The Truth About Ecstasy

Adam. Love Drug. XTC. Ecstasy goes by many names, and it has been used by millions of teens and college students to get into the “party mood.” However, many people are unaware of the truth behind this sought after stimulant, so we thought we’d break it down for you.

What is it?

Ecstasy is a psychoactive drug that includes stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is most commonly sold as a small tablet, but can also come in crystal or powder form. According to NIDA for Teens, 3-4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, is the man-made drug that makes up a majority of the average ecstasy capsule, but other chemicals are usually added. Do Something says that a single tablet of ecstasy may also contain caffeine, components of cough syrup, and even cocaine. These chemical cocktails can be extremely dangerous, whether they’re taken often or in moderation.


How does it make you feel?

The stimulant properties increase brain activity, triggering the release of dopamine and serotonin (aka your happy chemicals). Hence, the common feelings of euphoria and bliss associated with the drug. An increase in serotonin can induce feelings of sexual arousal, which makes sense: Ecstasy is supposed to create feelings of “closeness,” even among strangers. As human beings, we are pleasure seekers, so it is only natural that the euphoric type of feeling produced by the drug is incredibly attractive. However, depending on what the Ecstasy is cut with and how your specific body reacts to the drug – everyone’s experience with Ecstasy can be different.


How long does it last?

Generally the effects begin to kick in anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes after popping the pill. Most users feel hyper alert. They become incredibly social with an overwhelming sense of connection or bond with, well, just about everyone. Depending on the intensity of the pill, ecstasy rolls can last anywhere between 4-10 hours. This is followed by a period of “come down.”

party drug

What’s the “come down” like?

After the warm and fuzzy feelings wear off, many Ecstasy users report feeling negative side effects. Your come down can go one of two ways. You’re a bit tired, but more or less fine OR you get a bad case of the Sunday (or whatever day it may be) Scaries. The latter can be pretty unpleasant. Users have reported side effects such as nausea, anxiety or agitation, extreme perspiration, and dizziness. Feelings of depression and fatigue are extremely popular, too. Most find that this peaks three or four days after they have taken the drug.

Is it safe?

If it were a “safe” drug, it probably wouldn’t be illegal now would it? That being said, if you are careful with how much you take and how often, the damaging side effects are less likely to affect you. But the fact of the matter is, many people are careless with their intake of the drug, and deaths associated with Ecstasy are on the rise. The biggest cause of death from the drug is dehydration, as Ecstasy alters the way bodies ability to regulate its temperature – resulting in overheating.

What are the long term effects?

Although this stimulant-hallucinogenic combo is supposed to make people feel happy, energetic, and social; it has very dark side effects.  The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids says that after a while, this drug begins to damage the cells that produce serotonin, causing your body to not function at normal capacity. Regular use may cause chronic depression, premature senility, memory impairment and even liver and kidney damage.

chart on the effects of ecstasy

Is it addictive?

Actually, no one really knows! Researchers of the drug, according to NIDA, are still unsure of whether or not it is addictive. What they have found, though, is that ecstasy targets the same neurotransmitters as other drugs that are classified as addictive. Researchers have also found that users of the love drug experience dependence and withdrawal, and other long-term users build a tolerance to it.

taking an ecstasy pill

Are there any therapeutic uses?

Therapeutic use for the drug is being researched, but is thus far unsuccessful. Ecstasy was used during psychotherapy in the 1970’s, but it was not supported by the FDA nor prior clinical trials, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 1985, it was classified as a Schedule I substance, which is a drug that has high potential for abuse without any recognized health benefits. Today, some scientists hope to explore its medical potential under strictly monitored conditions, and it is currently being tested to see if it can aid PTSD and cancer patients.

ecstasy research

Is it legal?

Nope. So if you plan on taking it, be careful. If you’ve ever been to a concert or music festival (the epicenter for Ecstasy use), you are probably aware that police officers monitor attendees. If you decide to take ecstasy during the festivities, keep in mind that there’s a possibility a police officer may notice your behavior and approach you. Say an officer stops to talk to you. You need to ask him or her if you are being either arrested or detained, and if so, why. If not, ask to leave. This step is important; if you just walk away, you are now considered a suspect in a potential crime. On the flip side, if the officer has probable cause to believe you are under the influence, and if he or she is Drug Recognition Expert, they can arrest you at any time.

How can you get it?

Your best bet for finding ecstasy is immersing yourself in the party scene and just asking around. Because the drug is illegal, the only way to get your hands on a pill is through an underground drug dealer – which aren’t necessarily hard to come by on most college campuses. If you do decide to see what the love drug is all about, expect to pay around $20-$40 per tablet.

Any advice for trying it?

When using Ecstasy, it’s important to stay close to people you know. As stated earlier, the effects of the drug itself will make you feel extremely social and friendly. Consider implementing something similar to the designated driver concept. You could always check in with a friend who is not taking Ecstasy, or always be within sight of that friend. Ecstasy has a way of dulling people’s decision making skills, so it’s important to be around people you trust.

Things to avoid?

Think back to the educational alcohol safety videos you had to watch in either high school or orientation. Many of the clips advise not consuming drinks when you didn’t see their preparation. The same principle rolls over to Ecstasy, in a way. You have no idea what combination of chemicals could be inside the powder or pills, so try to avoid accepting Ecstasy from people you don’t know or don’t trust. In the end, no one really knows what’s exactly in their specific pill (unless, of course, they are the ones who made it). The odds of getting pure ecstasy are always up in the air.

Can you overdose?

Yes. According to Project Know, Ecstasy overdose has many signs: headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, fevers, dizziness, and obviously, becoming unconscious. If you or a friend is experiencing signs of an overdose, it’s important to contact Poison Control or call for an ambulance. Remember: Ecstasy overdoses can be fatal. To prevent overdose all together, make sure you don’t take it on an empty stomach and that you drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Limit the number of pills you take, as well. Addiction Blog advises to base it off your weight. For every kilogram of your body weight (in case you don’t know, a kilogram is a little over two pounds) you can take about 1.5 mg of MDMA.


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Alexandra Smith

Alexandra Smith is majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Creative Writing. In her free time, she enjoys running, hanging out with family friends, and roaming the world with her camera in hand.