MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic drug that acts as a stimulant, hallucinogen, and entactogen. It is used recreationally for its mild hallucinogenic and stimulant properties, as well as its ability to increase emotional closeness.
MDMA is commonly known as ecstasy or molly, though what is referred to by these names is rarely purely MDMA. Rather, it’s often “cut” with other substances.
MDMA is a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no established medical use and a high potential for misuse. However, studies are underway to determine its effectiveness as a potential treatment for anxiety in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and terminal illness.
MDMA that is used recreationally isn’t manufactured as a standard dose. It is made by illegal labs and packaged as tablets, capsules, and powders of unknown strength and ingredients. The drug is intended to be snorted or taken orally.
MDMA can be detected in your body from one to 90 days. How long it is detectable depends on the type of test, the frequency of use, and a person’s unique physical characteristics.
How Long Does MDMA Stay in Your System?
Blood: Up to 2 days
Urine: Up to 4 days
Saliva: Up to 2 days
Hair: Up to 90 days
How Long Does It Take to Feel Effects?
MDMA works by boosting the activity of three neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are known to affect mood, energy level, appetite, trust, sexual activity, emotions, and sleep.
People who use ecstasy typically feel the effects within 30 minutes of taking the drug. Ecstasy can cause feelings of euphoria, warmth, openness, and clarity, as well as heightened sensations of touch, sound, and smell. These effects typically last for 3 to 6 hours.
MDMA also carries serious risks, including hyperthermia, cardiovascular effects, impaired mental capabilities, risky behavior, and overdose.
Several side effects of MDMA can persist for up to 24 hours after taking the drug, including:
- Dry mouth
- Jaw and/or teeth clenching that is uncontrollable
- Muscle cramping or tension
- Vision problems (blurred vision or increased light sensitivity)
In the week following MDMA use, additional side effects have been reported, such as:
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased interest in and pleasure from sex
- Impulsiveness and aggression
- Memory and attention problems
- Sleep problems
How Long Does MDMA Last?
While the recreational effects of MDMA usually last for about 3 to 6 hours, the half-life of MDMA is 8 to 9 hours. In one study, researchers found that the peak effects of MDMA are observed within the first 1 and 2 hours, and decrease about 4 to 6 hours after taking the drug.1
MDMA is not one of the five drugs tested for by the standard five-panel drug test used by most employers; however, it does show up on the test.
If MDMA shows up during the amphetamine panel of the five-panel drug test, a confirmation test will be run specifically looking for MDMA.
Research suggests that when MDMA is taken by mouth, it reaches maximal blood concentration in about 2 hours. MDMA can be detected in blood for 1 to 2 days after it is taken.
Ecstasy can be present for 2 to 4 days in urine.
Hair follicles maintain a trace of all drugs a person has taken, including MDMA. This type of drug test is not common, but the presence of MDMA can linger for months in hair.
False Positive Testing
Always tell a testing agency about any drugs and supplements you are taking. This information can help prevent the presence of certain substances from triggering a false positive drug test result.
A 2010 study found that the anti-depressant trazodone can lead to false positives on a commercial enzyme immunoassay test (Ecstasy EMIT II assay) that detects MDMA in a sample of urine.2
If you receive a false positive drug test, calmly report all the medications and supplements you are taking. Additional tests can be performed to clear up any confusion.
Snorting vs. Oral Ingestion
How you take MDMA can also impact detection time. In general, the faster the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, the shorter the detection window.
For example, when snorted, MDMA will stay in the body for a shorter amount of time compared to oral ingestion.
Factors That Affect Detection Time
Many factors influence how an individual’s body processes or metabolizes MDMA, including how much is taken, how often it is taken, and the person’s metabolism.
Dosage & Frequency of Use
When taken in larger doses or as multiple doses over time, MDMA can stay in the body for longer. Similarly, one-time users will have a shorter detection time than people who use the drug more often.
Many drugs, or their metabolites, tend to accumulate in fatty tissues. Therefore, a person with a higher body mass index (BMI) may take longer to fully eliminate the drug from their body.
Metabolism can be affected by age, activity level, and certain health conditions. A person can be a fast or slow metabolizer of any drug, including ecstasy. A person with a high metabolic rate tends to have a smaller detection window for MDMA than someone who has a slower rate.
Underlying health issues and medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease can also influence drug metabolism.
How to Get MDMA Out of Your System
Contrary to popular belief, drinking a lot of water will not flush MDMA from the body and help a user “beat” a drug test. In fact, not only is the practice ineffective but it can also be dangerous. During the first 12 hours after taking MDMA, the drug can exacerbate the effects of drinking too much water.
The only way to clear MDMA from the body is to stop taking the drug and allow the body time to metabolize and eliminate it.
Symptoms of Overdose
People who take MDMA may take more of the drug while the first dose is still in their system because they feel the “high” is beginning to wear off. When they get hit with a larger dose than was intended, it can lead to an accidental overdose.
Symptoms of an MDMA overdose include:
- Feeling faint
- High blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Panic attacks
The risk of overdose is increased when MDMA is mixed with other drugs, including alcohol. Additionally, substances cut into the MDMA will have their own effects and can influence how long the drug stays in the body.
MDMA can temporarily impede the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Extreme spikes in body temperature can damage the heart and kidneys, cause liver failure, and may result in someone’s death.
No adverse events have been documented in controlled, clinical environments, but the effect is believed to pose risk in club environments where users are dancing and not drinking enough water.
Well-intentioned narratives about drinking water when taking MDMA can backfire if people drink more water than they need. A 2016 study showed that MDMA use can increase water retention. If too much water is ingested, it increases the risk of water toxicity (hyponatremia).3
The symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea, confusion, fatigue, irritability, muscle spasms, and seizures.
If you suspect someone has overdosed or is having a negative reaction to MDMA, call 911 immediately.
Symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal can range from mild to severe, depending on the frequency of use and dependency. Sometimes, people start using MDMA again or start using another drug to avoid withdrawal.
Symptoms of MDMA withdrawal include:
- Poor memory
- Difficulty concentrating
A Word From Verywell
MDMA or ecstasy is a commonly encountered “party drug,” but it’s not to be taken lightly. The drug is dangerous, especially when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Taking MDMA can affect your physical and mental health. The risks of using ecstasy are serious. In some cases, an overdose of MDMA can be fatal.
If you or a loved one is using MDMA and is ready to quit, there is help available. A mental health professional can guide you through the process of stopping the drug, as well as support you through any withdrawal symptoms you might have.