Frequently Asked Questions About Ecstasy

By Drew W. Edwards, M.S., and Mark S. Gold, M.D.
6 Feb 2001

What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy (also known as XTC, X, Adam and MDMA) is a dangerous, illegal drug that has effects similar to those of amphetamines and hallucinogens.

How is the drug used?
MDMA is generally sold in 100- to 150-mg tablets, with the active dose ranging from 50 mg to as high as 300 mg. Although most users ingest MDMA, some users dissolve the pure powder and either inject it into their veins or insert it into their anus.

Is the drug addictive?
MDMA has a relatively low addiction potential. Reports of compulsive use and daily use have appeared in the medical literature. It is clear that the drug is addictive for some and can often take on great importance in people's lives. Because MDMA's desired effects decrease with its continued use, daily use is less common for MDMA than it is for other stimulants.

What are the effects of the drug, and how long do they last?
MDMA, which begins to take effect within 20 to 40 minutes, produces little rushes of exhilaration that can be accompanied by nausea. The user feels the peak effects 60 to 90 minutes after taking the drug and the effects typically last for 3 to 6 hours. At low to moderate dosages, users report that MDMA produces understanding and acceptance of others. Users feel as though barriers disappear, and they feel less emotionally and sexually inhibited. Psychological effects include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, severe anxiety and paranoia. Psychotic episodes have also been reported. These effects sometimes occur weeks after taking MDMA. Physical symptoms include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness and chills or sweating.

Is the drug really dangerous?
As with any drug, some people may be extremely sensitive to MDMA. For such people, even a single dose change personality or cause panic disorder and depression; at times a single dose can even cause death. Even users who are not extremely sensitive face a variety of risks. Increases in heart rate and blood pressure present a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease. There is some concern that MDMA may cause kidney problems as a result of the toxic effects associated with an increase in body temperature. Also, there is real danger of permanent brain damage. Possible causes for deaths associated with MDMA including the body overheating, heatstroke and dehydration stemming from dancing all night in hot clubs.

Does the drug cause psychiatric problems?
MDMA use can either stimulate or intensify an existing psychiatric disorder. Both its use and withdrawal from use can cause psychiatric symptoms and mimic psychiatric syndromes. Psychiatric and MDMA disorders, however, don't have to be present together. They can exist independently of one another.

Does the drug have different effects on men and women?
Women who use MDMA seem to have more negative personality changes, sleep disturbances and depletion of dopamine and serotonin in the brain than do men. The drug also increases a woman's risk for miscarriage.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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