MDMA has a reputation for being a party drug, but side effects like tremors, muscle cramps and nausea, not to mention anxiety and depression, aren’t much fun. Prolonged use also carries the risk of longer-term problems with memory and learning.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), popularly known as ecstasy or, more recently, as Molly, is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that has similarities to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. It produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others, and distortions in sensory and time perception.
MDMA can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines. These include increases in heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with circulatory problems or heart disease. MDMA users may experience other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating.
In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. On rare but unpredictable occasions, this can lead to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), which can result in liver, kidney, or cardiovascular system failure or even death. MDMA can interfere with its own metabolism (breakdown within the body), causing potentially harmful levels to build up in the body if it is taken repeatedly within short periods of time.
Compounding the risks is the fact that ecstasy tablets and even capsules of supposedly pure “Molly” sometimes actually contain other drugs instead or in addition. Those may include ephedrine (a stimulant), dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), ketamine, caffeine, cocaine, methamphetamine, or even, most recently, synthetic cathinones (the psychoactive ingredients in “bath salts”). These substances are harmful alone and may be particularly dangerous mixed with MDMA. Users who intentionally or unknowingly combine such a mixture with additional substances such as marijuana and alcohol may be putting themselves at even higher risk for adverse health effects.
Additionally, the closeness-promoting effects of MDMA and its use in sexually charged contexts (and especially in combination with sildenafil) may encourage unsafe sex, which is a risk factor for contracting or spreading HIV and hepatitis, and unwanted pregnancy.