Ecstasy is MDMA or 3,4 Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Big Word huh? It belongs to a family of drugs called “entactogens,” which literally means “touching within.” Other drugs in this category include MDA, MDE and MBDB. Before it was made illegal in 1985, MDMA was used by psychiatrists as a therapeutic tool. MDMA is a popular drug of choice at nightclubs and raves.

What are the Effects?

MDMA is a “mood elevator” that produces a relaxed, euphoric state. It does not produce hallucinations. MDMA takes effect 20 to 40 minutes after taking a tablet, with little rushes of exhilaration which can be accompanied by nausea. 60 to 90 minutes after taking the drug, the user feels the peak effects.

At this point, the heart rate and blood pressure has increased, which can be very risky for those with heart and blood vessel problems. Sensations are enhanced and the user experiences heightened feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, and self-acceptance. The effects of ‘real’ ecstasy subside after about 3-5 hours.

Over the course of a week after moderate use of taking the drug, users may experience irritability, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, decreased appetite, and attention problems. These problems may increase if MDMA is combined with alcohol or other drugs, especially marijuana.

What is the Dosage?

E is almost always swallowed as a tablet or capsule or snorted in powder form. A normal dose is around 100-125 mg. Black market “ecstasy” tablets vary widely in strength and often contain other drugs, like fentanyl. Another popular nickname “Molly” is often referred to as the supposedly, pure crystalline powder form of MDMA.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

Ecstasy is not physically addictive. However, the drug can often take on great importance in people’s lives, and some people become rather compulsive in their use. Taken too frequently, however, MDMA loses its special effect.

MDMA releases the brain chemical serotonin, elevating mood and acting as a short-term antidepressant. Compulsive users may be unconsciously trying to self-medicate for depression. Effective treatments for depression are available with the proper diagnosis by a qualified physician.

Ecstasy is illegal and a conviction for possession can carry long prison sentences. Some people experience depression after taking MDMA. This is caused by MDMA’s action on certain brain chemicals. There have been some deaths associated with MDMA. Usually, these have been a result of heatstroke from dancing for long periods of time in hot clubs without replenishing lost body fluids. Mixing ecstasy with alcohol or other drugs increases the risk of adverse reactions.

If you’d like to learn more about ecstasy, visit the National Institute of Drug Abuse.