MDMA Addiction and Abuse

MDMA is a Schedule I controlled substance with no legal medical use. It’s important to know the side effects of MDMA and the signs of MDMA addiction.

MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy or molly, is a drug that was created in 1912 and was available legally up until 1985. That year, the DEA rescheduled MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance due to its street presence and recreational use. Schedule I controlled substances have no current legal medical use, a high risk for abuse and the potential to create severe dependence. 

Even though the risk of addiction and abuse is high, MDMA’s ability to alter mood and sensory perception makes it a popular recreational drug that is still used by millions of people today.

Table of Contents

What Is MDMA?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is part of a group of drugs called party drugs or club drugs. Club drugs cause changes in the way a person thinks, feels and acts by affecting the brain and nervous system. As the name suggests, club drugs are usually found in club-like settings such as:

  • Bars
  • Concerts
  • Music festivals
  • Nightclubs
  • Parties
  • Raves

MDMA acts as both a stimulant and mild hallucinogen when taken recreationally. Its stimulant effects increase alertness and energy, while its hallucinogenic effects distort how an individual feels and experiences what is going on around them.

MDMA Street Names

MDMA is most commonly known as ecstasy or molly, but street names for the substance vary and change over time. Common street names for MDMA include:

  • Adam
  • Beans
  • Biscuit 
  • Clarity
  • Disco Biscuit
  • E
  • Ecstasy
  • Eve
  • Go
  • Hug Drug
  • Lover’s Speed
  • Molly
  • Peace
  • STP
  • X
  • XTC

Effects of MDMA

People use MDMA as a recreational drug due to its pleasurable effects. Ecstasy, or MDMA, acts in the brain as both a stimulant (like amphetamine) and a hallucinogen. Its effects on chemical messengers in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and several other neurotransmitters, play a role in creating a sense of euphoria in people who use MDMA. People use MDMA recreationally to enhance feelings of:

  • Joy (euphoria)
  • Closeness
  • Empathy
  • Sensuality
  • Sexual arousal
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Energy

Along with the pleasurable effects of MDMA, there are several undesirable effects associated with its use. Side effects that people who use MDMA may experience include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Drug cravings
  • Tremors
  • Teeth clenching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision 

Serotonin Syndrome

People using drugs that increase serotonin levels, such as MDMA, run the risk of experiencing serotonin syndrome. This is especially true for illegal drugs that have no regulations or standards for dosage, purity or ingredients. Similar doses of illegal drugs can contain varying amounts of the same substance. 

MDMA tablets may contain substances or other drugs that can be even riskier when mixed together. Other substances that have been found in MDMA tablets include methamphetamine, ketamine and cocaine. Substances that also raise serotonin levels, such as cocaine, increase the risk of serotonin syndrome.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome typically occur within 24 hours of an increased dose, the use of another drug or an overdose. Symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shivering
  • Sweating
  • Flushed skin
  • Excessive body temperature
  • Rapid, abnormal heart rate
  • Rapid, shallow breathing

MDMA Overdose

MDMA affects the body’s ability to control body temperature. High doses of MDMA may result in a spike in body temperature that can eventually lead to liver, kidney and heart failure.

Symptoms of MDMA overdose include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Death

Life-threatening health problems may occur with high doses of MDMA. These include heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm, bleeding or swelling in the brain, liver failure, muscle breakdown, seizures and death.

How Long Does It Take Molly (MDMA) To Kick In?

When taken orally, the effects of MDMA kick in within 20 minutes to one hour. Levels of MDMA peak two hours after taking a dose. The peak is when the highest amount of MDMA is present in the body and the full effect of the drug is felt.

How Long Does MDMA Last?

The half-life of MDMA, which is the amount of time it takes the body to eliminate half the drug from its system, is about eight hours. It takes about 40 hours, or five half-lives, to clear 95% of a single dose of MDMA from the body. The effects of MDMA may be felt for several hours after the initial high is over. The pleasurable effects of the drug seem to subside in about four to six hours, but side effects may linger while the body continues to clear the drug from the system.

People that use MDMA may try to increase or prolong the effects of the drug by “stacking” or “piggy-backing.” Stacking ecstasy tablets refers to taking three or more pills at once, while piggy-backing means taking several tablets in a short amount of time. 

What Does MDMA Look Like?

MDMA is available as colorful tablets with imprinted logos. These tablets often look like candies and may even be hidden in bags with candies as a way of disguising them. The logos imprinted on tablets may be used to tell different brands of ecstasy tablets apart from one another. Other forms of MDMA that may be used include capsules, powders and liquids. However, these forms are less common.

Is MDMA Addictive?

According to the National Institute of Health, there are conflicting reports on whether or not MDMA is addictive, and more research is needed. MDMA is commonly misused due to its ability to create a sense of euphoria. Individuals who use MDMA repeatedly may be at risk of developing MDMA addiction.

Signs of MDMA Addiction

Similar to other substance use disorders, there are warning signs to look for if MDMA addiction is suspected. Certain behaviors may be signs that a substance use disorder exists and help is needed. Signs of MDMA addiction or other substance use disorders may include:

  • Continuing to use drugs, even when it interferes with daily life
  • Being unable to stop or reduce use of the drug
  • Making excuses to use drugs
  • Missing work or school
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Feeling the need to use the drug daily
  • No longer taking part in activities because of drug use
  • Secretive behavior to hide drug use
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Using the drug when alone

MDMA Withdrawal

When a person who is regularly using MDMA suddenly stops, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal. Because MDMA greatly affects a person’s sense of feeling and well-being, signs and symptoms of MDMA withdrawal are often more psychological than physical. Individuals going through MDMA withdrawal may experience:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating

MDMA Addiction and Abuse Statistics

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.1 million people aged 12 years and older used hallucinogens like MDMA in the previous 12 months. Of those 7.1 million people who used hallucinogens in 2020, 6.7 million were aged 18 and older, and 2.4 million were between the ages of 18 and 25. 

Get Help for MDMA Addiction in South Jersey

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper provides help for those struggling with MDMA addiction, polysubstance use and co-occurring mental health conditions. Each individual is evaluated by a team of addiction specialists to develop specialized treatment plans addressing their specific needs. The facility offers several types of addiction treatment programs, from outpatient therapy to residential rehab, and provides a full continuum of care through every level of treatment. 

For some, medical detox may be the first step on the road to recovery. The Recovery Village provides 24-hour supervision by trained health professionals to ensure safety and comfort throughout the detox process. After detox, treatment plans focus on each individual’s needs and the long-term goal of remaining drug-free. If you or someone you know is using MDMA or struggling with polysubstance use, take the first step toward a drug-free life today. Contact The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper to speak with a helpful representative and learn more about treatment programs that can work well for you.

Get Help

If you or someone you love is facing an alcohol use disorder, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. We offer medical detox and comprehensive rehab programs that are tailored to suit your needs.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.