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Side Effects of MDMA

author image Matthew Busse
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.
Side Effects of MDMA
MDMA is often used at night clubs and raves. Photo Credit party image by Alexey Laputin from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

MDMA is the abbreviation for 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is commonly known as Ecstasy, E, XTC, Clarity or the Love Drug. MDMA is a completely synthetic drug, first created by the German pharmaceutical company Merck in 1912 for use as an appetite suppressant. During the 1980s, MDMA become popular as a recreational drug, and its use has grown since then. MDMA is a pyschoactive stimulant and has effects on the brain similar to other stimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine. Several side effects result from MDMA use, ranging from mild to potentially life-threatening.

Physical Effects

Because MDMA is a stimulant, immediate side effects include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can be very dangerous for people with underlying cardiovascular health problems. Other effects include uncontrollable muscle clenching, which often results in teeth-clenching or eye twitching. Nausea, chills, sweating, dizziness, headache, fainting, dry mouth and blurred vision also often accompany MDMA use. A skin rash similar to acne may also result from ingestion of MDMA.

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Effects on Mood

Ingestion of MDMA causes the release of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, which results in an immediate high. This disruption of the brain's normal serotonin levels can lead to confusion, anxiety, paranoia and sleep problems. Furthermore, days or weeks later, the brain then has less serotonin that it needs, which can prolong those symptoms and cause depression, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Effects on Mental Ability

Excessive use of MDMA has been shown to damage the serotonin receptors in the brain, reports Drugs.com. This brain damage is linked to long-term occurrence of flashbacks and panic attacks and may cause psychosis and personality disorders. Recent tests have shown that long-term MDMA users also exhibit persistent problems with memory recall.

Life-Threatening Effects

In rare cases, MDMA use can cause rapid peaks in body temperature. When this occurs in the hot, crowded conditions of a club or rave, severe dehydration and heart or kidney failure may result. Some fatalities have been linked to MDMA use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Users of MDMA may become physically dependent on and addicted to MDMA. One survery found that 43 percent of MDMA users showed signs of dependence, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, depression, fatigue and problems concentrating.

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