MDMA (Ecstasy)

All drug use has risks. This page is for information only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have medical concerns about your drug use, please speak to a medical professional.

MDMA is the shortened chemical name for the synthetic psychoactive drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. MDMA can come in powder or crystal form and is also the active ingredient expected to be found in ecstasy pills. The amount of MDMA in ecstasy pills in Europe has been increasing over the last few years.

Other names

Ecstasy pill: ecstasy, E, eggs, sweeties, eccies, pingers, swedgers, wee fellas, yolks, pills, or tablets may be named by the logo on the front of the pill, MDMA powder/crystal: mandy, madman, molly (in North America), MD

Appearance

Ecstasy pill: Usually pressed into the shape of a distinctive logo and/or stamped on one or both sides. MDMA powder/crystal: A crystalline powder. The powder/crystal may be white, yellow, grey, purple or light brown in colour.

Drugs Wheel Category

Empathogens
(with stimulant properties)

Legality

Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) – Class A.

Penalties for possession are up to 7 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Penalties for supply are up to life in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

How it’s taken

Ecstasy pill: Most commonly swallowed but some people may grind up and snort or dab  MDMA powder/crystal: Most commonly swallowed in a “bomb” (powder wrapped in a cigarette paper or put in gel cap), but some people may grind up and snort or dab  Snorting is discouraged as this can be painful and can cause rapid soft tissue damage.

Dose

The following information on dosage was taken from PsychonautWiki, but this should not be taken as a recommendation: duration and effects of any drug will depend on purity, regularity of use, other medications or drugs you have taken, your body and how it is taken (route of administration). 

 Swallow: 

  • Light: 4575 milligrams (mg) – this would give 13 to 22 bombs from a gram 
  • Common: 75140 milligrams (mg) – this would give 7 to 13 bombs from a gram

Accessed March 2020   

An average dose for swallowing is around 80 milligrams (for an average person of average build). This amount would be less if snorting. There is no standard amount of MDMA in pills. MDMA content can vary even within each batch — remember that you cannot judge the content by appearance. Pills can contain anything from 0300 mg+ of MDMA. 

It is essential to use accurate scales – ones that are capable of measuring to 10 milligrams (0.01 of a gram). Knowledge of how to use them and how to ensure they are measuring accurately is important.  

A slight difference in dose can create a different experience or effect. Find out more about reducing the risk from dosing including volumetric dosing. 

General information on dosing.

Effects

Effects of MDMA when swallowed or snorted can take up to 20-70 minutes to appear but may take up to as long as 2 hours. Effects will be felt most quickly from snorting. The effects can last from 3-6 hours. After effects can be felt for up to 3 days. 

MDMA can make you feel chattyeuphoric and sexually aroused. You may feel more connected to music and people and be able to have conversations more freely. It also increases your heart rate and body temperature.  

Other effects may include hallucinations, enhanced colour and sound, jaw tension/clenching, dilated pupils and difficulty urinating. People may experience feelings of anxiety after taking MDMA during the come down. Long-term or heavy use of MDMA can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and more difficulty in managing feelings of anxiety. 

Harm reduction

If you choose to take ecstasy (MDMA Pill) then the following steps can help to reduce harm.

GENERAL

  • Spend at least two hours researching the drug you are planning to take. 
  • Eat two hours before taking to reduce the chance of being sick. 
  • Be aware that pills/powders being sold as MDMA may not contain only (or any) MDMA. Some may contain other drugs, such as N-Ethylpentylone or less commonly, PMA (para-Methoxyamphetamine), which can be stronger, take longer to ‘kick in’, may be longer lasting and more dangerous.   
  • Test the drug. If you don’t have access to a drug testing service, reagent testing kits are available online and can give a greater understanding of what the drug contains, but they may not be suitable for identifying newer compounds or adulterants and can tell you nothing about purity or strength.
  • Prior to preparing MDMA, wash your hands and ensure the surface is clean  unclean surfaces such as toilets, phones and keys can spread disease. Use an alcohol wipe to disinfect surfaces before use. 
  • Use scales to measure the dose – you can’t judge an accurate dose just by looking. Start with a small dose and go slow! Remember, that the more of a drug you take, the riskier it is and the more likely you are to experience negative effects. 
  • There is no standard amount of MDMA in pills or powder/crystal. Purity can vary, even within the same batch. You can’t judge content or purity by appearance – take a tiny test dose first. 
  • Avoid taking drugs alone and have a ‘sober’ friend around if possible. 
  • Plan your doses in advance – your perception of a dose once you are already high will not be accurate and use a watch or timer to keep track of how frequently you are dosing. 
  • Only carry what you plan on taking. If you have a couple of grams in your pocket it is easy to take more than you anticipated. Leave what you don’t need at home (in a safe place). 
  • Avoid mixing different drugs including alcohol and medicines as this can cause dangerous, unintended or unpredictable effects. Take time to research possible interactions with your medication or health condition. 
  • If you do mix drugs, do your research, ensure you are somewhere safe and take way less of both substances than you would if you were only taking one. 
  • If you can’t avoid alcohol completely, try to limit yourself to only a few drinks, choose drinks with a lower alcohol content and drink water or soft drinks between alcoholic ones.
  • Mixing MDMA with other drugs that produce a psychedelic effect, including ketamine and cannabis can heighten the psychedelic experience in a way that may feel overwhelming and be difficult to manage.   
  • Mixing MDMA with other stimulants puts increased pressure on your heart. 
  • Some HIV medicines can block the breakdown of MDMA and increase the risk of overdose.  
  • Hormones such as oestrogen may have an impact on how MDMA is felt and the risk may be increased at different times in a person’s menstrual cycle and so they should take less than usual.  
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and some other medications, commonly prescribed for mental health conditions, can dull the effects of MDMA so you may be tempted to take more to reach the desired effect which will put more strain on your body rather than improve your experience, and can lead to an increased risk of a dangerous, potentially fatal condition called serotonin syndrome 
  • High doses of MDMA can cause serotonin syndrome – watch out for anyone who is overheating, red hot, ‘fitting’, disorientated, severely agitated/confused or rigid. Keep calm and call 999 immediately.  
  • MDMA increases your body temperature – take time to cool down to avoid overheating. 
  • Stay hydrated – drink a normal amount of water/isotonic drink for the activity you are doing. You probably don’t need any more than half a pint of water per hour unless you are in a busy, hot environment.   
  • MDMA affects your body’s perception of how hydrated you areso you feel thirsty and stop peeing. This can cause you to drink more than you need to, making your blood to become overly diluted. This can affect the delicate balance of electrolytes in your brain which are essential for it to work. Drinking too much water can lead to a condition called hyponatremia which can be fatal. Read more here.
  • You can become unable to pee due to muscle tension, sitting down and relaxing your muscles can help. This also increases the risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) which should be not be left untreated.
  • Chewing gum can help with effects of jaw tension, rolling the chewing gum in a ball on your tongue can give your jaw a break from chewing. If you have been jaw clenching, rinse your mouth out with salty water. Maintain good dental health and brush your teeth after a session. 
  • People should sleep on their side to avoid choking on vomit in their sleep. 
  • If you experience vomiting this could reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill – use alternative methods to avoid unintended pregnancy.  
  • Think about safe sex – grab condoms, dams and whatever else will help keep you safe depending on how you have sexLike other stimulant drugs, MDMA can increase your feelings of arousal so it’s important to think about consent. Are you really feeling it? Are they? Ensure you have full consent before, and during, any sexual activity.
  • If you start to feel any negative effects, simple things like changing your environment may help. If the effects are too strong, try to stay relaxed, control your breathing and take small sips of water or flat sugary juice. Let someone know how you are feeling – sometimes just sharing that feeling can help ease it. 
  • Look after your pals and seek medical help as soon as possible if needed. Be honest about what has been taken. 
  • Make sure you have time to rest afterwards and chill out. MDMA can affect your sleeping pattern which can have an impact on your mental wellbeing. 
  • Taking MDMA two days in a row will make it less effective and can cause you to take more than planned. This won’t improve your experience but will increase the risk. 
  • Space sessions out by at least 1 month but ideally 3 months to reduce the impact on your physical and mental health. Over time taking MDMA may increase your risk of anxiety and depression. 
  • Think you’re taking too much? Find out how risky your use is with our check it out tool!

IF SWALLOWING 

  • Grind or crush MDMA down as fine as possible before use. This makes it easier to judge a dose and speeds up absorption into the body. 
  • Dose low — start with quarter or half of a pill. Some pills can be hard to break. For best effect use a pill cutter and break your pills up prior to going out. 
  • Wait 2 hours before re-dosing. Some pills will take a while to break down and therefore longer for you to feel the effects.  
  • Use a clean cigarette paper or gel capsule to “bomb” powder. 
  • If mixed into a drink, care should be taken to accurately dose and the bottle/cup marked to ensure no one else accidentally drinks it. Never leave your drink unattended and avoid drinking from bottles/cups if you are unsure of what’s in it.  

IF DABBING  

  • Grind or crush MDMA down as fine as possible before use. This makes it easier to judge a dose and speeds up absorption into the body. 
  • Dose low  start by dabbing a small dose of powder on the back of the tongue – make sure your hands are clean and wait at least 2 hours before re-dosing. 

IF SNORTING 

  • Grind or crush MDMA down as fine as possible before use. This makes it easier to judge a dose, speeds up absorption into the body and reduces the damage to soft tissue from abrasion. 
  • Avoid using bank notes as a tool to snort drugs, as they aren’t disposable and can cut the inside of your nose — post-its or paper straws are a good alternative to notes. 
  • Sharing tools can spread infections and blood borne viruses (e.g. hepatitis C, HIV) – only use your own equipment. Get tested regularly for BBVs.  
  • Position the tool as high up the nostril as possible and alternate nostrils for each dose. 
  • Rinse your nose out with clean water at the end of a session, to prevent the powder causing further damage to the inside of your nose. 
  • Apply a thin layer of vitamin E oil to the inside of the nose after rinsing.  

Detection time

People taking ecstasy (MDMA Pill) have reported the following detection time, but this cannot be taken as a recommendation; detection of any drug will depend on purity, regularity of use, other medications or drugs you have taken, your body and how it’s taken.
  • 3–5 days in urine.