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Overview: Ecstasy



• "Ecstasy" is a recreational drug more formally known as MDMA ((+/-) 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine.)

• Usually taken in the form of small pills, MDMA typically takes 30-45 minutes to take effect and lasts for 3-5 hours. (After-effects may be felt for several days.)

• Popular among teenagers and young adults, MDMA is probably most often taken at homes in the US, but is best known for its association with all-night dance parties called 'raves'.

• MDMA works primarily by releasing serotonin, a neurotransmitter important in mood, sleep, and appetite.

• MDMA typically produces a 'high' consisting of relaxation, high energy levels, and euphoria ('joy'). MDMA is not a hallucinogen, although is can produce mild visual effects (colors seem brighter, textures may seem 'smoother'.)


Worshipping in the temple of techno: MDMA can greatly enhance the enjoyment of music.


• The rate of death from MDMA use is relatively low, far below that of alcohol, tobacco, and 'hard' drugs like heroin and cocaine. (Visit Statistics.)

• MDMA related injuries and deaths are often the result of heatstroke from overdose and/or prolonged dancing in nightclubs. (Heatstroke.)

• MDMA has a low potential for addiction, but addiction can occur. (MDMA and Addiction.)

• MDMA was permanently made illegal in the US in 1988. Possession or sale of MDMA can carry severe penalties. (History.)

• Before it became popular as a recreational drug, MDMA was widely used in therapy by psychiatrists. This work continues today under the leadership of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, which gained FDA approval for human MDMA experiments in the US in 2002.

• At high doses in animal experiments MDMA is neurotoxic, selectively damaging the axons of serotonin neurons. To date, even relatively heavy human recreational users have failed to show any clear long-term changes to their serotonin systems; the risk to human users appears to have been exaggerated. (Visit the Neurotoxicity page for more info and research results.)

• With frequent use (in some cases as little as once a month) MDMA can lead to memory and emotional problems such as anxiety. These symptoms usually go away with prolonged abstinance, but are best avoided through moderation. If you start to feel a little 'brittle' or in a fog, cut back.