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Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy has gained popularity as a party drug and is most commonly used by young adults at nightclubs and similar venues. Ecstasy users seek its effects on creativity, energy, and inhibition reduction. However, this club drug’s short- and long-term impacts can result in significant health problems, including drug addiction and even death.

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What Is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug most likely found in rave and club scenes, festivals, and other party environments.

Ecstasy’s pharmacological name is “3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine,” or MDMA for short.

Some other common street names used for ecstasy include:

  • XTC
  • E
  • Molly
  • Beans
  • Lover’s Speed

Ecstasy is an amphetamine derivative, making it a psychoactive drug that alters moods and perceptions by increasing serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels. Many people take it to have feelings of euphoria and increase their confidence.

Ecstasy is a cross between a hallucinogen and a stimulant, so the effects of MDMA cause people to have much lower inhibitions.

As a result, ecstasy users often participate in much riskier behavior—such as dancing all night without drinking water or engaging in sexual behaviors with strangers.

Classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, ecstasy carries a high risk for abuse.

Ecstasy Abuse and Addiction

Because ecstasy is illegal, any use at all qualifies as drug abuse.

Ecstasy causes dehydration, raised body temperatures, and even electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to brain swelling. People taking this drug at raves and clubs usually dance, contributing to increased body temperature, dehydration, and lost electrolytes.

Ecstasy users are often unaware of these bodily changes and are not likely to make sure they are drinking enough water, potentially leading to other health issues like collapse and other dangers.

Prolonged ecstasy use negatively affects areas of the brain involved with emotion formation and processing, behavioral learning, and sensory and motor function.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

There is debate about whether MDMA addiction is a potential consequence of using ecstasy.

For instance, ecstasy impacts serotonin and norepinephrine much more than it affects dopamine, making it different from many other addictive drugs.

However, other data suggests that just because ecstasy impacts our brain’s neurotransmitters differently doesn’t mean it won’t still cause physical dependence or eventually lead to developing a substance use disorder.

Ultimately, research suggests that ecstasy is more likely to be addictive than not.

Many individuals who used ecstasy have reported common signs of physical dependence, such as experiencing cravings or withdrawals when stopping MDMA use.

Others report struggling with quitting ecstasy despite the negative consequences that it has begun to have in their regular lives.

Potential signs that someone may be experiencing an MDMA addiction include:

  • Being unable to cut back or stop using ecstasy
  • Cravings for ecstasy
  • Isolating yourself from friends or family so you can use ecstasy
  • Lying about ecstasy use
  • Challenge performing daily tasks
  • Financial struggles
  • Legal issues as a result of using ecstasy
  • Mood changes
  • Depression
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Side Effects of Ecstasy Use

The effects of ecstasy may vary depending on several factors, including how much you’ve taken and whether other drugs are present.

Anytime someone uses ecstasy, they risk facing some of the short-term side effects that ecstasy can cause.

The most common short-term side effects of ecstasy include:

  • Fast breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased feelings of empathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Teeth clenching
  • Nausea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia
  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Increased sex drive
  • Anxiety

Using ecstasy over a long period (several hours) or repeatedly in the long term can produce the following effects:

  • Damage to brain cells
  • Liver damage
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression
  • Risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections due to unprotected sex
  • The desire to use other drugs (e.g., benzodiazepines or alcohol) to minimize the side effects of ecstasy

Additional research also shows that, in otherwise healthy adults, long-term and permanent health conditions can arise from ongoing ecstasy use, including cognitive impairment.

Ecstasy Overdose

Ecstasy is extremely dangerous, particularly if taken in large amounts, as it can lead to an overdose. With a combination of the drug’s powerful stimulants and a high risk of user error, ecstasy can be potentially fatal.

Someone who is experiencing an ecstasy overdose will likely display some of the following signs:

  • High body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle spasm
  • Irritability/aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizure

What Should I Do if Someone Has Overdosed On Ecstasy?

If you suspect someone is experiencing an ecstasy overdose, you can follow these steps to keep them as stable and safe as possible until they can get the help they need:

  1. Immediately call 911
  2. Confirm if the victim is responsive
  3. Stay with the victim until help arrives
  4. Provide all relevant information to the emergency services, including other drugs the victim may have taken.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

In most cases, managing recovery from an ecstasy addiction will require some form of professional treatment.

The level of treatment you require will depend on several factors, such as how long you’ve been using ecstasy, your age and overall health, or whether you have any co-occurring issues affecting your well-being.

Ecstasy Detox

Ecstasy detox occurs as a natural result of quitting regular ecstasy use. During a medical detox, your body eliminates the remaining ecstasy from your system.

Healthcare professionals run inpatient drug detox programs in carefully controlled environments and offer several resources to help you remain healthy. However, outpatient programs are just as effective for detoxing from ecstasy.

Your doctor or healthcare provider can help you choose the best detox treatment option.

In some cases, ecstasy users have reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms when quitting the drug. In many cases, ecstasy withdrawal symptoms will occur within 3 to 4 days of abstinence from the drug but can persist for a week or more.

Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Drug cravings
  • Agitation/irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

Ecstasy Rehab Programs

Several ecstasy addiction treatment programs offer a variety of features and levels of care depending on your individual needs.

All ecstasy rehab programs combine counseling and psychological treatments with behavior therapy to help the person quit their addiction and avoid relapse.

Some of the most common treatment center options for managing drug addiction recovery, including ecstasy addiction, are as follows—

  • Inpatient Rehab Program: Because ecstasy is a powerful drug, some individuals may need inpatient treatment to combat this addiction. These residential rehab programs provide strong routines, structure, and access to medical care if needed.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): PHPs are outpatient programs that provide therapy and medical care (when needed) at a rehab facility but allow the patient to return home at the end of each day. In some ways, PHPs bridge residential programs and less-intensive outpatient rehab.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): An IOP offers flexible individualized treatment at a much lower intensity than inpatient or partial hospitalization rehab programs. IOP can be great for individuals with minor ecstasy addiction or for recovering addicts who are transitioning out of an inpatient or partial hospitalization program.
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Ecstasy Statistics

Understanding ecstasy use and addiction statistics can help us better understand what motivates ecstasy users and, therefore, how to provide them with support when quitting as well as how to prevent MDMA use in the first place.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports the following statistics on the use of ecstasy:

  • Ecstasy use is most common in young adults aged 18-25, with 12.8% reporting having tried it at least once in their lifetime
  • About 2.2 million people reported using ecstasy at least once in 2021
  • Overdose deaths from psychostimulants (including MDMA) increased by 37% from 2020 to 2021
  • In 2021, more than 30% of ALL drug overdose deaths involved a psychostimulant of some kind

Support for People Facing Addiction to Ecstasy

Understanding or coping with addiction can be difficult, especially for friends and family members who aren’t sure how to help.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers free, confidential resources for both addicted people and their loved ones.

Visit SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) for details about local treatment centers or referrals for addiction and recovery services near you.

If you’re battling addiction issues related to ecstasy and want help, learn more about treatment and therapy options.

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Ecstasy Addiction FAQs

Why do people use ecstasy?

As an amphetamine derivative, ecstasy can cause feelings of euphoria, confidence, and extreme sociability. These qualities make ecstasy popular among nightclubs, raves, and similar party scenes.

What other drugs are often used along with ecstasy?

Ecstasy often appears alongside other club drugs, such as:

  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • Rohypnol
  • LSD

Is ecstasy illegal?

Yes, ecstasy (also known as MDMA or molly) is illegal.

In 1985, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified ecstasy as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD. Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

How is ecstasy taken?

People usually take MDMA as a tablet or capsule (Molly), but it can also be taken as a liquid or snorted as a powder.

What is the difference between ecstasy, molly, and MDMA?

MDMA is the only scientifically-approved common name for this drug, though it is better known by its slang terms “ecstasy” and “molly.”

Since MDMA is illegal, the risk of purchasing this drug is extremely high, as it could be cut with other drugs (like fentanyl), increasing the overdose risk.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. 2021 NSDUH Detailed Tables. (2023). The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  2. 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine Toxicity – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf. (n.d.).
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, August 23). Stimulant Overdose. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. Drug Facts- LSD, Mushrooms, MDMA, Cannabinoids, Cathinones. Drug Policy Alliance. (2023, June 14).
  5. Ecstasy or MDMA (also known as Molly). DEA. (n.d.).
  6. Kalant, H. (2001, October 2). The Pharmacology and Toxicology of “Ecstasy” (MDMA) and Related Drugs. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal.
  7. Kelly, P. A. (2000, August). Does Recreational Ecstasy Use Cause Long-Term Cognitive Problems?. The Western Journal of Medicine.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023a, February 3). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023b, February 17). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).
  10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021a, April 13). Is MDMA Addictive?. National Institutes of Health.
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021b, April 13). What Are the Effects of MDMA?. National Institutes of Health.
  12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, October 2). How Are MDMA Use Disorders Treated?. National Institutes of Health.

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