What Does the Drug Ecstasy Look Like?

How To Recognize This Illegal Drug

Ecstasy is an illegal drug that contains the active ingredient MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). It's related to stimulants and hallucinogens and produces both types of effects, making it a popular party drug. Ecstasy sometimes is called Molly.

The drug comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, so it can be helpful to know what the most common forms of Ecstasy look like—particularly if someone offers you a pill or if you're a parent or caregiver of a child or teenager who may be exposed to the drug.


Ecstasy Pills

Picture of a Variety of Ecstasy Pills. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

One reason there's such variation in the appearance of ecstasy is that often different ingredients are used to bind the crystalline powder into a pill form and to extend the ingredients.

In addition to differences in color, size, and shape, the pills often are stamped or imprinted with unique logos. These logos and imprints help build a following for Ecstasy made in specific labs. Bright colors also make it more appealing, especially to young people. Here are a few examples of ecstasy pills to show their range of appearance.


MDMA Tablets Are Made in Illegal Labs

Ecstasy pills in a person's hand
Diverse Images/Getting Images

This MDMA pill has a fancy letter X stamped into it, likely referring to Ecstasy (XTC). Ecstasy usually comes in 50 milligram (mg) to 150 mg tablets that are either swallowed or crushed and snorted. 

Most of the ecstasy pills sold on the street in the United States are manufactured abroad. Sources are often illegal labs in Canada and the Netherlands, where enforcement is not as strict as in the United States. Illegal labs in the U.S. have far more difficulty in obtaining the precursors, which are well-monitored by the industrial chemical industry.


Ecstasy Pills Might Contain Other Drugs

Picture of Ecstasy With Fish Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Pure MDMA has a crystalline appearance. When made into pill form, other ingredients are added to bind it together.

One danger is that in buying an ecstasy pill, the purchaser cannot be sure what drug (if any) or how much of the drug is in the pill. This can lead to dangerous interactions with other drugs and to overdoses.

The tablets might contain methamphetamine, cocaine, piperazine, synthetic cathinones ("bath salts"), or many different chemical contaminants. This pill with a fish logo is similar to a batch seized in Greece.


Ecstasy Tablets Are Imprinted for Branding

Picture of Ecstasy With Crow's Feet Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Illegal labs imprint logos into their ecstasy tablets to build a following. Purchasers might choose which tablets to buy based on the imprint. They may also give different imprints different names.


Ecstasy (MDMA)

Picture of Ecstasy with Butterfly Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

The imprint on these MDMA pills looks innocuous. It is an example of branding done by the illegal labs where ecstasy is produced. Often, they try to appeal to the youth market, thus the pretty butterfly image. 


Ecstasy Tablet with Space Shuttle Logo

Picture of Ecstasy with Space Shuttle Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

This MDMA tablet has a Space Shuttle imprint, which might indicate how spacey or high it promises to make the user. This example is similar to one found in San Francisco.


Ecstasy Tablet with Star Dust Imprint.

Picture of Ecstasy with Star Dust Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

This ecstasy tablet has a Star Dust imprint. It might refer to the glam rock days of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Reports are that it came from a lab in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The imprints allow users to share their experiences with different pills online and on social media.


Ecstasy Tablet with Thumbs Up Logo

Picture of Ecstasy with Thumbs Up Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

The "thumbs up" logo has been seen in many different variations on MDMA tablets. Some of them have tested as including MDA rather than MDMA. You can never know from batch to batch what is in illegally-manufactured pills, even with the same logo.


Ecstasy Triangular X Logo Tablet

Picture of Ecstasy with X Logo. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Ecstasy tablets may come in shapes other than round. This tablet has an X on it for ecstasy. Other shapes include hearts, triangles, oblong squares, and squares. They may also be shaped like animals or cartoon characters, similar to chewable vitamins.

A Word from Verywell

If you suspect that a pill offered by a friend or found in your teen's room is ecstasy, it may or may not be that drug. The bottom line is that you take a very large risk in taking a pill that was manufactured illegally. You can never know what is in the pill or how it might affect your body. Even if you try to check it out online, you can't be sure that the batch you have in your hand will have the same active ingredients.

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Article Sources
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  2. Duterte M, Jacinto C, Sales P, Murphy S. What's in a label? Ecstasy sellers' perceptions of pill brands. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2009;41(1):27-37. doi:10.1080/02791072.2009.10400672

  3. Goodwin AK, Mueller M, Shell CD, Ricaurte GA, Ator NA. Behavioral effects and pharmacokinetics of (±)-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy) after intragastric administration to baboons. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2013;345(3):342-53. doi:10.1124/jpet.113.203729

  4. U.S. Department of Justice Department Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs of Abuse. 2017. 

  5. Palamar JJ. There's something about Molly: The underresearched yet popular powder form of ecstasy in the United States. Subst Abus. 2017;38(1):15-17. doi:10.1080/08897077.2016.1267070

Additional Reading
  • NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is MDMA? June 2018.  www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly.
  • U.S. Department of Justice Department Drug Enforcement Administration. Drugs of Abuse. 2017.  www.dea.gov/pr/multimedia-library/publications/drug_of_abuse.pdf#page=62