MDMA is the drug originally called ecstasy. It belongs to a family of drugs called entactogens, which means “touching within.” Other drugs in this category include MDA, MDE and MBDB.
MDMA was first synthesized in 1912 by Merck Pharmaceuticals in Germany, although it was never tested on humans. Recreational use of MDMA did not begin until the 1970s.
Before it was made illegal in 1985, MDMA was a therapeutic medicine. Studies are currently underway using MDMA to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the drug is on track to be approved as a prescription medication by the FDA in 2021.
What are the Effects?
MDMA is a mood elevator that produces a relaxed, euphoric state. It does not cause hallucinations.
MDMA is almost always swallowed as a pill, tablet, or capsule. Effects are typically felt within 20 to 40 minutes, and peak effects within 60 to 90 minutes.
The come-up on MDMA is usually short but intense, feeling like a wave of tingling and warmth coming over the body.
Sensations are enhanced and the user experiences heightened feelings of empathy, emotional warmth, and self-acceptance.
The effects of MDMA subside after about 3-5 hours.
Most users say the experience is very pleasant and highly controllable. Even at the peak of the effect, people can usually deal with important matters.
What is a Normal Dose?
For most people, a normal dose of MDMA is between 70 and 125mg. However, some people require more to feel the same effect, while others require less.
Taking a single redose of 1/3 to 1/2 the original dose around the 1.5 to 2.5 hour mark can extend the experience by another hour or two, but might worsen the comedown/crash. Redosing any more than this usually will only increase side effects.
Is MDMA Addictive?
MDMA is not physically dependence-forming, and it is not considered to be significantly rewarding and reinforcing (addictive). However, it can often take on great importance in people’s lives, and some people become compulsive, every-weekend users.
Compulsive users may be unconsciously trying to self-medicate for depression or social anxiety. However, MDMA is not a good long-term antidepressant. Effective treatments for depression are available from a qualified physician.
If taken too frequently, MDMA can stop working. Users report that the “magic” goes away. This can last for many years or be permanent. Remember, less is more.
It’s hard to say exactly how often is too often. Some people lose the magic after rolling every few months for a couple of years, while others lose it in less than a year after rolling on a weekly or biweekly basis.
Because of prohibition, MDMA is unregulated. As a result, “Ecstasy” tablets and “Molly” powder can vary widely in strength and contents. Sometimes they contain no MDMA at all, but rather different, more dangerous drugs.
MDMA increases the risk of heatstroke. About 20 people per year in the US die of heat stroke after taking MDMA. Remember to take breaks from dancing, cool down, and stay hydrated. Some people have died from drinking too much water after taking MDMA. This is called “hyponatremia” and happens when the body’s electrolytes (salts) become diluted. Stay hydrated, but don’t drink too much water. About two to four cups per hour is all you need.
Studies have shown that high doses of MDMA can cause damage to serotonin axons (neurons) in laboratory animals. It is possible that similar damage can occur in human recreational users who take high doses too often, and/or who dose in a hot environment.
Although many users feel fine the next day, often describing an “afterglow,” some people experience depression the day after taking MDMA. This post-roll depression (“crash”) can last for up to a week, or more in some cases. People with a history of depressive episodes may be more prone to long and/or difficult “crashes.”
Taking more MDMA at this point won’t make you feel better. This is because MDMA works by releasing a natural chemical in your brain called serotonin, and you only have so much of it in storage. It takes about three weeks for your brain to replenish the serotonin released by MDMA.
Mixing MDMA with alcohol, stimulants or other drugs can increase the risk of adverse reactions, including dehydration, hyperthermia (overheating), and cardiac arrhythmia.
MDMA is illegal and a conviction for possession or sale can carry long prison sentences.
If you choose to use MDMA, knowing why is the best way to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks. Whether it’s for therapy, self-exploration or purely for recreation, understanding your intentions will help you assess whether or not they are being met.