Ecstasy (Molly) Use: Effects & Dangers

Ecstasy (MDMA) is a popular illicit drug that can alter mood and perception.1 According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 21 million Americans (7.5%) aged 12 and older have used ecstasy at least once in their lifetimes, and almost 2.2 million (0.8%) used ecstasy in the previous year.2

This page will go over potential ecstasy effects, health risks, and treatment for compulsive ecstasy use.

What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy, or MDMA (3,4–methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly referred to as “Molly,” is a synthetic substance with both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects.1

People most commonly take ecstasy as tablets, though it may also be found in capsule, powder, and liquid forms. People usually ingest the drug orally, but the powder may also be snorted or injected.3

MDMA first became popular in nightclubs and raves, but its use has since spread to a wider range of settings.1

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed ecstasy as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for misuse and no currently accepted medical purpose.4

Countering any speculative claims of purity, ecstasy products can contain other, possibly dangerous drugs, such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, ketamine, synthetic cathinones, or fentanyl.1,3

Effects & Health Risks of Ecstasy (Molly)

MDMA use can have various effects, with some of them presenting potential health risks.1

Subjective effects of ecstasy use may include: 5

  • Emotional warmth.
  • Increased empathy.
  • Being chattier or wanting to discuss emotions with others.

These effects typically last 3-6 hours, though many people take a second dose of the drug as the first dose fades.1

Health risks of MDMA include:5

  • Headache.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Stiffness in the muscles or joints.
  • Jaw clenching.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Decrease cardiac pumping efficiency.
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors.
  • Depersonalization, or feeling detached from oneself.
  • Illogical or disorganized thoughts.
  • Dangerously high body temperature, which can lead to kidney failure and fatal brain swelling.

For about a week after ecstasy use, many people suffer from irritability, depression, sleep problems, difficulty paying attention, and decreased libido.1

Ecstasy (Molly) Overdose Symptoms

Fatality due to isolated MDMA overdose is uncommon but not impossible.5 Overdose can pose a serious risk of complications, such as delirium, seizures, cardiac dysrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), liver failure, and acute renal failure.6

Other symptoms of ecstasy overdose toxicity may include:5

  • Markedly elevated blood pressure.
  • Faintness and loss of consciousness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Having cravings for ecstasy.

People can overdose on ecstasy alone, but ecstasy risks increase when it’s used in combination with other drugs  (i.e., polydrug use), such as alcohol, opioids, cocaine, or crystal meth.6,7  In addition, people might be unknowingly using other substances, as ecstasy can be cut with other drugs, such as fentanyl, which can significantly increase the risk of overdose.3,7

If opioid involvement is suspected in an overdose, quick administration of Narcan (naloxone) may restore someone’s breathing long enough for emergency medical personnel to arrive.8 Narcan is safe for a layperson to administer, even if they are unsure whether opioids were taken.8,9

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

While research has resulted in conflicting reports as to ecstasy’s addictive potential, there is some evidence that chronic ecstasy use may lead to addiction.1 For example, some research and anecdotal reports indicate that problematic MDMA use may involve certain signs, symptoms, and behaviors that are associated with addiction, such as:5

  • Continuing to use ecstasy despite the negative effects.
  • Developing tolerance.
  • Experiencing ecstasy withdrawal symptoms when ceasing use.
  • Having cravings for ecstasy.

In terms of its pharmacological activity, similarly to some other drugs with compulsive misuse liability, ecstasy influences the activity of several neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. In particular, increased dopamine activity is associated with the reinforcing effects of certain drugs and the subsequent development of substance use disorders.5

However, the rewarding aspects of ecstasy seem to diminish quickly with repeated use in a short period, and the development of physiological dependence is rare.5,10

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment in Nevada

Ecstasy addiction treatment typically focuses on therapy, specifically cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to help change a person’s thoughts and behaviors related to substance misuse.5 Treatment can also involve peer support groups (such as 12-Step groups), psychoeducation, and aftercare to support ongoing recovery.5,11

Desert Hope offers a complete continuum of ecstasy addiction care, which can involve detox, inpatient rehab in Las Vegas, outpatient rehab, and a range of aftercare services. We understand that every person is unique, and our expert staff will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that’s appropriate for your needs.

You can learn more about our levels of addiction treatment, types of rehab care, the treatment admissions process, paying for addiction treatment, and insurance that covers rehab. When you’re ready to reach out, we’re ready to help. Please call to speak to a caring admissions navigator and find out more about treatment options that might be right for you or your loved ones’ needs.

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