Ecstasy (Molly) Use: Effects, Risks & Addiction

Ecstasy (MDMA) is an illicit drug that produces mild sensory effects, feelings of emotional openness and closeness to others, as well as elevated mood and enhanced energy.1 As of 2021, over 21 million Americans (7.5%) aged 12 and older had used ecstasy at least once in their lifetimes, and nearly 2.2 million (0.8%) had used ecstasy in the past year.2

Read on to learn more about the effects and risks associated with ecstasy and how to get help if you or a loved one has lost control of their ecstasy use.

What Is Ecstasy (Molly)?

Ecstasy and Molly are common street names for the illegal synthetic drug MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine). Ecstasy is considered both a stimulant and hallucinogen that can produce a range of effects, from increased energy and emotional warmth to mild distortions in time, altered sensory experiences, and symptoms of derealization and depersonalization.3,4

MDMA initially gained traction with adolescents and young adults as a club drug used at raves or all-night dance parties, but today its use has become more mainstream and is especially popular among young males aged 18–25.5

Research indicates that MDMA is also prevalent among gay or bisexual men and women, with studies showing they are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to have recently used the drug and to report harm associated with using the drug.5

Ecstasy typically refers to MDMA found in colorful tablets with imprinted logos or capsules, while Molly typically refers to the powder form of MDMA, usually sold in powder or capsules. People usually take MDMA by snorting the powder or crushed pill or by swallowing the tablet or capsule.3,6

Effects of Ecstasy

While most people take ecstasy to feel its subjective desirable effects, the drug can also cause other side effects. Potential side effects of Molly (MDMA) include:4,6

  • Headache.
  • Sweating or chills.
  • Nausea.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Jaw clenching.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Confusion or illogical thoughts.
  • Dangerously high body temperature (hyperthermia).

People often take repeat or multiple doses of ecstasy, as the desired effects of the first dose begin to wear off. This can increase the likelihood and severity of adverse effects.3,4

Ecstasy (Molly) Risks & Dangers

In some cases, ecstasy use can pose serious risks to a person’s health and well-being. These potential dangers include:4

  • Hyperthermia, or a sharp rise in body temperature that can be life-threatening and may lead to kidney failure and brain swelling. Although rare, the risk of overheating is increased with the intense physical activity and settings that often accompany ecstasy use (e.g., raves).
  • Greater likelihood of personal injury or harm to others. The way ecstasy affects a person’s sensory perceptions (especially when combined with other substances, like alcohol) can make it very dangerous to drive a car or perform similarly complex tasks while under the influence, increasing the risk of car accidents and other potentially hazardous situations.
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors. Studies show that people who take ecstasy are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as having unprotected sex and more sexual partners and initiating sex before the age of 14.

Additionally, there is some limited evidence that suggests regular or long-term use of MDMA can lead to decreased cognitive function.4

Can You Overdose on Ecstasy?

Yes, a fatal overdose on ecstasy alone is uncommon but possible. In extreme and rare cases, taking even a single dose of ecstasy can lead to life-threatening complications.10

An overdose is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else is experiencing an overdose, call 911 right away.

Signs of a possible ecstasy overdose include:4,10

  • Unusually high blood pressure.
  • Dizziness or faintness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Seizures.

Studies show that ecstasy is often consumed with other substances, which can increase the risk of overdose.10,11 Additionally, variances in the drug’s chemical makeup and psychoactive ingredients (see box) can also further a person’s risk of experiencing serious health effects.1

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

Researchers remain conflicted about the addiction potential of ecstasy. Studies show that the drug affects many of the same areas in the brain impacted by other addictive drugs.12

There are also reports of continued ecstasy use despite the negative consequences, tolerance, withdrawal, and cravings—which are all key indicators of addiction, also known as a substance use disorder.12,13 Additionally, it is more common for a person to have an MDMA use disorder than with classic hallucinogens, such as LSD.14

Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Though there is no recognized withdrawal syndrome for MDMA, some people who use ecstasy regularly for prolonged periods report experiencing certain symptoms if they attempt to suddenly stop or cut back their use. These include:1

  • Fatigue.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Depression.
  • Trouble concentrating.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment in Orange County

If you or someone you know is struggling with problematic ecstasy use or addiction, professional treatment can help.

Behavioral interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are the cornerstone of addiction treatment. CBT can help people with addiction reframe negative thoughts and behaviors related to substance use and develop positive coping skills that promote sustained recovery.15,16

At Laguna Treatment Center, we offer different types of addiction treatment and personalized care designed to meet the individual needs of each patient.

For more information about our programs, how to pay for rehab, or using insurance to pay for rehab, contact us at . Our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help start the admissions process.

Or you can fill out this quick and confidential to instantly verify your insurance coverage with us.

Don’t let the devastating consequences of addiction go on. Our Orange County rehab is ready to help you begin the path to recovery today.

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