Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

MDMA (ecstasy)

6-minute read

What is MDMA?

MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is an illicit drug that can give users a euphoric rush after swallowing it. It is a central nervous system stimulant which causes high levels of dopamine to be released. Dopamine is a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward.

MDMA is the presumed main ingredient in an illicit drug called ecstasy. Ecstasy comes as a pill in a variety of colours, often with different stamps or logos on them. These pills might contain some MDMA or none at all. Even 2 pills that look the same might come from different sources and contain different ingredients. MDMA can also come as a powder or crystal.

Not all drugs sold as ecstasy contain MDMA. They may contain other drugs or ‘fillers’, such as household cleaning products, increasing users’ chance of an overdose, bad reaction or poisoning. Drugs sold as ecstasy may also contain a mix of amphetamine, paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), ketamine, NBOMe, synthetic cathinones, or other drugs.

MDMA (ecstasy) has lots of other names, including caps, Eckies, E, XTC, pills, pingers, bikkies, flippers, molly, M&M.

What are the effects of taking MDMA?

MDMA starts to work about 20 minutes after it is taken and the effects usually last for 3 to 4 hours. It can make people feel euphoric, energetic, confident and very affectionate towards others. People who take a lot or who have a strong batch of MDMA may feel like they are floating or have hallucinations.

It can also cause unwanted side effects, such as:

  • large pupils
  • clenching jaw
  • grinding teeth
  • heightened senses
  • sweating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • muscles aches and pains
  • higher blood pressure and heartbeat
  • reduced appetite
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • irrational behaviour

Coming down after taking MDMA leaves users feeling depressed, irritable, anxious and paranoid. They can have trouble sleeping and concentrating. There is also a ‘hangover effect’, where people can experience reduced appetite, disturbed sleep, muscles aches, problems with concentration and depression that can last for several days.

MDMA can affect people differently based on:

  • how much they take
  • how strong it is
  • their size, height and weight
  • whether they are used to taking it
  • whether they take other drugs at the same time

Find out more about how drugs and alcohol can impact your health, including where to find help and support.

What can go wrong with MDMA?

It is possible to overdose on MDMA. This can cause very high blood pressure, a fast heartbeat and a very high body temperature. Some people have died from a bad reaction to MDMA.

Signs of an overdose of MDMA are:

  • agitation
  • out-of-character, irrational behaviour
  • anxiety
  • irritability, paranoia and aggression
  • confusion
  • convulsions
  • vomiting
  • very high temperature

A serious problem is overheating and becoming dehydrated when using MDMA in hot and humid conditions. People who take MDMA should take regular breaks to cool down, and sip water slowly. Some people have also died by drinking too much water after taking MDMA.

MDMA overdose can lead to a coma or death. If you think someone has overdosed on MDMA, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Ambulance officers don’t have to call the police.

Can MDMA cause long-term problems?

People who use MDMA regularly can experience long term effects, such as reduced ability to control their emotions, problems with memory and concentration, personality changes and severe depression. It is possible to develop a tolerance to MDMA, meaning people need to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

People who already have mental health problems should not take MDMA. It could make them feel much worse.

People who use MDMA regularly can develop high blood pressure, damaged nerves, exhaustion and cracked teeth from clenching and grinding.

People with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, liver problems, high blood pressure, panic attacks or a history of mental illness are at greater risk of physical and psychological harm as a result of taking MDMA.

What if I use other drugs or alcohol together with MDMA?

Combining MDMA with other drugs or medicines can be dangerous. Taking MDMA with alcohol can increase the risk of dehydration. Taking it with ice, speed or cocaine increases the risk of anxiety and puts strain on the body, which can lead to a stroke.

If you take MDMA while you are taking antidepressants, you might become drowsy, clumsy, restless, dizzy and feel like you are drunk. It can also increase the risk of an overdose.

Can I become dependent on MDMA?

Withdrawal symptoms include not sleeping, feeling depressed, anxious, agitated and restless, and having trouble concentrating.

Resources and support

Find out more about MDMA on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website or by calling DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84.

You can find help on the Drug Help website or by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage issues as a result of drug use, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

MDMA - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an an empathogen, which means it increases an individual’s feeling of empathy and compassion towards others. MDMA is commonly called and known as ecstasy.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Ecstasy (MDMA) Effects, Overdose and Withdrawal | Your Room

Ecstasy and MDMA come with many short and long term side effects. Find out what to do in the case of overdose or withdrawal and places to get help.

Read more on NSW Health website

Ecstasy: what is it? -

Ecstasy is a street name for the drug MDMA (methylenedioxymethylamphetamine). It is a type of stimulant.

Read more on myDr website

MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD edges closer - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are currently underway in the USA, Canada, and Israel. These trials, spearheaded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), are the last step in determining if this treatment is safe and effective enough to merit the legal prescription of MDMA to enhance psychotherapy in the treatment of PTSD.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

PMA and PMMA - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA) and paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) are stimulants with psychedelic effects similar to MDMA, which is the main ingredient in ecstasy.1 In fact most people who take PMA or PMMA think they are taking ecstasy.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Ecstasy and the effects on the body -

The effects of ecstasy may start to be felt within 20 minutes to one hour after a pill has been taken, and may last for 6 hours.

Read more on myDr website

Understanding ecstasy | headspace

Ecstasy use and mental health is an issue that effects many young people. Learn more about the affects of ecstasy and how you can get help from headspace.

Read more on headspace website

Ecstasy, ICE and other Amphetamines — TINO : Tune In Not Out

Tune In Not Out (TINO) is the youth health portal helping young people navigate life’s challenges. The website covers over 50 topics from depression, relationships, sexual health, school life and more.

Read more on Tune In Not Out website

Cocaine: use with other drugs -

Snorting and injecting cocaine can result in long-term effects on your health. Using other stimulants such as ecstasy with cocaine can increase the risk of overdose.

Read more on myDr website

New psychoactive substances - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are a range of drugs that have been designed to mimic established illicit drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.