MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), also known as Molly or Ecstasy, among dozens of street names, is a powerful stimulant and hallucinogenic drug that became extremely popular in clubs beginning in the late 80s and peaking in the late 2000s. While it is no longer as widespread as it was in previous decades, its use remains high in many subcultures, particularly those associated with dance clubs.1,2,3
Because of its use in clubs, the drug is referenced in many popular songs, particularly those intended to be played in those venues. Over the decades, thousands of deaths have been attributed to MDMA toxicity, polydrug use involving MDMA, or dehydration following MDMA use.3
Here we’ll briefly look into a dangerous substance that has, even with its niche use, has managed to loom large in youth culture. If you suspect that you or someone in your home has problems with MDMA, you can get in touch with our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to learn more.
How Is MDMA Used?
MDMA is most often ingested in tablet or capsule form. It can also be found in powder or suspended in a liquid solution, which could be snorted, vaped, or injected. It has strong stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that many users find pleasurable in the context of a dance club or house party with loud music.3
How Does MDMA Affect the Brain?
MDMA has a very pronounced effect on the dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. The drug causes levels of these three chemicals to rise, leading to the characteristic effects associated with MDMA.1
More specifically, these chemicals do the following:1
- Dopamine. This chemical is responsible for producing motivation and regulating the brain’s reward centers. MDMA increases the supply of dopamine, which in turn reinforces its use.1
- Serotonin. MDMA’s signature effects are mostly due to the increase of this chemical. Higher levels of serotonin releases hormones responsible for sexual arousal and trust. The increase of serotonin causes the strong emotionality associated with MDMA use.1
- Norepinephrine. MDMA use raises levels of this, causing the drug’s stimulant effects, including increased heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. It also indirectly causes the signature heavy sweating associated with the drug.1
What Are The Effects of MDMA?
The way MDMA increases levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain causes several directly observable effects in humans.1,2
Effects of a typical dose of MDMA may last 3-6 hours, though many users will take another dose as soon as the effects of the first wear off. Short term effects of MDMA use may include:1,2
- Extreme emotionality
- Heightened empathy
- High fever
- Sexual arousal
- Tooth grinding
- Jaw clenching
- Panic attacks
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme thirst
Continued MDMA use is associated with the following:1,2
- Short-term memory loss
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased libido
- Kidney failure
- MDMA use disorder
Why Is MDMA So Dangerous?
Compared to many other street drugs, MDMA is associated with a comparatively high rate of hospitalization and death. The main reasons for this include:3
- Polydrug Use. The context of most MDMA use is as part of a club or party experience. This means that people who take MDMA often also have access to other substances used in clubs like alcohol, cocaine, ketamine, Rohypnol, and methamphetamines, to name a few. Unfortunately, interactions between different substances can be unpredictable, and often fatal.3
- Much of the MDMA being sold in clubs is contaminated with toxic fillers or other illicit substances that the buyer might not expect. This is usually done to further increase profits for dealers. This means that, at best, the MDMA you get at a club is adulterated with inert substances. At worst, it may even contain harsher drugs like methamphetamines or fentanyl. This makes it difficult for typical buyers of MDMA to assess their real risks.3
- Dehydration Risk. Without proper hydration, a person on MDMA can easily lose enough water through sweating to cause severe dehydration. This risk is more pronounced when dancing or in hot weather, as is the case for many summer music festivals. Regular use of MDMA without proper hydration can also lead to kidney damage, over time.3
Find Help for MDMA Misuse Today
MDMA might promise you a fun time, but many serious risks come with its use. It has many adverse effects that can put you at serious risk of hospitalization. Additionally, MDMA is extremely habit-forming and can cause long-term problems with regulating your emotions.
If you need help with MDMA or other substances, please get in touch with a qualified mental health professional for full diagnostics. You can also call Dallas Drug Treatment Centers at +1(214) 935-2287 to discuss your options.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 15). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, September). MDMA/ Ecstasy Abuse Research Report.
- Palamar, J. J., Fitzgerald, N. D., & Cottler, L. B. (2021). Shifting awareness among electronic dance music party attendees that drugs may contain fentanyl or other adulterants. The International journal on drug policy, 97, 103353. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103353