Signs and Effects of Teen Ecstasy Use

Ecstasy is a club drug teens use to feel euphoric when they are partying at a club or an all-night rave. It can be dangerous not only because when you are high you are more likely to take serious risks, but it has a harmful effect on a teen's brain.

Ecstasy (also frequently called Molly) is a slang term for MDMA, short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine. The name of the drug is used to describe the euphoric feeling one gets while under the influence of this drug.

Educate yourself about the common drugs teens are using. Hold regular conversations with your teen about the risks of drugs and alcohol. And be on the lookout for warning signs that your teen might be using drugs. 

Learn How Teens Use Ecstasy (Molly)

Girl with an ecstasy tablet on her tongue

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According to the DEA, ecstasy use mainly involves swallowing tablets or caplets. Sometimes the pills are crushed and snorted, occasionally smoked but rarely cooked into a liquid and injected. ecstasy is also available as a powder.

Ecstasy abusers usually take ecstasy by "stacking" (taking three or more tablets at once) or by "piggy-backing" (taking a series of tablets over a short period of time). One trend among young adults is "candy flipping," which is the co-abuse of ecstasy and LSD.

As with many other drugs of abuse, ecstasy is not always used alone. It is common for users to mix ecstasy with other substances like alcohol and marijuana.

Know That Ecstasy Can Be Addictive

Ecstasy, Molly, or MDMA, produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences. Teens see it as a way to increase their partying fun, stay awake, and uplift their mood. Because it does all of these things, teens want to take it again and again.

As reported by the NIDA, a survey found that 43% of teens and young adults who reported ecstasy use met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence, as evidenced by continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm, withdrawal effects, and tolerance.

These results are consistent with those from similar studies in other countries that suggest a high rate of ecstasy dependence among users. Ecstasy abstinence-associated withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings and trouble concentrating.

Pay Attention to Signs of Ecstasy Use

Psychological difficulties happen during ecstasy use and sometimes weeks after taking ecstasy.

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Drug craving
  • Paranoia
  • Severe anxiety
  • Sleep problems

Physical symptoms occur, such as:

  • Blurred vision
  • Chills or sweating
  • Faintness
  • Increases in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Intense thirst
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Rapid eye movement

Understand the Long-Term Effects

Research findings link ecstasy use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought and memory, similar effects to cocaine and meth use. It is believed that the drug causes damage to the neurons that use the chemical serotonin to communicate with other neurons.

Ecstasy or MDMA, as it is also known, is related in structure and effects to methamphetamine, which has been shown to cause degeneration of neurons containing the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Damage to dopamine-containing neurons is the underlying cause of the motor disturbances seen in Parkinson's disease. Symptoms of this disease begin with a lack of coordination and tremors, and can eventually result in a form of paralysis.

Be Aware of Drug Paraphernalia

The drug paraphernalia that parents may find in and around their teen's rooms or in their backpacks are pacifiers and lollipops, which are used to keep the teen from grinding their teeth.

Glow sticks, menthol vapor rub, and surgical-type masks are used to enhance and stimulate the effects of ecstasy on the senses. If you find these objects in your teen's room, you'll want to talk to them about possible ecstasy use.

Do not shy away from having this talk as it is the first step to getting your teen help if they are using drugs.

That being said, it's important to start a dialogue from a place of interest and not accusation. Start with "tell me what you know about ___" or what are your thoughts about ___. If you find your teen is using, start by asking them why and what it does for them.

Consider Using a Drug Testing Kit

How long does MDMA stay in your system? While it's claimed to be detected in urine for up to four days, there are drug testing kits available to test yourself for MDMA. The tests are simple urine checks that will give you results not long after you dip the sticks in the test-takers urine. There are also multi-drug testing kits available that have ecstasy as one of the drugs they test for and they are also totally done at home.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Meyer JS. 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA): current perspectivesSubst Abuse Rehabil. 2013;4:83-99. doi:10.2147/SAR.S37258

  2. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide.

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse.

  4. World Health Organization. Substance Abuse.

  5. Halpin LE, Collins SA, Yamamoto BK. Neurotoxicity of methamphetamine and 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Life Sci. 2014;97(1):37-44. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2013.07.014

  6. Karuppagounder SS, Bhattacharya D, Ahuja M, et al. Elucidating the neurotoxic effects of MDMA and its analogs. Life Sci. 2014;101(1-2):37-42. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2014.02.010

By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.