Last updated: November 27, 2023
MDMA is an entactogenic drug of the phenethylamine and amphetamine classes of drugs. MDMA has become commonly known as “ecstasy,” usually referring to its street pill form, although this term may also include the presence of possible adulterants.
MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, and diminished anxiety. Some studies in the fields of psychology and cognitive therapy, have suggested that MDMA may have therapeutic benefits and facilitates therapy sessions in certain individuals, a practice for which it had formally been used in the past. Clinical trials are currently testing the therapeutic potential of MDMA for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety associated with terminal cancer.
For some people, MDMA can be highly addictive. A survey of young adult and adolescent MDMA users showed that 43% of users met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance (or diminished response), and 34% met the criteria for drug abuse. Almost 60% of people who use MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.
The UN estimated that in 2008, between 10–25 million people globally used MDMA at least once in the past year. This was broadly similar to the number of cocaine, amphetamine and opiate users, but far fewer than the global number of cannabis users.
Effects reported by some users once the acute effects of MDMA have worn off include: anxiety and paranoia, depression, irritability, fatigue, impaired attention, focus, and concentration, drive and motivation, residual feelings of empathy, emotional sensitivity, and a sense of closeness to others, dizziness, lightheadedness or vertigo, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea or constipation, insomnia, aches and pains, exhaustion and jaw soreness.