Ecstasy is the street name for MDMA or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Many people believe that ecstasy is pure MDMA but this is not the case. In most cases MDMA is just one ingredient that is found in tablets that are sold as ecstasy. Typically, ecstasy is made up of a mixture of MDMA, amphetamines, PCP, ketamine or methamphetamines plus binder ingredients such as chalk and glucose. Ecstasy can range in potency, reactions, size, color and shape. Ecstasy is a popular drug among clubbers and young people who take the drug recreationally to enhance the experience of clubbing and dance music. Ecstasy is usually taken orally though some people inhale, inject or take it in suppository form.


MDMA is a powerful psychoactive drug that produces feelings of euphoria, intimacy, self confidence and peacefulness. Pure MDMA is a salt that is white crystalline in appearance. It has a bitter taste and a chemical smell. MDMA does not decompose in heat, air or light. Levels of MDMA in ecstasy tablets can vary from very high to absent from the pills. On average, an ecstasy tablet will have only 10 per cent MDMA and research suggests that less than 15 per cent of ecstasy tablets contain ecstasy as the sole active ingredient..

MDMA has been found to be a successful drug for psychotherapy as it makes people open to discussing intimate thoughts, feeling close to others, acceptance and empathy. Prior to the drug being made illegal, therapists and psychiatrists successfully treated many patients who suffered from a range of conditions with MDMA. These include depression, drug addiction, phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tolerance and Addiction to Ecstasy

Ecstasy has not been found to be a physically addictive drug. MDMA is a relatively safe drug in terms of addiction levels. However, it should be noted that this may be different depending on the other ingredients in ecstasy tablets such as highly-addictive cocaine and methamphetamine. Ecstasy does have strong effects on people that are pleasurable and relaxing, and many users crave these feelings that the drug evokes, leading in some cases to psychological dependence. The drug is typically abused when going to events or social situations which raises concerns about increasing dependence on the drug in social settings.

Unlike other drugs like cocaine or heroin, tolerance to the drug builds up less rapidly, but users do crave the feeling the drug initially invoked. Users report needing more drugs to get the same high or that the drugs are not having the same effect. But more often than not, the drug does not get users high and they feel mild effects. Chronic users report feelings of depression and dysphoria that is exacerbated by continued use. As a result, many regular ecstasy users discontinue using the drug.

Appearance of Ecstasy

Commonly, ecstasy tablets are small, round and orange in color. Often these tablets are stamped with small pictures, letters or symbols. Ecstasy users often identify certain experiences with certain pill descriptions. For example, a small yellow pill with the letter A on it may represent a amphetamine-type of experience, or an acid-type of experience. These experiences do not, however, determine what reaction each person will have. Pills can vary in potency and purity of the drugs they contain. Because of the combinations that are often found in them, negative side effects can range as well.

Effects of Ecstasy

The effects of ecstasy typically are felt within 20-60 minutes of taking the drug. Users report a rush of warmth, nervousness and euphoria followed by a generalized feeling of well being. Reports of things appearing brighter, more interesting or beautiful are also common along with a strong urge to touch, speak and be with other people. The drugs effect on the body can range from mild to severe and can include rapid eye-shakes, nausea, dizziness, jaw clenching, an increased body temperature, heavy sweating and dilated pupils.

If an ecstasy tablet contains other drugs such as speed, PCP, ketamine or LSD, the user will report side effects that are associated with these drugs. These may include increased alertness, lack of appetite, body shakes, heaviness of limbs or hallucinations. Anxiety, paranoia, diarrhea, nervousness, vomiting and severe headaches are some other effects which may be felt. Regular users can typically identify the substances that their pills are made up of depending upon the experience they have.

Side Effects of Ecstasy

Negative side effect of taking ecstasy include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increased sweating, dehydration, muscle cramps. Because the drug has stimulative effects, some people may experience severe dehydration and hypothermia and increase in blood temperature when they take this drug at a music festival or dance club.

There have been reports of people suffering from muscle failure, kidney or liver disease or cardiovascular failure associated with their ecstasy use. Individuals who suffer from heart conditions, have a history of liver or kidney problems or those who are hypersensitive to drugs should not take ecstasy as the results could be fatal. Ecstasy has also reported to interact with several different kinds of anti-depressants which can cause a person to have a severe reaction. Symptoms of this include panic attack, heat exhaustion, severe confusion and dizziness. Medical treatment should be sort immediately if a person experiences any of these symptoms.

Ecstasy has a number of after-effects which include depression, anxiety, insomnia and what is referred to as a come-down. Many drug users report a crash when the drug wears off leaving them feeling listless, flat and sad. These feelings can last between a few hours and a few days. In the clubbing scene, people discuss this phenomenon as the terrible Tuesdays. This refers to the length of time that people feel depressed after taking the drug on the weekend.

Rise in Popularity of Ecstasy

Although ecstasy, or MDMA, was first developed in the earth 20th Century, the popularity of the drug did not increase until the 1980’s when it became a popular drug in the USA gay scene. Prior to this time, the drug had been used in a therapeutic or mind-altering way amongst psychotherapists and those who took other mind-altering drugs such as LSD and acid. Once the drug became popular in the gay scene, it grew in popularity immensely. The drug was scheduled as an illegal drug in 1986. Rather than stopping or restricting the use of the drug, the interest in the drug rose even more, and more people began trying it.

As a result of scheduling of ecstasy, media publicity increased demand for the drug. Positive reports about the experience did not include any of the negative side effects that cocaine, LSD or heroin offered. Individuals who had used the drug for therapeutic reasons described positive euphoria, closeness to people, empathy and love that came from using the drug. Clubbers described fun, exciting and interesting night events where everyone was their friend.

Throughout the late 1980’s up until the present, ecstasy use has increased dramatically. Recreational use of ecstasy is common amongst young adults who use it regularly. However, there has been development of new combinations of drugs with MDMA, especially methamphetamines and ketamine. This change in the type of chemical makeup has contributed to some negative reports of drug use and side effects associated with the use of ecstasy.