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MDMA (Molly and Ecstasy)

What Is MDMA?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), also known as ecstasy, X, or Molly, is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. MDMA produces short-term euphoria, as well as distortions in sensory and time perception. It also can cause potentially dangerous physical effects, such as the inability to regulate body temperature, extreme nausea, a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and death.

MDMA can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature that can lead to kidney failure.

MDMA is usually taken orally as a pill, tablet, or capsule. The term Molly (slang for “molecular”) typically refers to the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA, which can be sold in capsules. However, these drugs are not regulated, so even capsules of supposedly pure “Molly” often contain other drugs, including ephedrine (a stimulant), dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), ketamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and synthetic cathinones (the psychoactive ingredients in “bath salts”). These substances are harmful alone and may be particularly dangerous when mixed with MDMA.

Because MDMA is frequently used at nightclubs, it is known as a “club drug”; it is also called a “designer drug,” since it is manufactured (“designed”) to give the user a particular kind of high.

Problems with MDMA

Some short-term effects of MDMA use can result in serious consequences. For example, the disinhibition that the drug produces can lead users to make sexually unsafe decisions that they wouldn’t otherwise make. Overdose also can occur, with symptoms that include high blood pressure, dizziness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness and seizures. High doses of MDMA can raise body temperature so much that users can suffer overheating and dehydration, as well as liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure; any of these can result in death.

After-effects can last days or weeks. These include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety. Some heavy MDMA users also may experience long-lasting problems with attention and memory.

Although research on MDMA’s addictive properties has yielded varying results, some users report symptoms of dependence, including the urge to continue use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm; tolerance (the need to take increasingly higher doses of a drug to achieve the same effect); and withdrawal symptoms, which make it difficult to quit. In addition, some users may come to depend on the drug in order to feel good, or may begin to feel that they cannot socialize without it.

Signs that Someone Needs Treatment for MDMA Use

Here are questions to ask if you’re concerned that you or someone you love—a spouse, child, parent, or friend—may have a problem with MDMA.

Do they feel they need MDMA in order to feel happy or to engage in social situations?

Do they experience an increase in depression or anxiety when not using the drug?

Are they constantly thinking about MDMA and looking forward to their next dose?

Do they need to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect?

Did they ever try to quit but couldn’t?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the person you’re concerned about may have a problem.


At Phoenix House, we treat the whole person, not just the addiction. We address the root causes of drug use—from anxiety and depression to self-esteem and relationship issues—and equip clients with the tools to develop new, positive patterns of behavior.

All of our residential and outpatient programs (both for teens and adults) provide counseling as well as family support, using the latest research-tested treatment methods. Many of our locations also have vocational and educational services, and most offer 12-step groups.

David W

“I was on probation by the time I was a junior in high school, but that didn’t stop me from using ecstasy and coke.”

Sarah, Phoenix House Alum

Read my story

We Can Help

If you’re concerned that you or your loved one may have a drug problem, we encourage you to reach out to us. Our caring, compassionate team can give you a comprehensive, confidential evaluation to help you and your family members determine next steps. We offer safe, affordable treatment at a variety of locations. Call us anytime: We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Source for What Is MDMA? and Problems with MDMA: National Institute on Drug Abuse