA, visit:
This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NIDA. 2020, June 15. MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly
NIDA. «MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts.» National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15 Jun. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly
NIDA. MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly. June 15, 2020
The chemical name for ecstasy is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA. The chemical structure and the effects of MDMA are similar to amphetamine (a stimulant) and to mescaline (a hallucinogen).
What’s sold as ecstasy often contains drugs other than MDMA, which may or may not be similar in effect to MDMA. Some of the other drugs include caffeine, ephedrine, amphetamine, dextromethorphan, ketamine, and LSD. Ecstasy sometimes contains highly toxic drugs, such as paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), which can be lethal even in low doses.
MDMA was patented in 1913 and has been used experimentally, most notably as a supplement to psychotherapy in the 1970s. It was made illegal to possess, traffic, import or produce MDMA in Canada in 1976 and in the United States in 1985.
Where does it come from?
Ecstasy is made in illegal labs with chemicals and processes that vary from lab to lab. What’s sold as ecstasy often contains unknown drugs or other fillers.
What does it look ?
Ecstasy is usually sold as a tablet or capsule that is swallowed. It may also be sold in powder form, or the tablets may be crushed and then snorted. There are also rare reports of the drug being injected.
Ecstasy tablets come in different shapes, sizes and colours, and are often stamped with a logo, such as a butterfly or clover, giving them a candy- look. This “branding” of ecstasy tablets should not be mistaken for an indication of quality, as manufacturers may use the same logo, and low-quality copycats are common. Tablets that are sold as ecstasy may not contain MDMA.
Who uses it?
The increased use of ecstasy as a recreational drug began in the 1980s in the United States. Young people at raves (all-night dance parties) were the group most commonly associated with ecstasy use. While still used by young people in clubs and at parties, ecstasy is now also used by a wider range of people in a variety of settings.
A survey of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 reported a decline in past-year use of ecstasy from six per cent in 2001 to 3.2 per cent in 2009. A 2008 survey of Canadians (aged 15+) reported that 1.4 per cent had used ecstasy at least once in the past year.
How does it make you feel?
How ecstasy affects you depends on several things:
- your age and your body weight
- how much you take and how often you take it
- how long you’ve been taking it
- the method you use to take the drug
- the environment you’re in
- whether or not you have certain pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions
- whether you’ve taken any alcohol or other drugs (illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or herbal).
In low to moderate doses, ecstasy can produce feelings of pleasure and well-being, increased sociability and closeness with others. all stimulant drugs, ecstasy can make users feel full of energy and confidence.
Even at low doses, ecstasy can also have strong negative effects. Higher doses are unly to enhance the desirable effects, and may intensify the negative effects. These effects include grinding of teeth and jaw pain, sweating, increased blood pressure and heart rate, anxiety or panic attacks, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and convulsions.
After the initial effects of the drug have worn off, users may also experience after-effects such as confusion, irritability, anxiety, paranoia, depression, memory impairment or sleep problems.
How long does the feeling last?
The effects of ecstasy usually begin within an hour, and may last four to six hours. The duration of the after-effects cannot be predicted as precisely, though they may last for days or weeks.
Is it addictive?
It’s not uncommon for ecstasy to take on an exaggerated importance in people’s lives. Signs of addiction include strong cravings for the effects of the drug, taking more of the drug than intended, and continuing to use the drug despite the problems it may cause.
Tolerance to ecstasy builds up very quickly. This means the more often you take ecstasy, the less effect the drug has. Taking more of the drug may not achieve the desired results, as frequent ecstasy use depletes serotonin and other brain chemicals that give the ecstasy “high.”
There is little evidence to indicate that MDMA can produce physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms.
Is it dangerous?
It can be. Although some people regard ecstasy as a relatively safe drug, a growing number of deaths have been associated with it. As with many illegal drugs, these risks increase with the amount taken and frequency of use.
A major factor in many ecstasy-related deaths is the dehydration and overheating that can result when ecstasy is taken in conjunction with all-night dancing. Ecstasy increases body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to kidney or heart failure, strokes and seizures. Ecstasy may cause jaundice and liver damage.
People with high blood pressure, heart or liver problems, diabetes, epilepsy or any mental disorder are the most vulnerable to the potential dangers of ecstasy. Part of the danger is that people may not be aware that they have these conditions, and the effects of ecstasy can trigger symptoms.
As with all illegal street drugs, the purity and strength of ecstasy can never be accurately gauged. When you take ecstasy, you don’t know what you’re taking, or how it will affect you.
Combining ecstasy with other drugs, whether illegal or prescription, may cause a toxic interaction. Several prescription medications are known to interact with ecstasy, including a type of antidepressant called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and ritonavir, a protease inhibitor used to treat HIV.
Driving or operating machinery while under the influence of ecstasy, or any drug, increases the risk of physical injury to the user and others.
What are the long-term effects of using it?
Animal research has established that ecstasy use can damage the brain cells that release serotonin. Research on humans is limited, but there is some evidence to suggest that ecstasy can damage the cells and chemistry of the human brain, affecting functions such as learning and memory.
The risk of damage caused by ecstasy use may be linked to the amount taken and the frequency of use. However, some research suggests that even occasional use of small amounts of ecstasy may damage the brain cells that release serotonin, and that these effects may be long lasting. It is not known whether these effects may be permanent.
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