What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a type of amphetamine that is most commonly seen in tablet or capsule form, but may also appear as a powder or even a crystal-like substance. Tablets or capsules are usually swallowed, whereas in its powdered form it is sometimes snorted. Often people take ecstasy when consuming other drugs, including alcohol. Mixing ecstasy with other substances can have unexpected effects including severe dehydration or overhydration, overheating, psychosis and in extreme cases, overdose and death.
Other terms for ecstasy: Pills, X, MD, e, eccies, pingers, biccies, roundies, caps, molly.
It is impossible to know exactly what a dose of ecstasy really contains since it is almost always 'cut' or mixed with other ingredients. Ecstasy often contains a wide range of other cheaper, highly toxic chemicals like laundry powder and paints which are used as filler ingredients so that people making the drug can produce more ecstasy to sell. There is very little thought and care for people taking the ecstasy in the manufacturing process, so the risks are largely unknown and can have serious effects on people's health and wellbeing. When it comes to ecstasy, there is no sure way of knowing what you are taking.
How do you know if ecstasy is becoming a problem?
Ecstasy is commonly used at festivals, parties and in the nightclub scene where people want to be active and have a feeling of connectedness with others for extended periods of time. People also take ecstasy for the euphoric, energetic high which can last for up to 8 hours.
Taking ecstasy will immediately impact sleeping patterns, energy levels (e.g., heightened during use, reduced after use) and may suppress appetite. Because of the intense pleasure sensations associated with taking ecstasy, it is easy to start seeking out these highs more regularly. Some of the warning signs that ecstasy dependency is developing include:
- Using the drug increasingly in normal social settings.
- Choosing to use it alone.
- Experiencing cravings for ecstasy.
- Skipping other activities such as spending time with friends or working/studying, in order to take ecstasy.
How does ecstasy make you feel?
In the short term, ecstasy can affect people in different ways. Just because one person doesn’t experience any immediate negative side effects, this does not mean it is ‘safe’ or ‘clean’. Ecstasy affects everyone differently based on their health, body type, the amount taken, how frequently it is consumed and whether it is used with food or other drugs. Depending on how much is taken and the way it’s taken, the effects of ecstasy on the body typically begin within an hour of consuming the drug and may last up to 8 hours. However, some of these effects can last for up to 32 hours.
Using ecstasy does not result in the same experience for everyone because of the way it is made. Reactions to the drug vary greatly and the expected effects should not be based on someone else’s experience.
In the short term, users may experience:
- Euphoria and a feeling of wellbeing.
- Feeling overly affectionate towards others.
- A fascination with objects, lights or other people.
- Fits, convulsions or vomiting.
- Increased feelings of intimacy with others.
- Increased confidence and a lack of inhibition.
- Nausea, sweating, and increased blood pressure or pulse rate.
- Jaw clenching, muscle tension and teeth grinding.
- Hallucinations and paranoia.
- Risky or inappropriate behaviour.
Once the effects of ecstasy wear off, which can be up to a few days later, people ‘coming down’ can suffer very unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Anxiety and nervousness.
- Lack of appetite.
- Reduced energy or motivation and restlessness.
- Lack of concentration and focus.
- Muscle aches.
- Psychological effects such as depression.
Little is known about the long-term effects of ecstasy. Some long-term users have been seen to experience severe mental health problems including depression, psychosis and some memory, concentration and learning problems. Regular use of the drug can cause significant damage to your vital internal organs, including kidneys, liver, heart, and lung functioning.
What should you do in the case of harmful ecstasy use or an overdose?
Please seek medical attention immediately if you or your friends experience a bad reaction to ecstasy. Try not to panic or keep it to yourself. Phone Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance immediately and tell the operator that there has been an overdose.
If you have taken a high dose of ecstasy and experience negative side effects...
If you are calling about your own use, do not try to hide the fact that you have taken ecstasy – be completely honest about the amount, how recently it was used, and the colour and marking on the pill or substance. Whilst waiting for emergency services, immediately inform a friend or family member who can support you during this time.
If someone you know has taken a high dose of ecstasy and is experiencing negative side effects...
If you are calling for someone you know, you can help them by asking them what they are experiencing and what is causing them distress and immediately informing emergency services. Phone Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, especially if the person complains of chest pains, breathing difficulties or overheating. Report as much information as you can when asking others for help, including the person’s age, weight, if they have mixed ecstasy with other drugs or alcohol and what the ecstasy looked like (e.g., pill, capsule, liquid, colour, shape). The quicker and more accurate the information that is passed on, the easier it is to help someone experiencing adverse effects of ecstasy. Stay with the person and call another friend or family member for assistance immediately. Usually the police will not be informed and will not attend unless ambulance officers feel their safety or the safety of others or a child is at risk, the person cannot be resuscitated or a crime has been committed (e.g., theft or violence).The priority is making sure the person gets the right help immediately in an emergency.
How can you reduce the risks associated with ecstasy use?
There is no guaranteed way to eliminate the risks associated with taking ecstasy, especially when each dose may contain unknown ‘filler’ ingredients. If you or someone you know has taken ecstasy, try to avoid:
- Excessive periods of dancing or moving without rest (i.e., take regular breaks to cool off).
- Drinking copious amounts of water at once or not drinking enough water.
- Consuming alcohol.
- Consuming other drugs at the same time, particularly depressants or prescription medications such as codeine.
- Not asking for help early.
It is illegal to manufacture, possess and/or supply ecstasy. If you are caught with even a small amount, you can face hefty fines and a permanent criminal record. More serious offences can also carry a prison sentence.
Many people mistakenly believe that they are able to drive during or soon after using ecstasy. You can be tested by police during roadside stops for ecstasy in your system, and driving under the influence of ecstasy or other amphetamines is a serious criminal offence. If you are involved in an accident whilst driving under the influence of ecstasy, you may face lengthy prison time.
Where can you get help for your ecstasy use?
If ecstasy is a problem for you or someone you know and you would like to speak with a real person to have your questions answered or to get advice on what to do next, call the Alcohol & Drug Foundation Information Line on 1300 858 584.