MDMA / Ecstasy

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3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (a.k.a Mandy, MD and Es, Pills)

What’s the difference between MDMA and ecstasy?

MDMA and ecstasy are effectively the same man-made substance, with MDMA being the powder form of the drug and ecstasy usually referring to pills.

MDMA is generally viewed as a ‘purer’ version of the drug and found as an off-white powder (sometimes crystalline). MDMA is usually bombed (swallowed in a rizla) or snorted.

Ecstasy tablets are often named after the colour or images they display (such as ‘doves’ or ‘smileys’) and will usually be taken orally.

Why would people use MDMA?

MDMA is a stimulant known for it euphoric effects. People using it may get a rush of energy and positive feelings, with heightened sense and emotions. This can make them feel close to others around them.

MDMA can also induce mild hallucinogenic effects.

What are the risks of MDMA?

Taking MDMA causes the body temperature to rise, especially if people are dancing in hot environments like clubs or raves. If the body becomes too hot there is a risk of heatstroke which can be fatal.

Dehydration can also be a problem, made worse if people are also drinking alcohol.

It can be tempting to take on lots of water to rehydrate the body but this can also be dangerous. Taking on too much fluid in a short time frame can be dangerous as the body struggles to process fluids under the influence of MDMA – this can lead to hyponatraemia (water intoxication) which may result in brain swelling and possibly death.

Stimulant drugs like MDMA make the heart work harder than normal as the body tries to keep up with what the brain wants it to do. This can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Any ‘high’ designed to give the body an energy rush may also leave people feeling tired and washed out – what goes up must come down. When people are on a comedown they can be more likely to use other substances to deal with this, which has its own risks. Rememeber.. the bigger the high, the harsher the comedown.

People using MDMA might also suffer from physical effects:

  • Extreme pain and damage to the nose after snorting
  • Tightening of the jaw muscled and teeth grinding
  • Fits and seizures
  • Erection problems (‘pilly willy’)

Because people can feel ‘loved up’ there is a risk of impulsive, unprepared and unprotected sex. This can lead to problems such as STI’s or unplanned pregnancies.

MDMA use can also have a negative impact on mental health due to the way it affects brain chemistry. Regular use can make it hard for people to regulate mood and emotions, leading to paranoia, anxiety and depression. Research suggests mental health risks are higher for young people as the brain is still developing.

With illegal drugs people never know for certain what they are buying. MDMA is often cut with other substances and some of the adulterants can be lethal. If you don’t know the purity of a drug it can be hard to control the dosage and makes an overdose more likely.

The law

MDMA is a Class A drug

This means that if you are caught in possession of MDMA you could get sent to prison for up to 7 years.

If you are found dealing MDMA you could get a life sentence.

Sentences can also come with an unlimited fine.

There is no safe way of taking MDMA

The safest thing to do is not to take MDMA at all, but if you do take it, here are some ways to reduce the risks:

  1. Avoid mixing MDMA with other drugs, especially alcohol, as this will increase the risks. If you are going to use, only take a small amount to help you control your experience.
  2. If you are going to use MDMA, try and be in a safe environment with friends you trust to look after you in case of problems.
  3. Allow yourself some ‘chill out’ time. Make sure you get rest and take on some non-alcoholic fluids as this should help stop dehydration. (Depending on body size and how energetic someone is being, sipping no more than a pint of water an hour should help to avoid water intoxication)
  4. Consider how much you trust the person you are getting it from (and how they source their MDMA). Buying from people you don’t know can be really risky.
  5. If you are worried that you are having a bad reaction to MDMA seek emergency help. Don’t delay. Get to A&E or call an ambulance.