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Basic Facts About Ecstasy (MDMA)

A Mind Altering Synthetic Drug


Updated June 16, 2014

Ecstasy Pills

a Variety of Ecstasy Pills


Ecstasy or MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive (mind-altering) drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties. Its chemical structure is similar to two other synthetic drugs, MDA and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage.

Street Names

Adam, Xtc, X, Hug, Go, Hug Drug, Beans and Love Drug

What Is Ecstasy?

MDMA (Ecstasy) is an illegal synthetic drug, which acts as a hallucinogen and stimulant. Its chemical structure (3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is similar to two other synthetic drugs, MDA and methamphetamine, which are known to cause brain damage. It was originally developed as a diet aid, but was also used experimentally during counseling because of its ability to remove individual's inhibitions.

What Does Ecstasy Look Like?

Ecstasy comes in a tablet form that is often imprinted with graphic designs or commercial logos. See photos.

How Is It Taken?

Ecstasy is usually swallowed in pill form, but can also be crushed and snorted, injected, or used in suppository form.

Who Uses Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is popular among middle-class adolescents and young adults. It is sold at bars, underground nightclubs and at 'raves' (all night parties).

What Are the Effects of Ecstasy?

It is known for its energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception and enhanced enjoyment from physical experiences. The effect, per use, lasts from three to four hours. Its popularity grew in the late 1980s in the rave and club scenes and on college campuses because of its reputation for producing high energy and a 'trusting and opened' effect among those who take it.

What Are the Hazards of Ecstasy?

Ecstasy produces problems similar to those found among amphetamine and cocaine users. This can include:
  • Psychological problems
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Drug craving
  • Severe anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Psychotic episodes
The physical side effects that can occur while taking it can last for weeks. Users often experience muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating. MDMA is very dangerous for those individuals with circulatory or heart disease, because the drug increases the heart rate and blood pressure.

For those users who develop an acne like rash, an increase risk of liver damage and other side effects may result if they continue to use the drug.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

Almost 60 percent of people who use MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.

Do you think you may need treatment for drug abuse? Take the Drug Abuse Treatment Screening Quiz to find out.

Drug Purity

MDMA is often mixed with other drugs such as:
  • Ephedrine (a stimulant)
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM, a cough suppressant that has PCP-like effects at high doses)
  • Ketamine (an anesthetic used mostly by veterinarians that also has PCP-like effects)
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine
Combining or using drugs with MDMA, including marijuana and alcohol is dangerous and will put users at higher physical risk.


In a study using monkeys, exposure to Ecstasy for four days caused brain damage to serotonin nerve terminals that could still be seen up to seven years later, providing evidence that people who take Ecstasy may be risking permanent brain damage.

Researches believe the brain damage occurs because the drug, like methamphetamine, causes a degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine. Damage to these neurons causes the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease, beginning with a lack of coordination and uncontrollable tremors, which can progress to a form of paralysis.

Similar Drugs

The parent drug to Ecstasy (MDMA) is MDA, an amphetamine-like drug that has a similar chemical structure to MDMA. PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine, associated with fatalities in the U.S. and Australia) is also sometimes sold as MDMA.

National Institude on Drug Abuse
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

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