What is MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)? MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is most commonly known as Ecstasy or Molly. It is a laboratory-made drug that produces a “high” similar to the stimulants called amphetamines. It also produces psychedelic effects, similar to the hallucinogens mescaline and LSD. Molly first became popular in the nightclub scene, at “raves” (all-night dance parties), and music festivals or concerts. It is now used by a broader range of people. The drug’s effects generally last from 3 to 6 hours.
How MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) is Used
Most people who use ecstasy take it in a pill, tablet, or capsule. The pills can be different colors and sometimes have cartoon-like images on them. Some people take more than one pill at a time, called “bumping.” The popular term “Molly” (slang for molecular) refers to the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA, usually sold in capsules. But this is mostly a marketing gimmick—testing on “Molly” seized by police shows a variety of other ingredients.
In fact, researchers and law enforcement have found that much of the Ecstasy sold today contains other harmful and possibly deadly drugs. In some recent cases, drugs sold as MDMA actually contain no Molly at all. Frequently, MDMA is mixed with or replaced by synthetic cathinones, the chemicals in “bath salts”. Some MDMA pills, tablets, and capsules have also been found to contain caffeine, dextromethorphan (found in some cough syrups), amphetamines, PCP, or cocaine.
Because MDMA increases the activity of these chemicals, some users experience negative effects. They may become anxious and agitated, become sweaty, have chills, or feel faint or dizzy.
Even those who don’t feel negative effects during use can experience bad after-effects. Even weeks later, people can experience confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety, because the surge of serotonin caused by Molly reduces the brain’s supply of this important chemical.
Learn more about how the brain works and what happens when a person uses drugs. And, check out how the brain responds to natural rewards and to drugs.