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Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a chemical stimulant and the active ingredient in ecstasy. The term ecstasy refers to pills usually made from MDMA and mixed with other drugs like amphetamines, and caffeine. MDMA is becoming more widely available and frequently used in New Zealand.
MDMA increases the release of serotonin and dopamine in your brain which are linked to feelings happiness, while also increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. People generally experience feelings of energy, intensity of feelings, confidence, happiness, openness, closeness to others, dehydration, teeth grinding, feeling hot, and reduced appetite. Most people experience the effects in waves and describe it as ‘rolling’ with the highs and lows leveling out over time. Too much MDMA can make you confused, anxious, feel like vomiting and even hallucinate.
After using people can experience a comedown with feelings of low energy, difficulty sleeping, feeling irritable and mildly depressed, and have difficulty concentrating. These feelings could last for several days depending on how much you have taken.
MDMA makes you feel like moving so there is a risk of overheating, exhaustion, collapsing or having a seizure from overexertion. Drink around 250ml of water per hour if dancing or active, to help avoid overheating. Make sure you also take breaks to cool down.
It is best to be with friends when using MDMA so you have someone to look after you if it is too intense or you begin feeling unwell, disorientated or overwhelmed.
Mixing drugs is always risky because it is hard to predict how one drug will interact with another. Avoid using MDMA if you are on anti-depressants (MAOIs or SSRIs) as they act on the same areas in the brain making the effects unpredictable and dangerous.
MDMA is most often taken orally, which is the safest way to use it. Snorting should be avoided as it can be harmful to the nasal passage and reduces your body's ability to get rid of the drug if you have used too much. It also results in a more intense but significantly shorter high that puts more stress on your body.
Use a small amount initially if it is your first time using, and make sure you weigh it rather than visually measuring. Avoid re-dosing as it is unlikely to enhance positive effects and increases the risk of neurotoxicity and feelings of a comedown.
Large doses or a strong batch of MDMA may result in overdose resulting in symptoms such as: irregular or racing heartbeat, high body temperature, high blood pressure, convulsions, difficulty breathing, passing out, symptoms of heart attack and stroke.
If things have gone wrong for you or for someone you know because of MDMA use (or any other drug) call for an ambulance immediately (dial 111).
If you are…
…then you may be starting to experience substance use disorder.
You might want to talk with a GP or drug and alcohol counsellor about your drug use. You can also call the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 for confidential, non-judgemental expert advice. It’s free and open 24 hours.
If you just want to cut down, you could start by buying less so you use a smaller amount than usual.
In New Zealand MDMA pills often contain other substances such as mephedrone, BZP, ketamine and cathinones, known as ‘bath salts’. Sometimes they contain no MDMA at all. You can use a reagent test kit (e.g. Marquis or Mandelin) to check for MDMA or other substances; colour changes indicate the presence of other chemicals.
Each test can only confirm the presence of one substance at a time however, and even if the presence of MDMA is confirmed that does not mean other chemicals aren’t there too.
Reagent tests can be purchased online or from head shops. When using them, follow instructions carefully and be aware they are not always 100 percent reliable.
Higher doses of MDMA do not appear to make the high any better but they do increase the risks of negative side effects. If using more than one dose in a night, make sure the second dose is half the strength of the first one or less, any more than this will not increase the high - it will just make the comedown worse.
Frequent use of MDMA should be avoided. The effects of MDMA are reduced and you need to use more if there isn’t much time in between sessions. Ideally, you should wait two or three months before using MDMA again to give your brain and body time to recover.