Topic Overview

Ecstasy (MDMA) is both a stimulant (amphetamine-like) and mild calming (tranquillizing) substance. Ecstasy is also called Adam, XTC, hug, Go, Disco Biscuit, beans, and the love drug. Ecstasy pills often have a logo, such as cartoon characters, stamped on them. This drug is most often taken as a pill, but the powder form is sometimes snorted or, rarely, injected into a vein.

Ecstasy is popular among young people who attend all-night dance parties or raves. The stimulant effects help the person dance for long periods of time without getting tired. Ecstasy is said to enhance the sense of pleasure and boost self-confidence. Its hallucinogenic effects include feelings of peacefulness, acceptance, and empathy. People who use the drug claim they experience feelings of closeness with other people and want to touch or hug others.

Ecstasy causes muscle tension and jaw-clenching, which has led to the use of baby pacifiers to reduce this discomfort. It also causes nausea, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, faintness, and chills or sweating. In high doses, ecstasy can cause a sharp increase in body temperature, leading to dehydration, muscle breakdown, kidney failure, or heart failure and death. When ecstasy is used with alcohol, the effects can be more harmful.

Ecstasy can cause confusion, depression, sleep problems, and severe anxiety that may last weeks after taking the drug. Over time, use of ecstasy can lead to thought and memory problems. If a rash that looks like acne develops after a person uses ecstasy, the person may be at risk for liver damage by continuing use of the drug.

Ecstasy usually doesn't last in a person's system longer than 12 to 16 hours, and many general drug screening tests do not detect it unless it is specifically targeted.

Signs of use

  • Pacifiers worn around the neck, especially when attending parties
  • Attendance at all-night dances or raves
  • Sleep problems
  • Skin rash similar to acne
  • Possession of pills stamped with cartoon or other characters or possession of a powdered substance


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Peter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015