understanding ecstasy

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Ecstasy might give people a ‘rush’ but there are also effects that aren’t so good including feeling sick and tremors.

'Ecstasy' is a drug called MDMA, which is like amphetamine. What you are sold as ecstasy might include a wide range of drugs, as there is no control over the ingredients, their quality or their safety. This increases the chance that you will overdose, be poisoned or have other bad reactions. Ecstasy is an illegal drug, so you can be charged for possessing, making or selling it.

How is ecstasy taken?

Ecstasy is usually supplied as pills or powder. The pills come in different colours and many have pictures or logos stamped into them. Pills are usually swallowed, but some people grind and then snort them.

What are the effects of ecstasy?

Ecstasy gives people an 'energy burst', making them feel alert and alive. It makes sounds and colours more intense. People feel more talkative or sociable, and often feel closer to others.

Effects that aren't so good include:

  • Tingling feelings in the arms and legs

  • Tightening of the jaw muscles, with tooth grinding and jaw clenching

  • Higher body temperature and more sweating

  • Faster heart beat

  • Nausea (feeling sick and wanting to vomit)

  • Tremors

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Loss of appetite

It can be hard to tell whether the effects are from ecstasy or the other drugs that might have been included in the pill.

How can ecstasy affect my physical health?

Dehydration and overheating is an important problem with ecstasy. Signs include feeling hot or confused, not sweating, headaches, being unable to urinate, your pulse rate not slowing down even when resting, vomiting, fainting, collapsing and having 'fits'.

Drinking lots of water to overcome these feelings can also be dangerous, as it changes the body's salt balance and causes a new set of problems. You can reduce the risks by sipping water slowly and regularly.

If you experience any of these symptoms, get a friend to stay with you until you feel better, slowly sip cool water, and rest in a quiet, cool place. If the symptoms continue and you don't cool down, find the first-aid area (if at a rave/party) or if there is none, go straight to hospital.

Ecstasy can kill you through dehydration and overheating.

Deaths are also caused by other substances that are mixed with the drug, or if pills contain other drugs like PMA.  PMA ('red Mitsubishi' or 'red death') is dangerous. It is often sold as ecstasy as it is simpler and cheaper to make. Its effects include hallucinations, delirium, restlessness, agitation, muscle contractions, stiffness, sweating, high fever, seizures, coma and death.

How can ecstasy affect my health?

Repeated use of ecstasy can cause health and mental health problems including:

  • Personality change

  • Memory loss

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Anxiety

  • Nervousness

  • Hallucinations

  • Tiredness

  • Paranoia

  • Depression

  • Nerve cell damage

  • Cracked teeth

  • Liver, kidney and heart problems

  • Urine infections

Managing your drug use

If you, your family or your friends think your drug use is becoming a problem, then get some help and talk to people about it. Changing your drug use can be hard work, but it will be worth it.

Some people can reduce or stop drug use on their own, but think about talking to a trusted family member, friend, doctor or counsellor.

For more information, find your nearest headspace centre or for access online and phone support with eheadspace.

Download the factsheet here

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