How Long Does Ecstasy (MDMA) Stay in Your System?

Certain adverse effects like anxiety may last up to a week

MDMA ( methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is commonly known as ecstasy or Molly. It is a synthetic, illegal drug that is used recreationally for its mild hallucinogenic and stimulant properties, as well as its ability to increase emotional closeness.

It's often compared to a cross between amphetamine, which is a stimulant, and a hallucinogen such as mescaline. For these reasons, ecstasy has become a popular party drug, often taken by young adults at raves, or dance parties.

Unlike a prescription drug, MDMA isn't manufactured as a standard dose. Instead, it is made by illegal labs and packaged as tablets, capsules, liquid, or powder of unknown strength and ingredients.

How long MDMA stays in your system
Illustration by Joshua Seong. © Verywell, 2018. 

Metabolism

In terms of its metabolism, research suggests that MDMA taken by mouth reaches its maximal blood concentration in about two hours. As ecstasy is metabolized, it is secreted into the urine and can be present for up to two days. In addition, hair follicles maintain a trace of all drugs a person has taken, and ecstasy is no exception, so it may linger for months.

While MDMA may be present in the urine for up to two days, the effects of ecstasy may be much shorter or longer. In fact, the recreational or desired effects of MDMA, such as euphoria, last a shorter duration than many of the undesirable or adverse effects, like anxiety or impulsivity.

Recreational Effects

While the recreational effects of MDMA usually last about three to six hours, the half-life of the drug is closer to seven hours. Therefore, people who take ecstasy may try to take more of the drug as the "high" begins to wear off, while the first dose is still in their system.

Longevity of the Adverse Effects

Although the "high" of ecstasy can diminish after a few hours, the majority of its adverse effects can last up to 24 hours. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Vision problems (blurred vision or increased light sensitivity)
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle cramping or tension
  • Jaw and/or teeth clenching that is uncontrollable
  • Sweating

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), some of ecstasy's most severe adverse effects may last up to a week and include:

  • Irritability
  • Impulsiveness and aggression
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased interest in and pleasure from sex

Another danger of using ecstasy is it has been found to hamper the body's ability to regulate temperature. Users, therefore, can experience extreme spikes in their body temperature that can result in heart, kidney, or liver failure and even death.

Variability of Effects

Other potential factors that influence drug metabolism include age, body type, and genetics; some people may be fast or slow MDMA metabolizers. Also contributing is whether a person has any underlying health problems, such as liver or kidney disease.

All of these effects are variable depending on how much MDMA you have taken and in what time frame. For instance, if you take larger doses or take multiple doses over time, it can stay in your system longer.

On average, an ecstasy dose may be between 10 mg and 150 mg, though it's always difficult to know for sure. Over a long night of partying, someone may take anywhere between 50 mg and 700 mg. With higher doses, the risks of MDMA and the other drugs it is mixed with become even greater.

Other Drugs

It's also important to remember that pills sold on the street as ecstasy or Molly have a very high chance of containing other drugs. For example, so-called "pure" Molly has been found to contain bath salts, cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and even over-the-counter cough medications.

Many researchers have looked into the chemical compounds found in MDMA and the results vary greatly. European studies have been done and generally show a decrease in purity over the years, though it varies by country. In the United States, the purity of ecstasy was very low in the 1990s, but testing since has not been thorough enough to produce results.

Molly is actually the crystal powder form of MDMA that is sold in capsules. When looking specifically at this, studies found that four out of ten users who thought they were using ecstasy in this form actually tested positive for synthetic cathinone, known as "bath salts." The users did not suspect it or any of the other substances found in their hair samples.

Users must be aware that the effects of any additional substances in MDMA will also be at work in their system and have their own set of effects and timetable. This can affect how MDMA affects you and for how long as well.

The big picture here is that when you take an illegally manufactured drug, it is not possible to be precise regarding how long it will have any effects on your brain or when your body has eliminated it.

A Word From Verywell

Ecstasy is an illegally manufactured drug, so you never really know what you are getting. It could contain other drugs and substances that can be detected long after the ecstasy is out of your system. Ecstasy pills purchased on the street can also contain other substances, which interact negatively with alcohol, adding another level of significant danger to their use.

What Does MDMA Do to the Brain?
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