Common or street names: Adam, Beans, Clarity, Disco Biscuit, E, Eve, Go, Hug Drug, Lover’s Speed, MDMA, Molly, Peace, STP, X, and XTC
What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy (MDMA, 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also commonly called Molly, is a synthetic (lab made), psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. It is an illegal drug that acts as both a stimulant and psychedelic, producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from tactile experiences.
Ecstasy is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which means that the DEA has determined that it has no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse.
Its primary effects are in the brain on neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons. The serotonin system plays an important role in regulating mood, aggression, sexual activity, sleep, and sensitivity to pain.
Adolescents and young adults use it to reduce inhibitions and to promote feeling of euphoria (great happiness, excitement, “high”), feelings of closeness, empathy, and sexuality. Ecstasy can also produce psychedelic effects, similar to the hallucinogens mescaline and LSD.
Ecstasy was first popular in the nightclub scene or at all-night dance parties known as “raves”, and at concerts or festivals, but is used by others, too.
How is Ecstasy used?
- Ecstasy is usually available in tablet or capsule form and is taken by mouth or crushed and snorted. It is also available as a powder and snorted, taken as a liquid, and it is occasionally smoked but rarely injected. The drug’s effects generally last from 3 to 6 hours.
- Ecstasy dealers consistently use brand names, bright colors and logos as marketing tools and to distinguish their product. Among the more popular logos are butterflies, lightning bolts, and four-leaf clovers.
- Several tablets may be taken at one time or in succession over a period of time. Abusers may also use in conjunction with other psychoactive drugs like LSD. As with many other “party drugs”, ecstasy is rarely used alone. It is common for users to mix it with alcohol and marijuana.
Can I get addicted to Ecstasy?
Researchers do not know yet if ecstasy is addictive. It targets the serotonin system, a chemical pathway that is affected by other addictive drugs.
A survey of young adult and adolescent users found that 43% met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance (or diminished response), and 34% met the criteria for drug abuse.
Almost 60% of people who use ecstasy report withdrawal symptoms, including:
- loss of appetite
- depressed feelings
- trouble concentrating
Research in animals indicates that this drug, also referred to as MDMA or Molly, is neurotoxic and may affect the brain. Clinical studies suggest that ecstasy may increase the risk of long-term or permanent problems with memory and learning.
What happens to your body when Ecstasy is used?
Chronic users of ecstasy perform more poorly than nonusers on certain types of cognitive or memory tasks. Some of these effects may be due to the use of other drugs in combination with ecstasy, among other factors. Research indicates heavy ecstasy use may cause persistent memory problems in humans, although studies are conflicting.
- In high doses, ecstasy can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Dehydration is possible. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death.
- Because it can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body), potentially harmful levels can be reached by repeated drug use within short intervals.
- Users face many of the same risks as users of other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory problems or heart disease, and other symptoms such as muscle tension or cramps, involuntary teeth clenching, tremors, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.
- Psychological effects can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. These problems can occur during and for days or weeks after taking ecstasy.
- Research in animals links ecstasy exposure to long-term damage in neurons that are involved in mood, thinking, and judgment. A study in nonhuman primates showed that exposure to the compound for only 4 days caused damage to serotonin nerve terminals that was evident 6 to 7 years later.
- While similar neurotoxicity has not been definitively shown in humans, the wealth of animal research on damaging properties suggests that the chemical is not a safe drug for human consumption.
Hidden Risks and Contaminants:
- Other drugs chemically similar to ecstasy, such as MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine, the parent drug of ecstasy) and PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine, associated with fatalities in the U.S. and Australia) are sometimes sold as ecstasy. These drugs can be neurotoxic or create additional health risks to the user.
- Ecstasy tablets may be further contaminated with other substances in addition to MDMA, such as: ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians that also has PCP-like effects), cathinones (for example: “bath salts”), caffeine, cocaine, fentanyl and methamphetamine (“speed”).
- While the use of this agent by itself or with one or more of these drugs may be inherently dangerous, users might also unknowingly combine them with substances such as marijuana and alcohol, putting themselves at further physical risk.
Medical uses for Ecstasy (MDMA)
Ecstasy (MDMA) is designated as Schedule I substance by the DEA. There are no approved medical uses for MDMA in the U.S.
Completed and ongoing MDMA studies can be found on clinicaltrials.gov. Researchers are looking at MDMA use as a possible treatment for:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Anxiety in terminally ill patients
- Social anxiety disorder
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder)
- Alcohol Use Disorder