Effects of Molly: Signs a Person is Using MDMA

A person on molly may be more sociable and affectionate than usual. But the drug has an array of other effects. In rare cases, molly can cause heatstroke, organ failure and sudden death.
Topics On this page
| | 16 sources

Molly — also known as ecstasy, MDMA, X and XTC — is a synthetic drug that’s popular at clubs and music festivals.

Young people usually take the party drug for its euphoric and mild hallucinogenic effects. Getting high on molly, a drug that has been around since the 1980s, is often referred to as “rolling.”

A person who’s rolling has high energy levels and feels more sociable and extroverted than usual. Molly also makes people extra affectionate. People who are high on ecstasy often feel a need to be touched or to touch others. Increased sensitivity to light and sound are also typical.

Molly can also cause a number of undesirable physical effects, including jaw clenching, nausea, sweating and panic attacks. In rare cases, people using molly overheat, experience seizures and lose consciousness.

How Molly Affects the Brain

While MDMA is derived from amphetamines, which are stimulants, the drug also has chemical similarities to mescaline, a hallucinogen that comes from the peyote cactus.

As a result, molly has both stimulant and psychedelic effects.

MDMA’s effects stem from the way it affects brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which send messages between brain cells.

While MDMA boosts levels of three chemicals in the brain — dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine — it’s the excess serotonin that is believed to be responsible for MDMA’s mood-lifting effects. Serotonin is intricately involved in mood regulation, sleep, pain and appetite.

The effects of molly occur within 30 to 45 minutes of taking the drug and gradually wear off in about three to six hours. But because of the drug’s long half-life, molly stays in your system even longer and can be detected in urine for up to four days.

Chronic or heavy use of MDMA may cause long-lasting effects, including psychiatric problems.

Short-Term Effects of Molly

It may be difficult to detect if a person is using ecstasy, but you may notice behavioral and physical changes.

Observable signs of MDMA use can include:

  • Acting friendlier or more extroverted than usual
  • Talkativeness
  • Affectionate behavior, such as frequent touching and hugging
  • Jaw clenching, teeth grinding and lockjaw
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Tremors
  • Sweating

Although many people perceive molly as a relatively safe drug, it’s not. MDMA can cause a number of uncomfortable and dangerous side effects.

Acute effects of MDMA include:

  • Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte (sodium) imbalance
  • Muscle cramps or joint stiffness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Illogical or disorganized thoughts
  • Restless legs
  • Nausea
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache

Ecstasy can also cause an array of troubling psychiatric symptoms, including hyperactivity, mild hallucinations, delirium, psychosis and feelings of disconnectedness from one’s own body (depersonalization).

Using MDMA can even kill a person. An analysis of 80 ecstasy-related deaths in a 2001 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed a variety of causes for those fatalities, including heatstroke, bleeding disorders, liver failure, abnormal heart rhythms, strokes, accidents and suicide.

Signs and Symptoms of MDMA Overdose

Unlike many other illegal drugs, MDMA can cause a fatal overdose when people take what is considered a normal recreational dose. As a result, there’s really no safe dose of molly.

Signs and symptoms of an MDMA overdose include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Fainting
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Rigid muscles

Molly is also unpredictable because it can contain dangerous drugs and chemicals other than MDMA.

According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, MDMA is frequently contaminated with other chemicals that make it more deadly.

The authors of the study examined data collected by DanceSafe, an organization that tests drugs for contaminants at music festivals across the country. Of the 529 samples of suspected molly collected between 2010 and 2015, only 60 percent contained MDMA.

In a 2015 report by ABC News, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said that only about 13 percent of molly being marketed on the streets is actually MDMA. Many of the substances being peddled as molly are actually counterfeit drugs with a different chemical makeup that are smuggled in from China.

Long-Term Effects of Molly

While the high from ecstasy wears off within a few hours, some side effects may occur days or even weeks later.

That’s because the surge of serotonin that accompanies a dose of ecstasy results in a depletion of that important neurotransmitter. As a result, people who regularly use MDMA sometimes experience depression, anxiety, confusion, poor memory and other problems.

Other long-term effects of ecstasy include:

  • Irregular heartbeat and heart damage
  • Muscle pain and stiffness in the lower back and legs
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)
  • Impulsivity
  • Impaired attention and memory
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Decreased appetite
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Trouble thinking

Some research suggests that heavy use of MDMA can cause permanent neurological damage.

A 2006 report in the journal Psychosomatics described the case of a British man who took an estimated 40,000 ecstasy tablets over the course of nine years and dabbled in other drugs, including marijuana and cocaine.

Seven years after quitting ecstasy, the man was experiencing severe short-term memory problems. The London doctors who cared for him could find no other cause, such as an underlying psychiatric condition, to account for his symptoms.

Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms

While it’s unclear if MDMA is addictive, some signs point in that direction.

Animal studies have shown that animals will self-administer the drug when given the opportunity, though not to the degree they would indulge in cocaine, for example.

In addition, some people have reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, appetite loss and difficulty concentrating when they stop using ecstasy. Withdrawal is one of the hallmarks of drug dependence.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.

Was this article helpful?

How helpful would you rate this article?


    DrugRehab.com logo

    Thanks for helping us make our website better for visitors like you!

    View Sources

    Ready to make a change?

    Get cost-effective, quality addiction care that truly works.

    Start Your Recovery
    We're here to help you or your loved one.
    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Calls will be answered by a qualified admissions representative with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), the owners of DrugRehab.com. We look forward to helping you!

    Question mark symbol icon

    Who am I calling?

    Phone calls to treatment center listings not associated with ARS will go directly to those centers. DrugRehab.com and ARS are not responsible for those calls.