Last published: June 26, 2019
Note: Drugs sold as MDMA (ecstasy) may not contain any methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA); they can be a mix of amphetamine, paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), ketamine, NBOMe, synthetic cathinones or other substances.
What is MDMA?
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an an empathogen, which means it increases an individual’s feeling of empathy and compassion towards others.
MDMA is commonly called and known as ecstasy. However, some pills sold as ecstasy may only have a small amount of MDMA or none at all. Other drugs and ‘fillers’ are often used instead. This makes it hard to know what reactions to expect after taking MDMA or if negative side effects will be experienced.
Ecstasy, Eckies, E, XTC, pills, pingers, bikkies, flippers, molly.1
How is MDMA used?
MDMA usually comes in a tablet form and is swallowed. The pills come in different colours and sizes and are often imprinted with a picture or symbol.1 It can also come as capsules, powder or crystal.
Effects of MDMA
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
MDMA affects everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch).
The effects of MDMA are usually felt about 20 minutes to an hour after it’s taken and last for around 6 hours.1
You may experience:
- feeling energetic and confident
- large pupils
- jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- heightened senses (sight, hearing and touch)
- excessive sweating and skin tingles
- muscle aches and pains
- reduced appetite
- fast heartbeat
- increased blood pressure
- heat stroke
- drinking extreme amounts of water (can cause death).1,2,3
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch of MDMA, you may also experience:
- floating sensations
- perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations
- out-of-character irrational behaviour
- irritability, paranoia and aggression
- high body temperature
- racing heart beat
In the days after MDMA use, you may experience:
- restless sleep and exhaustion
- anxiety, irritability and depression
- difficulty concentrating.1,2,3
Long term effects
Regular use of MDMA may cause:
- colds or flu
- needing to use more to get the same effect
- dependence on MDMA
- memory and concentration problems
- financial, work and social problems.1,2
Mixing MDMA with other drugs
The effects of taking MDMA with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
MDMA + alcohol: increased risk of dehydration and consequently drinking too much water.4
MDMA + antidepressants: Drowsiness, clumsiness, restlessness and feeling drunk and dizzy.6
Giving up MDMA after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms should settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. Symptoms include:
- cravings for MDMA
- aches and pains
- restless sleep
- trouble concentrating
- anxiety and depression.7
Help and support
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Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making or selling MDMA, or driving under its influence.
See also, drugs and the law.
- 11.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used MDMA one or more times in their life.8
- 2.2% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used MDMA in the previous 12 months.8
- Young Australians (aged 14–29) first try MDMA at 18.7 years on average.8
- 3.1% of 12-17 year olds have tried MDMA9
- Campbell, A. (2000). The Australian illicit drug guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
- Brands, B., Sproule, B. & Marshman, J. (Eds.) (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd Ed.) Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
- Upfal J. (2006) The Australian drug guide (7th Ed.) Melbourne: Black Inc.
- Hernandez-Lopez, C., Farre, M., Roset, P., Menoyo, E., Pizarro, N., Ortuno, J., …de la Torre, R. (2002). 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) and alcohol interactions in humans: Psychomotor performance, subjective effects, and pharmacokinetics. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 300(1), 236–244.
- Australian Government Department of Health & Ageing. (2007). National Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Strategy Background paperpaper. Report prepared for the Department of Health and Ageing.
- Copeland, J., Dillon, P. & Gascoigne, M. (2004). Ecstasy and the concomitant use of pharmaceuticals.
- Julien, R., Advokat, C., & Comaty, J. (eds.). (2011). A primer of drug action (12th ed.). New York: Worth Publishing.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2016. Canberra: AIHW.
- White, 9. V., & Williams, T. (2016). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2014. Melbourne: The Cancer Council, Victoria.