Ecstasy (also known by its chemical name, MDMA) is often seen as the original designer drug because of its high profile links to dance music culture in the late 80s and early 90s. Clubbers took ecstasy to feel energised, happy, to stay awake and to dance for hours. The effects take about half an hour to kick in and tend to last between 3 to 6 hours, followed by a gradual comedown.
The main effects and risks of ecstasy include:
A big problem with ecstasy is that it’s rarely pure. Sometimes, there is no MDMA at all. Sometimes, it contains other drugs, like PMA, which can be fatal. Regardless of what it looks like and what it is called, you can’t be sure what’s in a pill or a powder and you can’t predict how you’ll react.
Pure ecstasy is a powder made of white crystals, known to chemists as MDMA. Ecstasy is usually sold on the street as tablets, although it's getting more common to see it sold as powder and called by its chemical name, MDMA, or 'crystal'.
Ecstasy pills come in all sorts of colours and some of them have designs or logos stamped into them. This can result in some ecstasy pills getting ‘nicknames’, for example some pills were called Mitsubishi's because they were stamped with a Mitsubishi logo.
Some dealers pass off new man-made drugs like PMA and 4-MTA and ‘legal highs’ as E’s.
Their effects can be very different or they may take longer to kick in with a risk of the user ‘double-dosing’ to get the buzz they’re looking for (risking double the side effects).
Ecstasy pills are usually swallowed – although some people do crush them up and smoke or snort them. A recent study has suggested that some ecstasy pills may be marketed as being stronger than others, and that increased strength may be reflected in a higher price. MDMA powder can be ‘dabbed’ onto the gums or snorted.
People have been known to take another E when they haven't initially felt the expected ‘high’ from the first one, this is called ‘double dosing’. The danger then is that both Es kick in and you’ve a double dose of effects (and risks!) to deal with.
It can also have other effects:
Taking ecstasy involves some risks. Here’s what it could do to you:
A big problem with Ecstasy pills is that they're rarely pure. They can be cut with amphetamines (like speed), caffeine and other substances with some similar effects – because it’s cheaper to produce and can increase the dealer’s profits.
When Ecstasy has been cut with an alternative stimulant that is slower to kick in than MDMA, some users have then topped-up with another dose prematurely; and then they find they suffer side-effects because they’ve then overdosed.
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 (a strong desire to keep on using despite the long-term risks, such as damaging relationships or losing your job).
If the Police catch you with ecstasy, they’ll always take some action. This could include a formal caution, arrest and prosecution.