• Thumbnail - Ecstasy Tablet
  • Thumbnail - Ecstasy Capsules
  • Thumbnail - Dilated Pupils
  • Thumbnail - Jaw Clenching
Ecstasy Tablet, Ecstasy Capsules, Ecstasy Effects

Ecstasy Fact Card

What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy, commonly known as molly, is a potent designer drug that can be classified as a CNS stimulant, a hallucinogen, or an empathogen. Ecstasy is chemically related to the stimulants amphetamine and methamphetamine, and the hallucinogen mescaline. This relation to the amphetamines is responsible for ecstasy's strong stimulant effects, producing heightened levels of energy and euphoria, in addition to delaying sleep. Ecstasy's relation to mescaline is responsible for its hallucinogenic effects. Ecstasy is most known, however, for its empathogenic effects, described by users as intense feelings of love, well-being, and sexual arousal. [1]

Ecstasy Types

Since ecstasy is classified by the DEA as a Schedule 1 substance, street ecstasy found in the United States is produced illicitly. Ecstasy doses are typically consumed orally, in the form of white or colored tablets that contain a logo. The logo can be impressed into the face of the tablet — or the tablet itself might be pressed into the shape of the logo. These logos vary greatly and will normally dictate the name used for a batch of ecstasy pills. For example, pills stamped with a dove logo will be referred to as "doves".

Ecstasy Tablet
Ecstasy Tablet

Ecstasy can also be found in the form of a white powder, which is typically packed into clear gelatin capsules for oral consumption. Though it might also be snorted in attempt to increase effects or speed the onset of effects.

Ecstasy Capsules
Ecstasy Capsules

What are MDMA, MDA, and MDEA?

MDMA, MDA, and MDEA are abbreviations representing the three primary forms of ecstasy: methylenedioxymethamphetamine, methylenedioxyamphetamine, and methylenedioxyethylamphetamine, respectively. MDMA and MDA are the most common forms of ecstasy, while MDMA is the most sought-after form among users. All three forms, however, are very similar in terms of appearance, chemistry, and effects. [1]

What are the effects of ecstasy?

As a potent CNS stimulant, ecstasy's effects include a rush of energy and euphoria, rapid heartbeat, perspiration, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, dilation of the pupils, and sleep deprivation. While ecstasy exhibits some properties of a hallucinogen, including mild visual distortions, its powerful empathogenic effects distinguish it from other stimulants and hallucinogens. These effects include a sense of well-being and relaxation, strong feelings of love and compassion towards others, and intense levels of sexual arousal. Due to the described combination of effects, ecstasy is a preferred drug of choice at raves and in late night club scenes.

Dilated Pupils
Dilated Pupils
Jaw Clenching
Jaw Clenching

Ecstasy acts in the brain by increasing the net release of the monoamine neurotransmitters: serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine to a lesser extent. Ecstasy does not act by releasing serotonin, but by blocking the reuptake of serotonin[1]

While ecstasy has not been shown to be addictive, it is notorious for the negative after-effects many users experience known as ecstasy hangover. Effects can last for several days, including depression, irritability, poor concentration, and physical and mental exhaustion. With repeated ecstasy abuse, these negative effective tend to become more pronounced, with positive effects diminishing over time. [1]

Ecstasy Contamination

Due to the illicit nature of the drug, poor quality of product is an ongoing problem for ecstasy users. Many pills sold on the street as ecstasy contain little or no MDMA or MDAinstead containing stimulant substitutes, such as methamphetamine or caffeine. At worst, potentially toxic compounds such as PMA might be added or substituted. Ecstasy capsules are especially vulnerable to this form of contamination, as the powder form is convenient for street dealers to tamper with in order to stretch profits. In response to this problem, organizations exist that, for a fee, provide pill-testing services to concerned individuals.

Urine Testing for Ecstasy

Ecstasy urine tests target MDMA, with possible cross-reactivity for MDA and MDEA. MDMA is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting the MDMA form of ecstasy. [2] MDA is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting the MDA form of ecstasy, [3] in addition to being a minor urinary metabolite of the MDMA and MDEA forms of ecstasy. [2][4] MDEA is prominent as unchanged parent drug in the urine of those ingesting the MDEA form of ecstasy. [4]

Ecstasy Drug Test
Ecstasy Drug Test

In a study published in Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, volunteers received doses of MDMA and subsequently submitted to urinalysis screening. An average of 15% of provided doses was recovered in the urine as unchanged MDMA, with 1.5% recovered as MDA, along with other metabolites. [2]

According to "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed), human metabolism of MDA has not been well studied. However, urine MDA concentrations of up to 160,000 ng/mL have been recorded in fatal cases, suggesting that substantial quantities of MDA are excreted in the urine unchanged. [3]

In a study published in the Journal of Chromatography B, volunteers received doses of MDEA and subsequently submitted to urinalysis screening. Major urinary metabolites were unchanged MDEA and HME (4-hydroxy-3-methoxyethylamphetamine), with minor urinary metabolites MDA and DHE (3,4-dihydroxyethylamphetamine). [4]

Related Pages


Links for references open in a new tab or window.

  1. Kalant H. (2001, Oct 2). "The Pharmacology and Toxicology of "Ecstasy" (MDMA) and Related Drugs". Canadian Medical Association Journal, 165(7): 917–928. PMCID:PMC81503, [PDF file]
  2. de la Torre R, Farré M, Roset PN, Pizarro N, Abanades S, Segura M, Segura J, Camí J. (2004, Apr). "Human Pharmacology of MDMA: Pharmacokinetics, Metabolism, and Disposition". Therapeutic Drug Monitoring, 26(2): 137–144. doi:10.1097/00007691-200404000-00009
  3. Baselt RC, Cravey RH. (1989). "Disposition of Toxic Drugs and Chemicals in Man" (3rd ed, pp 552–553). USA: Year Book Medical Publishers, Inc.
  4. Ensslin HK, Kovar KA, Maurer HH. (1996, Aug). "Toxicological Detection of the Designer Drug 3,4-Methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDE, "Eve") and Its Metabolites in Urine by Gas Chromatography — Mass Spectrometry and Fluorescence Polarization Immunoassay". Journal of Chromatography B, 683(2): 189–197. doi:10.1016/0378-4347(96)00129-6

Last Revision: