MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

Published on March 6th, 2014

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is a popular club drug known as ecstasy or Molly. It is a synthetic psychoactive drug with similarities to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. MDMA users experience feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others, and distortions in sensory and time perception.

How Is MDMA Abused?

MDMA usually comes in capsule or tablet form and is taken orally. The pure crystalline powder form of MDMA is commonly known as Molly, which is typically sold in capsule form. When MDMA is taken the effects are expected to last 3-6 hours, many abusers will take a second dose when the effects fade. This drug is commonly taken in combination with other drugs for a multiple-drug experience.

How Does MDMA Affect the Brain?

MDMA activates three neurotransmitters in the brain; serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It creates emotional and pro-social effects as a result of the large amounts of serotonin released, uplifting the individuals mood, suppressing appetite and increasing ones energy. MDMA is known as a love drug, as it triggers the re-lease of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which play important roles in love, trust, sexual arousal, and other social experiences. Many MDMA users experience feelings of emotional closeness and empathy.

There are also adverse effects with the use of MDMA as the surge of serotonin it produces depletes the brain of this important chemical, causing the individual to experience confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety. These effects could occur soon after taking the drug or during the days or even weeks thereafter. Heavy MDMA users may experience long-lasting confusion, depression, sleep abnormalities, and problems with attention and memory.

Is MDMA Addictive?

MDMA abusers are at risk of developing a tolerance to the drug, requiring increased doses to achieve its desired effects. Regular use of the drug can result in the individual developing symptoms of dependency, continuing its use regardless to how it is harming them physically and psychologically. The the individual abruptly stops the use of MDMA they may experience withdrawal effects and cravings to use the drug, often resulting in relapse.

What Are Other Health Effects of MDMA?

MDMA is a stimulant drug, just like other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines it can have similar effects on the individuals health. Individuals abusing MDMA may experience increases in heart rate and blood pressure, those with circulatory problems or heart disease are at a great risk of death due to this. MDMA abusers may also experience muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.

When MDMA is taken in high doses it can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.  This can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia) on rare but unpredictable occasions, this can result in liver, kidney, or cardiovascular system failure or even death.There is a risk of potentially harmful levels of MDMA building up in the body if it is taken repeatedly within short periods of time, as the drug can interfere with its own metabolism.

MDMA tablets and capsules may contain other drugs instead or in addiction; these drugs include, ephedrine (a stimulant), dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), ketamine, caffeine, cocaine, methamphetamine, or synthetic cathinones (the psychoactive ingredients in “bath salts”). While these substances are harmful on their own, when in combination with MDMA it can create a dangerous mix. Those who are unaware of the drug combination and then take it with other substances are put at a high risk of adverse effects.

MDMA is known as a love drug, increasing the individuals sexual desire, as well as clouding their judgement. This puts the individual at great risk of contracting STD such as HIV and hepatitis due to risky sexual behaviors.

Does MDMA Have Therapeutic Value?

In the 1970’s MDMA was developed to be used as an aid in psychotherapy without clinical trial research of the approval of the FDA. The Drug Enforcement Administration labeled MDMA a Schedule I substance, or a drug with high abuse potential and no recognized medicinal use by 1985. Many researchers remained interest in MDMA’s therapeutic value and continued its use in patients under carefully monitored conditions. Today, MDMA is in clinical trials as a possible pharmacotherapy aid to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety in terminal cancer patients.


Statistics and Trends

Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of MDMA for 8th-Graders, 10th-Graders, and 12th-Graders; 2013 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th-Graders 10th-Graders 12th-Graders
MDMA Lifetime 1.80 5.70 7.10
Past Year 1.10 3.60 4.00
Past Month 0.50 1.20 1.50
National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of MDMA for Ages 12 or Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2012 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period Ages 12 or Older Ages 12 to 17 Ages 18 to 25 Ages 26 or Older
MDMA Lifetime [6.20] [2.00] 12.90 [5.60]
Past Year 1.00 [1.20] 4.10 [0.50]
Past Month 0.20 0.30 1.00 0.10
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