Ecstasy (MDMA) Use: Effects, Risks & Addiction

Ecstasy is a synthetic substance used by people, generally in clubs or at parties, across the United States.1 For example, in 2021, 21.1 million people aged 12 or older in the United States reported using ecstasy at some point in their lifetime, with 2.2 million reporting ecstasy use within the past year.2

Despite its relative popularity as a club drug, there are potential dangerous health effects associated with ecstasy use. This page will provide an overview of ecstasy/MDMA, including MDMA health risks and dangers, signs of overdose, ecstasy withdrawal, and treatment for ecstasy use.

What Is Ecstasy?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is a synthetic drug that produces both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects when consumed.3 Ecstasy and Molly are both terms used when referring to the pill form of MDMA.4 Molly is sometimes used to describe “pure” ecstasy, however, both ecstasy and Molly are commonly adulterated with other substances in addition to or in lieu of MDMA. MDMA is also ingested as a capsule, liquid, and powder forms and can also be smoked or snorted.3 “Liquid ecstasy,” may also refer to another club or party drug, gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), which is a sedative.

In addition to ecstasy, other common street names for MDMA include the following:

  • E.
  • X.
  • XTC.
  • Molly.
  • Beans.
  • Adam.
  • Lover’s Speed.
  • Hug Drug.

Effects of Taking Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy is generally taken for its energizing effect along with the enhancement or distortion of sensory perceptions. Many users report a feeling of enhanced well-being and increased socialness and empathy toward others. But it can produce a variety of other effects including:9

  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Panic attacks.

Ecstasy Health Risks and Dangers

The stimulant effects of ecstasy use, particularly when taken when engaging in vigorous physical activity it is often associated with (e.g., dancing) can lead to the most significant, albeit rare, acute adverse effect: hyperthermia, or a marked rise in body temperature, which may be further exacerbated by dehydration.7

MDMA intoxication produces significant reductions in perceiving and predicting motion, which can make performing complex or skilled activities, like driving a car, dangerous. A common use pattern among recreational users of MDMA is repeated drug taking, which may result in depression, impaired attention and memory, anxiety, aggression, and irritability.7

Regular use of MDMA is also associated with:7

  • Depression.
  • Heart disease.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Concentration difficulties.
  • Reduced cognitive functioning.

Risks from Contaminated Ecstasy

Ecstasy tablets often include other drugs in addition to or in lieu of MDMA, such as methamphetamine, ketamine, over-the-counter cough medicine, bath salts, or fentanyl.6 In order to subvert law enforcement and drug stings, cartels are frequently substituting variations of synthetic cathinones (e.g., bath salts) for MDMA. In particular, these synthetic cathinones have been associated with a number of adverse health outcomes including:10

  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Extreme agitation.
  • Violent behavior.

These and other substances used in combination with MDMA (e.g., cocaine, alcohol, marijuana) can increase the risk of unpredictable and potentially serious adverse health outcomes, including overdose.6

Ecstasy Overdose Symptoms

Although death from ecstasy overdose is rare, it can happen, especially when taken in large doses or mixed with other substances.9 Ecstasy overdose can be life-threatening, with some of the symptoms, including:

  • Elevated blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Faintness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Seizures.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

Research on whether ecstasy/MDMA is addictive is inconclusive.6 However, some people who use or misuse it report signs indicative of ecstasy addiction, such as continued use of ecstasy even though there are negative consequences associated with use, experiencing tolerance, and a strong, uncontrollable desire to use the drug.12

Ecstasy Comedown and Withdrawal

A person may experience a “comedown” after taking ecstasy, which differs from ecstasy withdrawal.10 The comedown or “crash” results from the acute recovery period following ecstasy use and typically happens 1–3 days after use.13 Although the timeline of a comedown coincides with early phases of withdrawal, withdrawal generally occurs when someone abruptly stops using a drug with a recognized withdrawal syndrome following dependence, which occurs after a period of chronic use.13

Signs and symptoms of an ecstasy comedown may include:13

  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Agitation.
  • Fatigue.
  • Significant increases in appetite.
  • Extreme sleepiness.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment in Mississippi

If you or a loved one are struggling with ecstasy use, there are effective treatment options that can help get you on the road to recovery from substance use. Please reach out to our admissions navigators at to learn more about the levels of addiction treatment, including our inpatient rehab in Mississippi, as well as the treatment admissions process. Our admissions navigators can provide more information about rehab payment options, rehab insurance coverage, and answer any other questions that you have.

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