Talking about street drugs isn’t such a taboo anymore. In some places, like Portugal, the complete decriminalization of certain street drugs has purportedly led to people using them more responsibly. The rebranding of marijuana as a very potent natural medicine that alleviates the symptoms of so many serious health issues has opened up this conversation even further.
Drugs like ecstasy have had a therapeutic use in psychiatry, specifically psychotherapy, in the past before it was labeled as a party drug. We are learning that some of the people who can benefit the most from ecstasy therapy are those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because it gives them the ability to revisit traumatic memories without the emotional stress that would follow.
What Is Ecstasy
Ecstasy is a compound known by its chemical name 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Also known as MDMA, its colloquial name is molly, which is short for molecular because it’s usually in the form of crystal or powder.
It’s a ring-substituted amphetamine derivative. MDMA belongs to a group of psychoactive drugs that alter the moods, thoughts, and mental state of those who use them. In this group, we also find cocaine, cannabis, and even legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.
How Does It Work
Ecstasy is considered an empathogen, which means that it makes you feel empathetic, euphoric, and emotionally open. It does this by affecting three neurotransmitters in your brain:
- Dopamine – which gives your brain a feeling of reward and also increases your energy levels
- Noradrenaline – which increases your heart rate
- Serotonin – which puts you in a better mood, affects your appetite, and enhances your libido
When you get Ecstasy into your system, it travels through your bloodstream all the way to your brain. This causes your brain to release more of these three neurotransmitters. Ecstasy even mimics the signal of neurotransmitters in order to boost it. The feeling you get is of happiness, pleasure, and a general sense of… well, ecstasy.
Is It Bad for You
In its purest form, ecstasy is not really dangerous. Especially if you only take a small amount. Most of the side effects are not extreme and there is no serious discomfort.
However, there’s some stuff you should keep in mind. The most common side effects of MDMA use are:
- Dry mouth
- Jaw clenching
- Restless legs
The biggest potential risk with ecstasy is the possibility of contamination. Since it comes in powder and crystalline form, it makes it easy to mix it with less-valuable white compounds like ketamine, Tylenol, and even talcum powder. Diluting MDMA in this fashion could be very dangerous. So, if you’re acquiring ecstasy for personal use is, it’s really important to get it from a trusted source and that it’s safe.
After using ecstasy, you are very likely to experience certain things that are the result of the effects of the drug wearing off. Your dopamine and serotonin levels are coming back down and this is going to leave you feeling tired, irritated, and even a bit depressed. If you are taking some medication, such as an antidepressive or bipolar disorder drug, that interferes with your serotonin production, taking ecstasy is a bad idea.
It’s important to point out that ecstasy addiction isn’t really an issue. The dopamine reward system of our brains is only slightly affected by MDMA. Also, if you start using the drug too often, you start to become more tolerant of it. Meaning all the happy and euphoric feelings start to fade, and all the side effects become more pronounced. So, you’re not likely to use it all the time.
Half-life of Ecstasy
The half-life of a drug represents the time it takes for the concentration of the drug in the body to reduce by 50%. So, after one half-life, the amount of the drug in the body will be half of the starting dose. You can thank your liver because it often works overtime to metabolize all of the substances in your blood.
Depending on the person, the half-life of ecstasy is between 6 and 9 hours. And it takes about 4-5 half-lives for any drug to clear out of your body, i.e. to become undetectable in most tests. So, taking all of that into account, having MDMA completely gone from your body would take anywhere from 2 to 3 days.
But, how long does ecstasy stay in your system altogether? There are some differences regarding how and where you can detect traces of MDMA in your system. These are some of the ways you can be tested for the presence of ecstasy:
After you take it, ecstasy will show up in your blood within a couple of hours. And even though the amount of ecstasy will decrease in 4-6 hours, traces of the drug can be found 24h later.
Same as with blood, ecstasy will appear in the urine within 2 hours after taking it. During the next 24h, about a third of the drug will disappear through urine. After 48h, ecstasy cannot be traced in the urine.
This is where the presence of ecstasy in your system first appears – sometimes even within 15 minutes of taking it. It stays in the saliva for 24h, but traces of it can be found even 3 days later.
MDMA can be traced in the hair up to about three months post-ingestion. Once in the bloodstream, a certain amount of the drug reaches the tiny blood vessels connected to the hair follicles. And since hair grows approximately 1cm per month, authorities may be able to pinpoint the time someone used the drug.
How long does ecstasy stay in your system? Staying hydrated while on ecstasy is very important. Not only due to the possible dry mouth sensation but since you’re very likely to stay active during that time, you don’t want to accidentally become dehydrated. However, don’t overhydrate with water either – it can drain your electrolyte reserve and that wouldn’t be very good either. Probably the best way to go is with a sports drink since it contains both water and electrolytes.