MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): Risks, Effects & Treatment

What is MDMA?

MDMA is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.

MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties, but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.

People who use MDMA usually take it as a capsule or tablet, though some swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder. Some people take MDMA in combination with other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana.

How does MDMA affect the brain?

MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:

  • Dopamine: produces increased energy/activity and acts in the reward system to reinforce behaviors
  • Norepinephrine: increases heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with heart and blood vessel problems
  • Serotonin: affects mood, appetite, sleep, and other functions. It also triggers hormones that affect sexual arousal and trust. The release of large amounts of serotonin likely causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA.

Other health effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Sweating

MDMA’s effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:

  • Irritability
  • Impulsiveness and aggression
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased interest in and pleasure from sex

What are other health effects of MDMA?

High doses of MDMA can affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This can lead to a spike in body temperature that can occasionally result in liver, kidney, or heart failure or even death.

In addition, because MDMA can promote trust and closeness, its use—especially combined with sildenafil—may encourage unsafe sexual behavior. This increases people’s risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Is MDMA addictive?

Research results vary on whether MDMA is addictive. Experiments have shown that animals will self-administer MDMA—an important indicator of a drug’s abuse potential—although to a lesser degree than some other drugs such as cocaine.

Some people report signs of addiction, including the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating

How can people get treatment for addiction to MDMA?

There are no specific medical treatments for MDMA addiction. Some people seeking treatment for MDMA addiction have found behavioral therapy to be helpful. Scientists need more research to determine how effective this treatment option is for addiction to MDMA.

Source: NIDA. (2018, June 6). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly on 2019, March 29

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.