Effects and Side Effects of Ecstasy Abuse

  1. Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Ecstasy Use
  2. Long-Term Effects
  3. How Addiction Changes Your Life
  4. Ecstasy Addiction and Mental Health

About Ecstasy Abuse

MDMA, better known as ecstasy because of its ability to produce powerful feelings of warmth and affection, is a synthetic club drug with both stimulant and mild hallucinogenic properties.

The specific formulation of ecstasy is continually changing, and frequently masquerades as ‘pure,’ when in fact it’s laced with other illicit substances, which means that the result you got with your last dosage might not be the result you get this time around.

About Ecstasy Abuse

Immediate Effects and Adverse Effects of Ecstasy Use

Woman paranoid
Most drugs kill their users over time, steadily nurturing dependency that leads to overdoses, or leading to illnesses such as liver failure or even cancer. Ecstasy is different.

Ecstasy, being of wildly variable potency and formulation, is one of the few drugs that can kill users with the first dose.


The drug is highly unpredictable, especially because street formulations (called ‘MDMA-analogs') are frequently adulterated with unknown chemicals and other drugs that can induce adverse effects.

Short-term effects range from pleasant to life-threatening. They include:

  • Intense feelings of affection and warmth.
  • Increased energy.
  • Increased libido.
  • Hyperthermia and excessive thirst, which frequently can result in over-hydration that can lead to serious health problems (such as hyponatremia, or abnormally low blood sodium levels).
  • Anxiety, paranoia and anger.

  • Confusion.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Insomnia and disturbing dreams.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Vulnerability to predatory behavior; the heightened affection and decreased inhibition MDMA yields can cause you to interact with people you wouldn't otherwise trust.

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Long-Term Effects

Even if you don't experience any problematic side effects with your first use of ecstasy, the potentially dangerous effects increase over time. Eventually, the addiction can overtake every area of your life.

These longer-term, potentially more serious complications include:

  • Persistent memory problems, depression and anxiety.
  • Cardiovascular distress.
  • Organ damage, particularly of the kidneys (reportedly as a result of one of the many adulterant substances, such as benzylpiperazine, or secondary to rhabdomyolysis—rapid skeletal muscle injury—which floods the kidneys with broken-down proteins).

  • Destroyed relationships.
  • Changes in libido and sexual function.
  • Pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage and stillbirth; children of mothers who used Ecstasy can suffer from a host of birth defects.
  • Accidental overdose and death.
  • Hallucinations and psychosis.
  • Seizures and convulsions.


Cravings may start mild, but with prolonged use they become so intense that you think of nothing else.

With your first use of ecstasy, you likely experienced no cravings. Instead, the decision was one designed to help you have more fun or relax. With your first use, though, your body is already changing the way it reacts to the drug.

The powerful euphoria and relief from stress ecstasy offers can be too much for some users to pass up.

Like many drugs with stimulant qualities, cravings may start relatively mild, but with prolonged use they can become so intense that you can think of nothing else.


Tolerance is a slow and steady process that results from your body's attempts to protect you from the dangers of Ecstasy. With your first use, your body undergoes subtle changes in its response to the drug. Over time, you may find that you don't get as high as you used to.
For people on the road to addiction, this phenomenon can encourage the use of a higher ecstasy dose, rendering them vulnerable to accidental overdoses and health problems related to the chronic use of large quantities of the drug.


Man with anxiety
Tolerance starts you on the road to dependence, which is the truest hallmark of addiction. When your body becomes chemically dependent on Ecstasy, quitting no longer feels like an option.

Just as you become intensely hungry when you don't eat, your body will produce a host of unpleasant symptoms when you don't use ecstasy.

It is a chemical dependency that encourages so many users to engage in illegal, immoral, and dangerous behavior to get access to ecstasy. Once you become dependent on the drug, it's virtually impossible to quit without help.


After you become dependent on ecstasy, your body will do just about anything to get another fix—including exposing you to painful and emotionally draining withdrawal symptoms in between doses. For many addicts, avoiding withdrawal is the primary motivation for their continued use of Ecstasy.

Indeed, some ecstasy addicts have grown so tolerant of the drug that they no longer get high at all, instead using the drug just to feel normal.

Common withdrawal symptoms include anxiety (“jitters”), fatigue, depressive mood, and confusion.

You may also be tempted to self-medicate because the anxiety is too much to bear, consuming alcohol or sedatives to numb the pain. This is a deadly combination that can get you hooked on another drug, because it is a safe crutch to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal from Ecstasy.

Ecstasy abuse carries the risk of a number of serious health complications.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be headed in the direction of the potentially life-threatening consequences of MDMA or ecstasy use, call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? to speak with a treatment advisor addiction treatment options.

How Addiction Changes Your Life

Get Support Narcotics Anonymous is a 12-step support group that helps those struggling with addictions to Ecstasy and other drugs. Find a local meeting for you or your loved one. If you think you can live a "normal" life while addicted to ecstasy, think again.

One of the most significant perils of ecstasy addiction is the ability of this drug to induce feelings of love and affection for strangers, acquaintances and even dangerous bystanders.

Ecstasy addiction, then, can cause you to interact with people you'd otherwise avoid, thereby endangering your health and safety. It's even been implicated in use as a date rape drug.

Addiction slowly creeps in, gaining control over every area of your life. It's not a question of willpower or motivation; once you become an addict, there's no resisting the pull of ecstasy.

The results can be catastrophic, and include:

  • Abusing your loved ones, including your children.
  • Loss of your most important relationships.
  • Career difficulties.
  • Legal and financial problems.
  • Difficulty feeling "normal" without ecstasy.
  • Doing things you regret either to get Ecstasy or while under the influence of the drug.

Ecstasy Addiction and Mental Health

Woman depressed
About a quarter of all Americans struggle with a mental health issue such as depression and anxiety. About half of those with mental illness eventually turn to drugs to cope.

Ecstasy is a tempting option because of the intense feelings of satisfaction and euphoria it produces.

These pleasant symptoms, though, are short-lived. Over time, ecstasy can undermine mental health, worsening symptoms you already had and leading to new ones.

Some people even develop a mental illness as a result of ecstasy. It changes your brain chemistry, rendering you vulnerable to a host of mental health problems. Some users have even had manic episodes.

In other cases, the intense high associated with ecstasy makes the norms of everyday life seem downright depressing, potentially spurring a host of disruptive emotional issues.

Worse still, ecstasy can undermine your quality of life, subjecting you to trauma, abuse, and other challenges that commonly contribute to mental health problems.

The good news is that help is available. Both mental illnesses and addiction are highly treatable, and the sooner you seek help, the more quickly you can get better.

Call 1-888-993-3112Who Answers? any time, day or night, to speak with a caring treatment support team member about treatment for ecstasy addiction.

Additional Resources

As advocates of mental health and wellness, we take great pride in educating our readers on the various online therapy providers available. MentalHelp has partnered with several thought leaders in the mental health and wellness space, so we can help you make informed decisions on your wellness journey. MentalHelp may receive marketing compensation from these companies should you choose to use their services.

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