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Ecstasy FAQs

Molly hit the mainstream media in 2013 when three young adults died and four others were in critical condition after taking apparent overdoses at a New York electronic music festival. Despite the media attention, many myths and misconceptions about Ecstasy still abound.1 The following Ecstasy facts provide insights on this popular, highly dangerous party drug.

Is MDMA to Blame for the Dangers of Ecstasy Use?

MDMA itself has side effects, some of which are harmful, although “Ecstasy-type” drugs may contain very little or no MDMA at all. What is sold as Ecstasy today often has a mixture of adulterating substances such as LSD, PMA, cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, rat poison, caffeine and more. Despite the misleading attractive packaging, the unknown contents make some Ecstasy mixtures particularly dangerous. These dangers increase when users boost the dosage to attain a previous high, unaware the current version may be an entirely different mix of drugs.2 Many deaths originally attributed to MDMA were later found to be caused by PMA.1

Does Drinking Water Make Molly Safer?

The overheating and dehydration effects of Ecstasy are well-documented. While staying hydrated can reduce the risk of heatstroke associated with MDMA, the drug can also cause the body to retain water. Drinking too much water can lead to a potentially fatal electrolyte imbalance. Sports drinks, which replace electrolytes, are actually safer to drink than water. Women may be at greater risk for overhydrating because they tend to retain more water, especially before menstrual periods. Hydrating properly can help with some issues, but does not equate to Ecstasy being safer in overall terms.1

What Are the Repercussions of Mixing Ecstasy With Alcohol?

Mixing Ecstasy with alcohol dampens the high, while increasing the risk of dehydration, often causing users to increase doses of both. Ecstasy preserves feelings of drunkenness but may prevent sedation effects associated with alcohol intoxication. Some users may feel as though Ecstasy mediates alcohol’s impact on physical performance. Scientific studies have shown cognitive ability remains impaired when using both drugs together. A recent scientific study examined the effects of MDMA and alcohol together. Although both drugs lowered inhibitions on their own, when taken together, users reported greater sexual arousal. Drinking alcohol on top of Ecstasy can further encourage risky behavior, such as having unprotected sex, contracting sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant.1,3

Does the Drug Have Different Effects on Men and Women?

Women who use MDMA seem to have more negative personality changes, sleep disturbances and depletion of dopamine and serotonin in the brain than men. The drug also increases a woman’s risk for miscarriage.4 A Global Drugs Survey conducted in the U.K. revealed a four-fold increase in British female clubbers seeking emergency medical treatment after taking MDMA in the last three years. Females in the U.K. are also two to three times more likely to seek emergency treatment than men after using MDMA. One theory is that MDMA causes users’ bodies to retain more water, which in some cases can lead to dangerous brain swelling. Estrogen impairs the cells’ ability to release water, causing women to be at greater risk of this effect.5

  1. Maia Szalavitz. Concert Deaths: Four Myths About the Drug Molly. Time. September 3, 2013 http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/03/concert-deaths-five-myths-about-the-drug-molly/ Accessed January 12, 2017.
  2. What is Ecstasy? Drug Free World website. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/ecstasy/what-is-ecstasy.html Accessed January 12, 2017.
  3. Mixing ecstasy with alcohol. Addiction Blog website. http://drug.addictionblog.org/mixing-ecstasy-with-alcohol/ Published April 15, 2013. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions About Ecstasy. Psych Central website. http://psychcentral.com/lib/frequently-asked-questions-about-ecstasy/ Updated July 17, 2016. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  5. Damien Gayle and Leah Green. MDMA may pose greater danger to women than men, say scientists. The Guardian. November 4, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/04/mdma-ecstasy-poses-greater-danger-to-women-than-men-warn-scientists Accessed January 12, 2017.
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