Ecstasy Misuse and Effects

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug often taken at nightclubs, music festivals or other party-like environments to enhance mood and boost energy. Many people, especially young people, believe it to be harmless; however, it has many risks and dangers, and in some cases it may even be deadly.1,2

This article will go into further detail about what ecstasy is, what the side effects of misuse are, and what treatment options for ecstasy addiction are available.

What Is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is the most common street name for the drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a manmade substance that produces both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects.1 Primarily used by teens and young adults at raves, clubs, and festivals, ecstasy has become increasingly popular among older adults and is sometimes used in other settings as well.2

MDMA tablets

Ecstasy is known by multiple street names, such as:1

  • Molly.
  • MDMA.
  • E.
  • X.
  • XTC.
  • Beans.

Whether ecstasy is addictive is a question with no definitive answer. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, certain signs indicate ecstasy’s misuse and addiction potential including the fact that animals will self-administer ecstasy and that some users experience tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms like those discussed above.16

Regardless of whether ecstasy is addictive or whether you meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder, any excessive use of a drug, including ecstasy, that interferes with your relationships, job, or health may require treatment.

What Does Ecstasy Feel Like?

Ecstasy acts on certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, to create a number of desirable short-term effects. The intoxicating effects of ecstasy may include:1,2

  • Increased energy and alertness.
  • Increased feelings of pleasure and happiness.
  • Feelings of closeness with others.
  • Increased empathy and emotional warmth.
  • Increased sexual/sensual arousal.
  • Desire for touch/hugs.
  • Altered perceptions of time.
  • Distorted senses.

Effects of Ecstasy

Depending on how strong the dose, the high from an ecstasy tablet begins within 30 to 45 minutes of ingestion and may last between 3 and 6 hours. It’s common for users to prolong the high by taking another dose as the effects begin to wear off. 1,2,5 With repeated doses or very high doses, more negative side effects may occur in greater number or greater intensity.6

Side Effects of Ecstasy Misuse

woman suffering from sweating as a side effect from taking ecstasy

Not all of the effects of ecstasy are desirable. The feelings of pleasure and warmth may come with negative physical and psychological side effects that include:1,2,6

  • Increased heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Chills and sweating.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Teeth clenching.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Confusion.
  • Impaired decision-making and/or reckless or bizarre behaviors.
  • Agitation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Depersonalization.
  • Derealization.

Some symptoms of psychological distress, such as anxiety, may begin during active intoxication and may persist or worsen during and after the ecstasy comedown.2

Can You Die from Ecstasy?

Many people wonder about ecstasy overdose symptoms and whether you can die from its use. In reality, it’s not so much taking toxic amounts of ecstasy (overdosing) that is the main worry, but rather other risks that can arise even with just one dose.


One of the most serious physical health risks of ecstasy use (especially in high or repeated doses) is a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), as the drug hampers the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature.1 The prolonged dancing and hot, crowded environments that are commonly associated with ecstasy use can increase the risk of hyperthermia and the related harms.7

Ecstasy-induced hyperthermia can be deadly and may cause:1,8

  • Rhabdomyolysis (a life-threatening breakdown of muscle contents into the bloodstream).
  • Liver damage.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Cardiovascular shutdown.


Ecstasy users may also suffer a very serious life-threatening condition known as hyponatremia. Ecstasy can induce symptoms like dry mouth, sweating, fever, and thirst, so many people will consume a great deal of water while on the drug.9 Overconsumption of water combined with an MDMA-induced inappropriate release of a certain antidiuretic hormone can lead to hyponatremia, which may result in: 9,10

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Changes in mental status.
  • Brain swelling.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

Women may be more at risk of hyponatremia when using ecstasy than men.9

Serotonin Toxicity

Another serious risk that may arise among ecstasy users who also take antidepressants is a condition known as serotonin syndrome. This occurs when a quick, sharp rise in serotonin concentration happens in the central nervous system.11

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can occur rapidly and may include:12

  • Restlessness.
  • Agitation.
  • Rapid heart high.
  • High blood pressure or rapid blood pressure changes.
  • Abnormal eye movements.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Changes in mental status.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Shivering.
  • Tremors.

Without treatment, serotonin syndrome may result in death.12

Can Ecstasy Contain Other Drugs?

Ecstasy may contain any number of other drugs. In some cases, a drug sold as ecstasy may not even contain ecstasy. Some of these other drugs may be relatively harmless (such as cough suppressants). However, ecstasy that isn’t pure often contains other drugs like cocaine, bath salts, PCP, opioids, or amphetamines and may be lethal to unsuspecting users.13

Detox and Withdrawal From Ecstasy

woman suffering from ecstasy comedown and withdrawal

The effects that may present themselves after an episode of ecstasy use can be severe. The term “Suicide Tuesday” is sometimes used to describe the depressed mood that many people experience after ecstasy wears off.14

The ecstasy comedown may bring about symptoms that include:14

  • Lethargy.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Depression.

The negative mental health effects of effects may become worse over time with continued use. Repeated ecstasy use can cause problems with the brain’s ability to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is very important to a person’s ability to feel happy and satisfied.14,15 Not having enough serotonin can cause: 14

  • More or worse symptoms of depression.
  • Impulsive behaviors.
  • Aggression.
  • Problems with making good decisions.

Treating Ecstasy Misuse

As with any other type of addiction, ecstasy addiction can be effectively treated with the appropriate interventions. The type of programming that an individual participates in is dependent on several factors, such as the severity of their addiction, how long they have been using for, and if they have any other physical or psychological problems that are simultaneously occurring. Available programming options include the following:

  • Medical detox – Medical detox is often viewed as the first stage of addiction treatment.17 Individuals who are experiencing physical dependence on an addictive substance like ecstasy can benefit from the supervision and 24/7 care provided through detox.
  • Inpatient treatment – Inpatient treatment is designed for those individuals who can benefit from around-the-clock care. During their program, they will remain at the treatment facility to participate in evidence-based therapies and possibly begin medications designed to help bring further stability into their lives.
  • Outpatient treatment – Outpatient treatment programs, including partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and standard outpatient treatment, requires patient participation in treatment at the facility. Those who are in an outpatient program, however, do not need to live at the facility, rather can reside at home or in a sober living environment for the duration of their care.

By speaking with an addiction treatment facility, you can start working with trained professionals who can help place you in the appropriate level of care so that you can begin recovering from ecstasy addiction once and for all.

How to Find Ecstasy Treatment Near Me

Compulsive drug use often occurs as a misguided attempt to deal with underlying issues such as a mental health disorder or untreated psychological trauma.18 At Recovery First, we don’t just address your drug use; we address the whole person with treatment that includes care for co-occurring disorders such as depression.

If you’re struggling with an inability to stop misusing ecstasy or any other substance, we can help. We offer a variety of programs equipped to meet your needs, from inpatient rehab to outpatient programs. Our admissions navigators are here to talk to you 24/7, and every conversation is completely confidential. Call us at today to find out more about insurance options, ways to pay for rehab, and how you can get started on a life of recovery.

Take the first step in the treatment process right now by verifying your insurance with our secure online

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