Molly’s Secrets: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About MDMA

person with ecstasy or molly
Molly is dangerous because you never know how pure it really is.

On the street you’ll hear her referred to as Molly, as if she were a real person and not a drug.

Molly is the street name for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), a popular rave drug used at nightclubs and music festivals to alter mood and perception. People may see Molly as a drug that helps them let loose, connect to others, and dance all night, but there are many facts about the substance that users may be unaware of.

She’s more than 100 years old.

MDMA is a synthetic substance that is more than 100 years old. The substance was first synthesized in 1912 by a German pharmaceutical company attempting to create an appetite suppressant. It did not become illegal in the United States until 1988, when it was categorized as a Schedule 1 drug after illicit use started to become popular in the college “rave” and nightclub scene.

You never know how pure she is.

Users tend to refer to “Molly” as the supposed pure form of MDMA, while calling the tablets that are often cut with other synthetic substances “Ecstasy.” In reality, many of the powders sold on the street as pure MDMA often contain other drugs and ingredients that you may not be aware of.

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Center for Substance Abuse Research, much of the MDMA seized by police contains other drugs such as:1,2

  • Ketamine.
  • MDA.
  • DXM.
  • PCP.
  • Cocaine.
  • Methamphetamine.
  • Ephedrine.
  • Pseudoephedrine.
  • Caffeine.
  • Synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”).
  • Various over-the-counter (OTCs) medications.

How do you know if you or a loved one is addicted? Find out here.

She may be a valuable aid in therapy.

Despite it being classified as a Schedule 1 drug, many research studies have shown that MDMA may have therapeutic value. The first randomized controlled study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of PTSD showed that 83% of those given MDMA showed improvement in PTSD symptoms compared to only 25% of those given a placebo.4

The drug was also used as a therapy aid for psychotherapy and marriage counseling in the 1970s, prior to it becoming a controlled substance in the late 1980s.1,2

Recently, mental health professionals and researchers have also considered MDMA’s value as an aid for those with substance abuse problems. A 2013 study suggested that MDMA could potentially treat neuropharmacological abnormalities of substance abuse as well as reduce symptoms of comorbid mental health disorders that may be contributing to substance abuse.

Following the research studies, the subjects who were given MDMA did not show any MDMA-seeking behavior nor did they test positive on random follow-up drug tests, suggesting that the likelihood of developing dependence or addiction to MDMA is low.5

Still, however, people who are prone to substance abuse who take the drug outside of a therapeutic setting may still be subject to addictive behaviors or psychological dependence on the drug.2

She isn’t all raves and empathetic understanding.

While MDMA may have therapeutic potential as well as popularity as a “fun” rave drug, it comes with many risks and adverse effects that you should be aware of. Some potential short-term side effects of MDMA that may occur while you are under the influence include:1,2,3

  • Teeth clenching (involuntary).
  • Muscle cramps and tension.
  • Cold chills.
  • Sweating.
  • Nausea.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Anxiety and/or paranoia.
  • Severe dehydration (especially when mixed with alcohol).
  • Elevated blood pressure, body temperature, breathing rate, and heart rate.
  • Faintness.
  • Tremors.
  • Rapid eye movement.
  • Erectile dysfunction in men.

When the drug wears off, the euphoric high and feelings of love and understanding quickly fade and often leave the user feeling dark and depressed. Many people refer to this phenomenon as “Suicide Tuesday,” even though the symptoms usually last longer than a day and can endure for a week or longer in some people.

Withdrawal or “comedown” symptoms may include:2

  • Depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety.
  • Aggression.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Cognitive problems.
  • Memory issues.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Loss of libido.

There are several long-term risks associated with prolonged or frequent use of MDMA. When you take a dose of MDMA, your brain gets flooded with serotonin, giving you feelings of euphoria, a heightened sense of perception, and more empathy toward others.

However, when the drug wears off, your brain is then depleted of serotonin, which can cause depression as well as serious damage to the areas of the brain associated with cognition and memory.

Potential long-term adverse effects of MDMA include:2

  • Sleep problems.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Confusion.
  • Cognition and memory problems.
  • Death.

She can kill you.

While it is a rare occurrence, it is possible to die from a single dose of MDMA. Large doses of MDMA can affect your body’s ability to regulate its own temperature. Taking too much MDMA can lead to a spike in body temperature, which has the potential to cause kidney, liver, or heart failure, and in rare cases, even death.2

Most deaths related to MDMA do not occur from an overdose on the drug itself, but rather from a result of heatstroke after dancing all night with no water and becoming severely dehydrated.


1. Center for Substance Abuse Research: CESAR. (2013). Ecstasy.
2. National Institute on Drug Abuse: NIDA. (2016). Drugfacts: MDMA (Ecstasy Molly).
3. National Drug Intelligence Center. MDMA (Ecstasy) Fast Facts.
4. Mithoefer, M., Wagner, M., et. al. (2010). Journal of Psychopharmacology, 0(0): 1-14. The safety and efficacy of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamineassisted psychotherapy in subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder: the first randomized controlled pilot study.
5. Jerome, L., Schuster, S., Yazar-Klosinski, BB. (2013). Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 6(1): 54-62. Can MDMA play a role in the treatment of substance abuse?