MDMA (ecstasy) is a stimulant and psychedelic drug which can make you feel energised. It usually looks like an off-white, yellow, grey, purple or light brown crystal-like powder, but can also look like tablets.

Also known as:

  • E
  • MDMA
  • Molly
  • Mandy

What does MDMA look like?

  • An off-white, yellow, grey, purple or light brown crystal-like powder
  • Tablets, which come in a variety of colours and shapes

How is MDMA taken?

  • Swallowing tablets, or powder wrapped in a cigarette paper (also called ‘bombing’)
  • Orally by drinking powder mixed with water, or rubbing it onto the gums
  • Snorting powder up the nose 

How can MDMA make me feel?

MDMA can make you feel:

  • Anxious 
  • Euphoric
  • Extremely happy
  • Panicked 
  • Loved up
  • Confused 
  • Energised 
  • Alert

MDMA can also cause:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Extreme thirst 
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Jaw clenching
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Increased sex drive 
  • Enhanced appreciation of colour and sound

Hallucinations, anxiety and comedown effects like extreme tiredness are relatively common. These may be present for up to a few days after taking MDMA.

How long can the effects of MDMA last?

It depends on several factors, including your age, weight and metabolism, what you have already taken, the purity of the drug, and the dose.

Generally speaking, the effects start around 30 minutes after use, and can last up to four hours. Wait at least two hours between doses if you can.

What happens to my body if I use MDMA frequently?

Using MDMA frequently can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Heart problems
  • Serotonin syndrome, which happens when the body’s levels of serotonin become too high. This risk increases when MDMA is taken alongside some prescription medicines

How to reduce harm while using MDMA

We recognise that some ways of using drugs carry less risk than others, and by providing information which supports people to make informed decisions, we can help people to minimise harm.

Before you start, check:

  • Is now the right time? How you’re feeling when you use MDMA can impact the effects you may experience, so consider checking in with yourself and thinking about whether now is a good time for you.

  • Do I know what I’m taking? Researching what you’re planning to take, what the effects can be and how to reduce harm can help to keep you safe. 

  • Have I contacted a friend or family member? In case you need help while you’re taking MDMA, consider telling someone your plans.

While you're using:

Start low, go slow

Strength can vary between batches, even if you take the drug regularly, starting with a small amount and waiting at least two hours before your next dose can help to reduce the risk of overdose.

Go at your own pace

Everyone responds differently to drugs - trying to keep up with others puts you at greater risk of overdosing. 

Plan and measure doses

If you’re going out, only take what you plan to use with you as this makes it easier to set boundaries and stay in control. It’s easier to lose track of time when using drugs, so taking a screenshot of the time or setting a timer each time you have a dose can help you space out your doses.

Try not to use on your own

It's best not to use MDMA if you’re on your own or if you’re in a position where there is nobody you could call for help. A buddy system - where one person takes their dose first and waits until the peak effects have worn off before the other person uses - makes it more likely that someone can help if anyone overdoses.

Try not to mix

Try to take MDMA on its own, as mixing with other drugs or alcohol can increase your risk of overdose. Mixing with some prescription medications, including antidepressants and HIV medications, can increase the risk of serious side-effects.

Sip water

MDMA can make you feel very thirsty, but drinking too much fluid can be harmful. Try to drink a normal amount of water (no more than one pint of water or non-alcoholic fluid an hour) and in small sips.

Take a break

MDMA can cause your body to overheat. Taking regular breaks from dancing is important, as it gives your body time to cool down.

Find a safe space

Where you are when you take drugs can impact the effects you may experience, so try and find a space where you feel safe, comfortable, with people you trust.

The recovery position

The recovery position helps to prevent someone unconscious from choking on vomit. If someone is unconscious, putting them in the recovery position, getting help if needed, and staying with them will help to reduce the risk of harm.

After using MDMA:

There’s a good chance you’ll experience a ‘comedown’ when the effects of MDMA wear off. Comedowns don’t last forever, but they can affect your mood, motivation, energy levels, and your mental health. Some people find comedowns very challenging, and it can sometimes take a few days to fully recover. 

  • Looking after and being kind to yourself is important - get plenty of sleep and rest, and try to avoid taking any other drugs to give your body time to recover

  • Refuelling will help your recovery - this includes drinking plenty of water and eating something nutritious which is soft on your stomach and not too rich

  • If you think you may be at risk of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) like Hep B, Hep C and HIV, you can access free testing from any drug and alcohol service, your GP, or a sexual health centre. You can catch a BBV even if you don’t inject a drug - through unprotected sex or sharing equipment

And always remember - if you’re feeling low and feel you can’t talk to a friend or family member, contact us for help through our webchat or find your local service.

What do I do if I think someone has overdosed on MDMA?

If someone passes out or falls asleep and you can’t wake them up after using MDMA, put them in the recovery position and get help fast by calling 999, telling emergency services what you know.

Symptoms of MDMA overdose include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Changes to your heart rate and how it beats 
  • Difficulty controlling your body temperature - particularly getting too warm
  • Falling unconscious 
  • Having seizures 

If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl. Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them. 

You can get a naloxone kit and training on how to use it from your local WithYou service

More information about naloxone, including how to use it.

MDMA withdrawal signs, symptoms, and what to do

If your body develops a tolerance to MDMA, you may feel you need to take more to get the same effects. 

You can become dependent on MDMA, and regular use can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or cut back.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Feeling depressed, anxious or irritable
  • Issues with sleep
  • Feeling like you don’t want to, or can’t, eat 
  • Poor concentration

If you’re dependent on MDMA, we can help you cut down safely, as stopping suddenly can lead to withdrawal complications. 

Find a local service

The law around MDMA

MDMA is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to be found carrying or using it. The legal term for this is possession. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class A drug is up to seven years in prison, a fine or both. 

It’s also illegal to give away or sell MDMA. This is known as supply, and is a more serious offence than possession.  It can be considered supply if you give your friend some or share some with them, and this could get you time in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Looking for support?

If you’re concerned about your ecstasy use, or if you’re worried about someone you know, we’re WithYou. We provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support and advice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out: