Ecstasy (MDMA)


Hallucinogen (with stimulant effects)


Names ecstasy, E, XTC, Adam, Euphoria, X, MDM and Love Doves

Origins and ingredients
  • This substance usually comes in gelatin capsules or tablets.
  • Pills can be any colour and may have a design on one side such as a dove or a diamond.
  • It can also come as a powder, which is snorted or, less commonly, dissolved and injected.
  • As with all illegal drugs, it is impossible to know exactly what chemicals might be found in a pill that is supposed to be ecstasy; the actual amount of ecstasy in a tablet can vary greatly.
  • Effects of taking a moderate dose start after 20–60 minutes (longer if on a full stomach) and can last for 3 to 6 hours.
  • “Herbal ecstacy” (spelled wrong on purpose to set it apart from MDMA) has been marketed as a natural and legal alternative to ecstasy. It is a blend of herbs and compounds that usually include ephedra and caffeine. Users often think that “natural” products imply “safe” products. However, these products can be quite harmful. Health Canada has warned that products containing ephedra/ephedrine have led to serious health problems (such as stroke, heart attacks, heart rate irregularities, seizures, and psychoses) and death.

Immediate and short-term effects

  • At first the pupils become enlarged, the jaw tightens, and there is often a short period of nausea, sweating, and dry mouth and throat.
  • Blood pressure and heart rate increase, and loss of appetite is common.
  • Many users experience a rushing feeling at first followed by an odd combination of energy and calm.
  • Loss of anger, the ability to understand and feel for other people, and an increased sense of being able to communicate are commonly reported.
  • Some users also report an increased sense of their surroundings, greater appreciation of music, and more intense sexual and sensual experience.
  • Some users have bad experiences, including depression, sleep problems, intense fear and worrying, confusion, and unpleasant distortion of the senses. These experiences may, in some way or other, last for days or even weeks. This is more likely if users take high doses or are already feeling anxious or unstable.
  • Disorienting effects may make accidents more likely. Deaths that have been linked to ecstasy have mainly been connected with non-stop dancing in hot, crowded clubs, which resulted in hyperthermia (overheating) and severe dehydration. This is because ecstasy can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
  • After taking ecstasy, users may feel very tired and need a long period of sleep to recover.
  • Regular use may lead to sleep problems, lack of energy, dietary problems (including anorexia nervosa), and feeling depressed or anxious.
  • Increased vulnerability to colds, flu, and sore throat may follow.

Effects and harms from long-term use
  • Although little is known about the long-term effects of regular use, there are definite concerns around learning, behavioural, and emotional changes.
  • Depression, mood changes, and disrupted sleep patterns can occur in the week after use.
  • Users may experience flashbacks or psychosis.
  • Problems with short-term memory can occur (it is not clear if these changes are permanent or not).
  • Severe liver damage can occur shortly after taking ecstasy, usually because of hyperthermia (overheating).
  • Liver damage, apparently unrelated to hyperthermia, can also occur days or weeks after even a few times using ecstasy.

MDMA and dependence
  • People who use ecstasy regularly for several weeks or months need larger amounts to feel the same effects.
  • There is little information on whether regular ecstasy users experience dependence or withdrawal symptoms if they quit.
  • Psychological dependence on the feelings of euphoria and calmness and the lifestyle around ecstasy use is not uncommon.

MDMA and the law
  • As a hallucinogen, ecstasy is governed by Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Conviction for possession of these drugs can result in a fine of up to $1,000 or going to prison for up to six months, or both.
  • Further (repeat) offences or possession of larger amounts can result in larger penalties (e.g., trafficking and related activities can result in imprisonment for up to 10 years).

Use of MDMA in Nova Scotia
  • There is no information available on ecstasy use in the general population.
  • Nova Scotia students were asked about ecstasy use for the first time in 2001. At that time 4.4 percent reported that they had used the drug in the past year.
  • In 2007, about 7 percent of students in grades 7-12 in Nova Scotia reported having used MDMA (ecstasy) in the past year.
  • As with other substances, the higher the grade, the larger the percentage of students using the drug: 0.8 percent of grade 7s, 6.7 percent of grade 9s, 8.6 percent of grade 10s, and 11.3 percent of grade 12s.
  • The percentage of males and females reporting using MDMA is about the same.