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Effects of Ecstasy (MDMA) Use

Using Ecstasy (commonly referred to as Molly in recent years) can produce a range of hallucinogenic and stimulant-like effects.

What Are the Effects of Using Ecstasy?

Using Ecstasy (commonly referred to as Molly in recent years) can produce a range of hallucinogenic and stimulant-like effects because, generally, the drug is a combination of a chemical Hallucinogen and a stimulant (like Amphetamine or Methamphetamine). Also known as methylene-dioxymethamphetamine or MDMA, Ecstasy is an illicitly manufactured drug and not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). As such, each Ecstasy laboratory is likely to include a variety of other substances (such as caffeine, rat poison, or Ketamine) to increase potency or lower production costs. All of the above adulterants can change the effects of using Ecstasy.

Within 45 minutes of taking a single dose of Ecstasy (via oral ingestion), most people begin to feel its effects. Immediate, short-term effects typically last between 3 and 8 hours, depending on the individual. In addition to feelings of euphoria, Ecstasy’s effects include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Compromised judgment
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings
  • Faintness
  • Greater sensory perception
  • Hot flashes
  • Hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • Involuntary teeth-grinding
  • Feelings of arousal or affection
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures
  • Severe anxiety
  • Tense muscles

The MDMA compound commonly used to make Ecstasy targets the brain’s serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine neurotransmitters, increasing the amount released as well as their activity in brain cells. Serotonin, in particular, is responsible for regulating mood, sleep patterns, pain responses, appetite, and several other urges.

In the aftermath of taking Ecstasy, the availability of serotonin in the brain may be reduced, leading to negative psychological effects. With regular use of MDMA-containing Ecstasy or Molly, the brain may not be able to produce enough serotonin to function normally (known as serotonin syndrome).

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Ecstasy’s Additives Alter Its Effects

Depending on the drug manufacturer and the batch, Ecstasy may contain little to no MDMA. Instead, it may be made up of a number of chemical additives which alter the effects of the drug. Moreover, while the drug is most commonly found in the form of colorful pills with dolphin or smiley-face logos stamped into them, they can contain rat poison or dog deworming medication. The table below details the most-commonly found Ecstasy adulterants and their effects.

Common Ecstasy Adulterants
Bath Salts Also known as Synthetic Cathinones, their effect is similar to Amphetamine and potentially lethal.
Caffeine Caffeine can damage the heart and may cause a physical dependence with routine use.
Ephedrine Once used for weight loss in diet pills, this stimulant can cause heart palpitations, stroke, and seizures.
Opioids Opioids, including Heroin or  Fentanyl, may be added to increase the duration or potency of Ecstasy’s “high”.
Ketamine Typically a veterinary anesthetic, the drug has sedative and hallucinogenic properties and may cause memory loss.
Selegiline An MAO inhibitor that slows the metabolization of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain. May cause hallucinations, mood changes, and abnormal cravings.

How Can You Tell If You’ve Taken Too Much Ecstasy?

Though rare, there are reported cases of Ecstasy overdose and death linked to Ecstasy use. Ecstasy can cause high blood pressure and panic attacks that lead to loss of consciousness or seizures. Also, people are more likely to overexert themselves and sweat profusely while taking Ecstasy, leading to severe dehydration and an unnatural increase in body temperature. If an individual (especially women) begins to suffer significant electrolyte imbalance, kidney failure or swelling of the brain may occur. Without immediate medical attention, these symptoms can be fatal.

Contact emergency medical services if you or someone else is exhibiting some of the following symptoms after taking Ecstasy:

  • Blurry vision
  • Extreme sweating and thirst
  • Little to no urine production
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Shaking or chills
  • Vomiting

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Long-Term Health Effects of Ecstasy Use

Though Ecstasy abuse has existed across the country since the 1970s, relatively few studies have conclusively examined the long-term health effects of Ecstasy use. Furthermore, most individuals who use Ecstasy often take other drugs simultaneously too, clouding researchers’ ability to pinpoint long-term damage linked to Ecstasy use in general, or MDMA in particular. However, some studies show that heavy MDMA use can contribute to an irregular heartbeat that may occur in just a few days of binge-use. Impaired cognitive function can develop within 2 years of regular use due to a reduction of blood flow in certain parts of the brain.

Other long-term effects of Ecstasy use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Heart disease
  • Impaired memory and learning capability
  • Increase in impulsive desires
  • Insomnia
  • Kidney damage
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nerve damage
  • Psychosis
  • Reduced ability to regulate emotion

Some effects of Ecstasy use can last for a few days, others may take weeks before tapering off. Depending on the individual and whether or not they seek treatment for their symptoms, these effects may not be reversible.

Taking Ecstasy is also linked to an increase in risky behaviors, such as engaging in unprotected sex or driving under the influence. Even taking the drug one time can lead to poor decision-making that results in the contraction of HIV, hepatitis, or other sexually-transmitted diseases. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, using MDMA within the previous 6 months is linked to having at least 2 sexual partners in the previous month as well as engaging in sex before 14-years-old.

Various cutting agents commonly added to Ecstasy may also cause other long-term health consequences. These effects may be hard to reverse or treat, especially in young people. If a certain batch of Ecstasy contains too much of a potent additive (such as Fentanyl), overdose and death may occur. It is impossible to know – without laboratory testing – what each Ecstasy or Molly pill contains.

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Can You Experience Withdrawal From Ecstasy?

After a few days of binge-using Ecstasy, you may feel some symptoms of withdrawal from the drug. For most people, hallucinogenic drugs (including batches of Ecstasy or Molly containing significant portions of MDMA) lead to the development of a tolerance and a reduction in hallucinatory effects in as little as three days. As such, an individual will need to take more Ecstasy to get the same effects. When they stop taking it to try and detox, their body may already have become dependent on the drug for the release of certain neurotransmitters.

Without Ecstasy, individuals may start to experience a depressed mood, anxiety, sleep problems, fatigue, and other withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Inability to focus attention
  • Increased impulsiveness
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Memory problems
  • Reduced sex drive

Symptoms of withdrawal are a clear warning sign that an individual needs to seek treatment to safely recover from drug use.

Get Help for an Ecstasy Addiction Today

Experiencing withdrawal is just one symptom of a possible Ecstasy addiction. Additionally, if you are unable to function normally in daily life due to Ecstasy or Molly use or have tried unsuccessfully to stop or cutback on the drug, you may have an addiction.

Talk with a dedicated treatment provider today for more information on the process of recovering from addiction.

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