Basic Facts

MDMA is best known as the popular club drug, Ecstasy or X. It is widely used in the rave scene and gained wide usage in the early 1990’s. Ingestion of MDMA and its subsequent effects are also known as “rolling,” named for the way the euphoria MDMA creates goes up and down in intensity. Although MDMA potency can vary, a typical dose lasts anywhere from 3 to 7 hours. MDMA can be insufflated, which increases the speed of its effects being felt, but it is most typically ingested orally in tablet or capsule form.

Effects of MDMA

MDMA gained popularity due to its empathenogenic effects. It has several properties, one being that of a stimulant such as amphetamines, which gives a feeling of increased alertness, energy, and wakefulness. The second property is that it mimics the feeling of hallucinogens at the same time as being a stimulant.

Effects of MDMA include:

  • Distorted sense of time
  • Increased sociality
  • Increased desire for human touch of any kind
  • Dry mouth
  • Clenched teeth
  • Sweating
  • Extreme euphoria
  • Visual halluncinations
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Increased heart rate

Main characteristics of the feelings of MDMA are above, but a common problem with MDMA is that it difficult to know exactly what is in a pill—since most MDMA is bought with the intent of become consumed soon after, few people take the time to test the MDMA with a reagent to determine its chemical composition. MDMA has been combined with cocaine, amphetamines, Ketamine, caffeine, heroin and other substances in an effort by dealers to maximize their profits. All this is to say that unless caution is exercised, the health risks posed by taking MDMA are many.

Ecstasy and Serotonin

The plethora of positive feelings that accompany MDMA are a result of the body being flooded with serotonin, the hormone that regulates mood (among other things). Consequently, ecstasy use can deplete serotonin levels in a persons body, especially if it was taken multiple times in a short span. Low serotonin levels can greatly affect mood, leading to feelings of:

  • Depression
  • Lack of energy
  • Headache
  • Lack of sense of taste
  • Low affect

It can take anywhere from a day to a several weeks for a person to replenish and return to their natural serotonin levels. In individuals who already have depression, this can take even longer, and lead to more extreme cases, such as suicidal thoughts.


Efforts within the rave culture to minimize risk have been underway for many years. Some rave and music festival organizers provide services that will test a persons’s MDMA pills and give a chemical breakdown. While the potential for abuse of MDMA is high, it has not been shown to be physically addictive, but chronic use will result in higher tolerance, which can lead to high enough doses to cause liver and kidney problems, memory, recall and speech issues, as well as brain hormone imbalances. The positive feelings many users have while under the influence of MDMA may lead them to believe that this drug has no potential for harm, but the ease by which it can be cut with unknown substances is evidence to the contrary. However, despite being a Schedule I banned substance, there are clinical trials being conducted that have begun to show that MDMA might be effective in treating PTSD in combat veterans.