MDMA

MDMA is the shortened chemical name for the synthetic psychoactive drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and is commonly associated with dance music culture.

Other names

Mandy, madman, Molly (in North America)

Appearance

A crystalline powder. The powder/crystal may be white, yellow, grey, purple or light brown in colour. Pills/tablets usually come with a distinctive logo on one or both sides and come in a variety of shapes and sizes;

Drugs Wheel Category

Empathogens

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

Most commonly swallowed in a “bomb” (powder wrapped in a cigarette paper), dabbed on the tongue or snorted. MDMA may also be sold as pills.

Effects

Effects of MDMA when swallowed or snorted can take up to 20–70 minutes to appear but may take up to as much 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 chatty and euphoric with an increased sexual drive. 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 include hallucinations, enhanced colour and sound, jaw tension/clenching, dilated pupils and difficulty urinating. People might 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.

Risks

  • Pills may not contain only (or any) MDMA
  • Be aware that pills/powders being sold as MDMA may contain other drugs, such as N-Ethylpentylone or  less commonlyPMA (para-Methoxyamphetamine), which can be stronger, take longer to ‘kick in’, may be longer lasting and more dangerous.
  • Mixing with alcohol, prescription medication or any other drugs risks unexpected, harmful and unpleasant effect
  • SSRI medication 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
  • Some HIV medications can block the breakdown of MDMA and increase the risk of “overdose”
  • MDMA increases your body temperature – take time to cool down
  • MDMA can change your perception of how hydrated you are. It might make you urinate less or feel the need to drink more liquids than you need
  • Stay hydrated – drink a normal amount of water for the activity you are doing. You don’t need any more than half a pint of water / hour or up to 1 pint / hour in a busy, hot environment
  • Drinking isotonic drinks / fruit juice can help replace essential salts (electrolytes) that are lost through sweating
  • Over time using MDMA may increase your risk of anxiety and depression
  • People might 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.
  • Tolerance to MDMA can build up so many people will take a tolerance break
  • If you throw up this could reduce the effectiveness of the contraceptive pill – use alternative methods to avoid unintended pregnancy
  • High doses of MDMA can lead to Serotonin Syndrome – if you see someone who is red hot, their muscles may be rigid and they may be sweating a lot, disorientated and agitated – call an ambulance and try to cool the person down until they arrive

Harm reduction

All drug use has its risks, but if you choose to take MDMA then the following steps can help to reduce harm:
  • Remember that you cannot judge content or purity by appearance. There is no standard amount of MDMA in powder so there can be a huge difference, even within each batch.
  • Avoid mixing with alcohol, prescription medication or any other drugs, as the effects may be unexpected or harmful and unpleasant.
  • Drugs affect people differently, more so if mixed.
  • Dose low — start with quarter or half of a pill or a small dab of powder, and wait at least 3 hours before re-dosing.
  • Taking more than one pill at once might not increase the effect but can increase risk and make a come down worse.
  • Eat 2 hours before taking to reduce the chance of being sick
  • Stay hydrated, drink about half a pint of water or isotonic drink an hour (up to a pint if it’s hot or you’re dancing). Never leave drinks unattended.
  • MDMA affects your body’s perception of how hydrated you are. Your brain thinks you don’t have enough water so 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.
  • Some people naturally retain more water in their bodies and differences in the levels of hormones in your body such as oestrogen and testosterone can put you at greater risk of hyponatremia when taking stimulant drugs.
  • Take regular breaks if dancing.
  • 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.
  • Chill out regularly and cool down to avoid overheating.
  • You can become unable to pee due to muscle tension, sitting down and relaxing your muscles can help.
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and some other medications, commonly prescribed for mental health conditions, will dull the effects of MDMA. This can lead to you taking more than planned to achieve the desired effect. This 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.
  • Serotonin syndrome is dangerous — watch out for anyone overheating, ‘fitting’, severely agitated/confused or who looks red hot and rigid. Keep calm and call 999 immediately.
  • You should space sessions out by at least 1 month but ideally 3 months to reduce the impact on your physical and mental health.
  • 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.
  • Stimulant use is linked to an increased risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) which should be not be left untreated.
  • Mixing MDMA with other stimulants puts increased pressure on your heart.
  • Mixing MDMA with psychedelic drugs can lead to a more intense experience which could feel overwhelming.
  • Like all stimulant drugs, MDMA can affect your sleeping pattern which can have an impact on your mental wellbeing.
  • Use safe sex practices — drugs can lower inhibitions!
  • Look after your pals and seek medical help as soon as possible if anyone falls unwell. Be honest about what you know they have taken.

If snorting

  • Grind or crush substances finely before snorting.
  • Dose low — start with a small amount, and wait at least 3 hours before re-dosing.
  • Use a clean straw or paper as a ‘tooter/snorter’ rather than money and throw away after use.
  • Position the ‘tooter/snorter’ as high up the nostril as possible.
  • Avoid sharing your ‘tooter/snorter’ with anyone else (this could spread viruses).
  • Alternate nostrils.
  • Rinse out your nose with water after each session.
  • Vitamin E oil can reduce damage to nose if applied in a thin layer inside after cleaning, like you would lip balm.

If swallowing

  • Grind or crush substances finely before swallowing.
  • Dose low — start with a small amount, and wait at least 3 hours before re-dosing.
  • Use a cigarette paper or capsule to “bomb” the powder.
  • Swallowing can increase the chances of feeling sick – splitting up a small amount and waiting between doses can make this less likely.
  • If you plan to mix into a drink, shake regularly and never leave it unattended.

If dabbing:

  • Grind or crush substances finely before dabbing.
  • Dose low — start with a small dab of powder,
  • Wait at least 3 hours before re-dosing.

Detection time

People taking MDMA 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.