Ecstasy (MDMA) facts

Marie Law Alphabiolabs

By Marie Law, Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 02/02/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at ecstasy (MDMA), what it is, how it is used, the side effects of ecstasy use and more.
Table of contents
  • What is ecstasy?
  • What are the street names for ecstasy (MDMA)?
  • What does ecstasy look like?
  • How is ecstasy used?
  • How do people behave when they take ecstasy?
  • What are the side effects of ecstasy?
  • What happens when you drink alcohol while taking ecstasy?
  • Which legislation covers ecstasy (MDMA) use?
  • Can ecstasy be used in medicine?
  • How long does it take for ecstasy to show up in a drug test?
  • Where can I buy a drug test?

What is ecstasy?

Methyl​enedioxy​ methamphetamine (MDMA), also known as ecstasy, is a manufactured stimulant and psychedelic drug that produces energising effects and can make a person feel ‘loved-up’ and alert.

However, these effects vary from person to person, with some people also experiencing anxiety, panic, and paranoia.

Ecstasy (MDMA) is commonly used recreationally at festivals and clubs and can be extremely dangerous, as illegally-manufactured ecstasy often contains other substances including methamphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, cathinones (synthetic stimulants) and caffeine.  

What are the street names for ecstasy (MDMA)?

Some of the most common street names for ecstasy (MDMA) include:

  • Adam
  • E
  • XTC
  • Disco Burgers
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Diamonds
  • Fantasy
  • Doves
  • New Yorkers
  • Yellow Submarines
  • Snowball
  • Echoes

What does ecstasy look like?

Ecstasy tablets are illegally sold in a variety of colours, designs and shapes, including smiley faces.

MDMA is usually sold in a powdered form.

How is ecstasy used?

In pill form, ecstasy is typically ingested (swallowed) but may also be crushed and snorted.

MDMA powder is either snorted or dabbed onto the gums.

How do people behave when they take ecstasy?

How a person feels and behaves after using ecstasy (MDMA) can vary, depending on the person.

As the name implies, in some people these drugs instil a feeling of happiness that can cause them to feel ‘loved-up’ and more affectionate toward the people around them – even strangers.

However, ecstasy (MDMA) can also cause feelings of panic, confusion, paranoia, anxiety and even psychosis.

What are the side effects of ecstasy?

The physical side effects can also vary and depend on several factors, including how the drug is ingested, frequency of use, and the metabolism and weight of the person.

Some common side effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Tightening of the jaw muscles (gurning)
  • Raised body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Tingling sensations
  • Overheating and dehydration

Long-term use has been linked to kidney, heart, and liver problems. People with heart conditions, high blood pressure, epilepsy and asthma are also at an increased risk of experiencing a dangerous reaction to these substances.

What happens when you drink alcohol while taking ecstasy?

Drinking alcohol can slow the removal of MDMA from the body, leading to more serious side effects or more severe reactions to the drug.

Combining alcohol and ecstasy can also lead to impaired judgment, problems with movement and coordination, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, muscle spasms and confusion.

Which legislation covers ecstasy (MDMA) use?

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Under UK law, ecstasy (MDMA) is classified as a Class A drug.

Controlled drugs refer to any substances that are tightly controlled by the government, because they pose a risk of addiction or misuse.

It is an offence for a person to have controlled drugs in their possession, unless in exceptional circumstances, such as when they have been prescribed by a doctor. This also covers activities relating to the production, supply or preparation of controlled drugs.

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Possession Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Supply Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Drug Driving Road Traffic Act 2015

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Drug driving Up to 6 months in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Criminal record
Driving licence endorsement for 11 years
One-year driving ban
Causing death by dangerous driving Up to 14 years in prison

Can ecstasy be used in medicine?

Although not commonly used in the UK for medical purposes, other countries including the United States have trialled the application of MDMA in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How long does it take for ecstasy to show up in a drug test?

Even after the ‘high’ has worn off, and long after the drug was first consumed, ecstasy (MDMA) use can be detected by a drug test, depending on the type of test you take.

The drug testing detection windows for ecstasy are as follows:

  • Oral fluid (saliva) – up to 48 hours
  • Urine – up to 4 days
  • Hair – up to 12 months (depending on the length of hair available)
  • Nails – up to 12 months (up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails)

Oral fluid and urine drug testing are known as ‘narrow-window’ forms of testing and can be used to detect drug use from 30 minutes after consumption, up to a few days.

This can vary depending on the type of substance and how much was used.

The rate at which hair and nails grow means that both hair drug testing and nail drug testing can provide a ‘wide-window’ of detection for drugs and their metabolites (up to 12 months).

Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a friend or loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (£18) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from £99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court. If you require a drug test for official matters, you will need a legally-instructed drug test.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can also call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

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Marie Law

Marie Law

Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs

A highly-skilled and respected scientist with over 13 years’ experience in the field of forensics, Marie joined AlphaBiolabs in 2022 and oversees the company’s growing toxicology team.

As Head of Toxicology, Marie’s day-to-day responsibilities include maintaining the highest quality testing standards for toxicology and further enhancing AlphaBiolabs’ drug and alcohol testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector.

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