What does it look like?
Ecstasy comes in pill or powder form. When it’s a powder it’s called by its chemical name, MDMA, but it’s the same drug as ecstasy.
Ecstasy pills can be white, coloured, round, square or pressed into any shape. Some pills have designs stamped into them, like well known company logos that the pills are then named after.
Ecstasy powder looks like white/grey crystals and is called MDMA, mandy or MD.
What does it taste/smell like?
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed and MDMA is usually rubbed (dabbed) into the user’s gums. They both taste bitter and unpleasant.
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed, although some people crush them up and snort them. The amount of MDMA in ecstasy pills varies massively. Some pills sold as ecstasy actually contain other, more dangerous, drugs that take longer to kick in.
For this reason, you should never take a whole pill in one go, even if you’ve taken ecstasy before.
Drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
People usually take MDMA powder by dabbing it onto their gums or by swallowing it wrapped in a cigarette paper, which is sometimes called ‘bombing’.
MDMA users often start by dabbing just a small amount of powder and waiting for the effects to kick in.
Like with pills, drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
How does it make you feel?
Most people feel:
- very happy – hence the name
- ‘loved up’ – users often feel love and affection for the people they're with and the strangers around them
- energised and alert
Ecstasy can also make people feel more in tune with their surroundings and like the music is more intense, which is why people sometimes take it in nightclubs and at parties.
Some users have reported feelings of:
- panic attacks
- confused episodes
- paranoia and even psychosis after taking ecstasy
How does it make people behave?
Lots of people feel very chatty and uninhibited on ecstasy, which makes them open up and talk about things they might not do normally.
Physical side effects can include:
- dilated pupils
- tingling sensations
- tightening or moving of the jaw muscles (gurning)
- raised body temperature
- a faster heartbeat and nausea
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
To kick in
When taken orally, ecstasy normally takes 30 minutes to kick in, but it could take as little as 20 minutes, or it may take over an hour or more. Some other (more dangerous) drugs sold as ecstasy take longer to kick in.
How long it lasts
Users tend to feel high for 2 to 4 hours. You might still experience some physical effects, like a fast heart beat or insomnia (not being able to sleep), for a few hours after you stop feeling high – especially if you take a lot.
Some people find that ecstasy makes them feel down and low in mood the next day, known as a ‘comedown’. This can last for several days.
How long will it be detectable?
Ecstasy can normally be detected in a urine test between 1 to 4 days after taking it.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
Physical health risks
- Because the strength of ecstasy pills are so unpredictable, if you do decide to take ecstasy, you should start by taking half or even a quarter of the pill and then wait for the effects to kick in before taking anymore – you may find that this is enough.
- If you’re taking MDMA, start by dabbing a small amount of powder only, then wait for the effects to kick in.
- Use of ecstasy has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems.
- Some users report getting colds and sore throats more often when they take ecstasy.
- Anyone with a heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have a very dangerous reaction to the drug.
- Ecstasy affects the body's temperature control. Dancing for long periods in a hot atmosphere, like a club, increases the chances of overheating and dehydration. Users should take regular breaks from the dance floor to cool down and watch out for any mates who are on it – as they might not realise they're in danger of overheating or getting dehydrated.
- Drinking too much (including water) can also be dangerous. This is because ecstasy can cause the body to release a hormone which stops it making urine. If you drink too quickly you might affect your body's salt balance, which can be as deadly as not drinking enough water.
Users should sip no more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic drink every hour.
Mental health risks
Evidence suggests that long-term users can suffer from memory problems and may develop depression and anxiety.
What is ecstasy cut with?
There’s no way of knowing what’s inside your ecstasy pill or MDMA powder until you've taken it. Even testing kits may not find everything.
You may be at risk from other drugs and ingredients added to the pill or powder, as well as to the ecstasy itself.
Ecstasy pills are sometimes cut with amphetamines (like speed), caffeine and other substances that have some similar effects but are cheaper to produce. Some pills are cut with stimulants that are slower to kick in than MDMA, and so users have taken more of the pill (or pills) and then overdosed. Always start by taking a half or a quarter of a pill first – you may find that is enough.
MDMA powder can also be cut with other ingredients. You should always start by taking a very small amount to begin with and wait for the effects to kick in before deciding whether to take anymore.
Can you get addicted?
It's possible to build up tolerance to ecstasy, which means people need to take more of the drug to get the same buzz.
You may also develop a psychological dependence, which is a strong desire to keep on using even if you think your use is having harmful consequences.
This is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
Possession can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.