Skip to Content
drug information


Ecstasy is the common street name for the stimulant methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). The term ‘ecstasy’ refers to the fact that MDMA produces feelings of energy, empathy and euphoria. 

  1. What it is

    Ecstasy is the street name for the stimulant drug MDMA, or methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

    Ecstasy is most commonly taken orally as a pill; however powdered forms can be snorted. Ecstasy pills are generally the size of common headache pills. They come in a variety of colours, and often have symbols on them by which different ‘batches’ are recognised. 

  2. Health effects

    When MDMA is taken orally, the effects start about 30-45 minutes later; snorting, smoking or injecting produces much quicker onset. The primary effects usually reach a plateau at around one hour to 90 minutes after taking the dose, stay there for about two hours, then start tapering gradually. The primary effects are pretty much over by four to six hours. Secondary effects may be felt for days.

  3. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction

    There is no conclusive evidence that ecstasy is physically addictive.  However, regular users can develop tolerance to the drug, meaning they must take more each time to feel the same effects. This increases the risk of overdose and negative side effects.

  4. Law and penalities

    Ecstasy is illegal in New Zealand, scheduled as a Class B1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. The penalty for importing, manufacturing or supplying ecstasy is a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.

  5. Drug trends

    Ecstasy has become one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in New Zealand. Although it has been associated with nightclubs and electronic music, ecstasy is also used in homes and private parties.

  6. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  7. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact confidentially.

  8. History of ecstasy

    A patent for MDMA was first filed in 1912 by German pharmaceutical company Merck, however MDMA was not ingested by humans for about another half century.

  9. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about ecstasy:  The Australian Drug Foundation’s Drug Info Clearinghouse ecstasy factsheet.  Community Alcohol and Drugs Services ecstasy information page.