Ecstasy Abuse and Addiction Statistics
Ecstasy, or “molly” is a popular synthetic drug in the rave and nightclub scene alongside ketamine, GHB, and LSD. While there is some debate on ecstasy’s addictiveness, many users have experienced dependence on the drug’s pleasurable effects. With long-term abuse, ecstasy can cause damage to the serotonin center of the brain and the liver. Combined with how often street ecstasy is mixed with other drugs, ecstasy can pose serious danger when abused.
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Ecstasy Abuse Statistics
Ecstasy (a.k.a. Molly, MDMA, and XTC) is a psychoactive hallucinogenic drug that can alter a person’s mood or perception.
Ecstasy is often abused due to the drug’s highly euphoric and happy effects on the brain by increasing serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels. These effects have made ecstasy a rave music and club scene staple.
- According to SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people aged 12 or older, 0.8% (2.2 million people) reported the use of ecstasy in the past year.
- The percentage of ecstasy use was highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (7.1% or 2.4 million people), followed by adults aged 26 or older (2.1% or 4.7 million people), then by adolescents aged 12 to 17 (1.3% or 347,000 people).
- Around 594,000 people reported using MDMA in the past month.
Ecstasy Addiction Statistics
Unfortunately, there are few statistics on rates of addiction to ecstasy. Research varies as to ecstasy’s risk of addiction or even whether it is addictive at all.
Although many people have reported feeling addicted to ecstasy, the few clinical studies on the drug have indicated ecstasy is at least less addictive than other drugs.
Because ecstasy floods the brain with serotonin and norepinephrine, some users may become dependent on the resulting euphoria and positive feelings, thus continually seeking it out.
Ecstasy Overdose Statistics
Because ecstasy tablets are highly unregulated and often mixed with other drugs like ketamine and amphetamines, overdose can happen easily. The risk worsens when considering that many ecstasy users tend to mix the drug with alcohol and cannabis.
The biggest dangers of ecstasy overdose are potential dehydration, heat stroke, and hyperthermia. In addition, ecstasy’s popularity as a club drug means that many users are sweating and exerting themselves for hours, often unaware of their own dehydration and chill.
- According to the 2017 Global Drug Survey, around 1.2% of ecstasy users worldwide visited the emergency room due to drug use within 12 months before the survey.
- Research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that nearly 23% of all drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved psychostimulants like ecstasy.
- There are very few cases of overdose death where ecstasy was the only drug involved.
Negative Health Effects of Ecstasy Use
Ecstasy sold on the street is seldom pure MDMA and often gets mixed with other drugs like cocaine, ketamine, and amphetamines. Therefore, many ecstasy users don’t always know what they’re actually taking.
Common short-term effects of ecstasy use include:
- Elevated sex drive
- Bursts of energy
- Increased confidence
- Increased empathy
- Heightened sensory perception
- Teeth clenching
- Fast breathing
- Dilated pupils
- High blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Reduced appetite
- Blurred vision
Additionally, the long-term effects of MDMA use include:
- Damage to brain cells
- Damage to the brain’s serotonin center
- Lack of concentration
- Risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections due to unprotected sex
- Needing other drugs like benzodiazepines or alcohol to minimize ecstasy’s side effects
- Liver damage
Ecstasy and Polydrug Use
Polydrug use is the practice of mixing multiple substances to enhance the “high” or counteract the effects of other drugs. Common mixtures may include alcohol, prescription drugs, and/or illicit drugs.
While there are no current statistics on ecstasy and polydrug use, the drug’s popularity in raves and clubs means ecstasy is often mixed with alcohol and cannabis.
These mixtures can become dangerous as ecstasy can affect the person’s judgment, making them less aware of how much of another substance they’ve consumed.
In addition, the risk of dehydration is already quite high with ecstasy, especially in a setting where dancing and jumping around are common. Mixing other substances with ecstasy can worsen dehydration and lead to dangerous side effects.
Ecstasy Addiction Statistics by Race
Limited recent data shows that ecstasy use by race is more common in multiracial, white, and Hispanic users.
According to SAMHSA, Ecstasy use in 2021 was:
- 5% Multiracial
- 9% White Non-Hispanic
- 4% Hispanic
- 7% Black Non-Hispanic
- 4% Asian
Ecstasy Abuse in Young People
In the 2000s and 2010s, ecstasy use in high school students was rising, triggering a notable awareness and prevention campaign.
Thankfully, rates of teen ecstasy use have steadily declined over the past 10 years.
- According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2022, an estimated 0.6% of 8th graders, 0.7% of 10th graders, and 1.4% of 12th graders reported using MDMA in the past 12 months.
- Research from SAMHSA shows that the percentage of ecstasy use is highest among young adults aged 18 to 25 (7.1 percent or 2.4 million people).
Ecstasy Abuse Statistics in Women vs. Men
Ecstasy use between men and women is pretty even, with a slightly increased rate in men than women. However, there’s evidence that ecstasy may be more dangerous for women than men.
MDMA causes bodies to retain more water, sometimes leading to dangerous brain swelling. Women are more at risk from this effect due to the female hormone estrogen, which impairs cells’ ability to release water.
- According to data from SAMHSA, males are somewhat more likely to have used MDMA than females.
- A study from the Australian School of Psychology and Psychiatry showed that men tend to take higher doses of ecstasy than women.
- Female ecstasy users were more likely to report increased harm following ecstasy, (e.g., feelings of guilt and remorse, failing to do what was normally expected of them, and having been told by others to cut down their ecstasy use).
- According to the Global Drugs Survey, women are now two to three times more likely to seek emergency treatment for ecstasy use than men.
Ecstasy Statistics in the LGBTQ+ Community
The LGBTQ+ community, particularly the gay community, has historically been early adopters of club drugs like ecstasy.
Gay men and trans women pioneered the development of dance music and nightlife in cities like San Francisco and New York City in the 70s and 80s.
Despite the enormous role the LGBTQ+ community has played in creating these spaces, ecstasy use has remained largely unreported or underreported.
To make matters worse, this demographic’s stigmatization and lack of access to treatment have led to tragedy over the decades.
- According to NEPTUNE (Novel Psychoactive Treatment UK Network), one-third (33.0%) of gay and bisexual men had used drugs in the last year, which was approximately three times higher than the proportion of heterosexual men who had done so (11.1%).
- Research posted in Social Work Today reports that the rate of substance abuse disorders among LGBTQ+ individuals may be as high as 20 to 30%, which is significantly more common than in the general population (9%)
Getting Help for Ecstasy Addiction
Ecstasy addiction treatment typically includes one-on-one therapy and group therapy. Depending on the severity of ecstasy addiction and any co-occurring mental health issues, inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment might be ideal.
At the core of treatment is therapy; many ecstasy addicts succeed with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying unhealthy thought patterns that lead to drug use.
Find Treatment for Ecstasy Abuse
If you or someone you know is dealing with ecstasy abuse or addiction, treatment options are available for your unique situation. To determine what treatment is best for you, ask your doctor or addiction specialist what options best fit your needs.
You can use SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-877-726-4727 (HELP) to find a treatment facility or addiction specialist in your area that can go over options with you.
FAQs About Ecstasy Statistics
How common is ecstasy addiction?
According to SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people aged 12 or older, 0.8% (2.2 million people) reported using Ecstasy in the past 12 months.
Unfortunately, beyond SAMHSA’s reporting, there is little research on how common ecstasy addiction is or if it’s even that addictive at all. While many people have reported experiencing ecstasy addiction, data is still limited until further studies can be done.
What age range most commonly uses ecstasy?
The highest percentage of ecstasy use is among young adults aged 18 to 25 (7.1% or 2.4 million people). While ecstasy use was once concerningly high among teens in the 2000s and early 2010s, those numbers have declined over the past 10 years.
What is the percentage of ecstasy deaths in 2021?
According to the CDC, nearly 23% of all drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved psychostimulants like ecstasy. However, it’s important to note that very few of these cases of death were caused by ecstasy alone. In most cases, ecstasy was only involved and not the sole case of death.
What is the percentage of people who have tried ecstasy at least once in their lives?
According to the SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 18 million people in the United States have tried MDMA at least once in their lifetime.
How many young people use ecstasy?
According to SAMSHA, in 2021, 7.1%, or 2.4 million young adults aged 18 to 25 used ecstasy. Only 1.3% or 347,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 reported using ecstasy in 2021.