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Concurrent Alcohol and Ecstasy Abuse

Woman displaying pills with alcohol

Ecstasy may make its users feel ecstatic for a time but, when abused with alcohol, it can cause seriously negative effects on your health and even kill you. Even as the name for this drug changes to the more friendly “Molly,” this does not mean that the substance has become less injurious to its users.

Ecstasy is known to researchers as MDMA, short for 3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. It’s a synthetic drug that is also psychoactive, meaning that it passes the blood barrier in the brain and can cause psychotic effects. Experts categorize it along with the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline (Fisk and Montgomery, 2014).

Ecstasy was first broadly distributed in nightclubs and at “raves,” the extra-long dance parties that have sprung up across the world. Users of this “love pill” take it in pill, capsule or tablet form, often in combination with other drugs, including alcohol. When a user takes more than one pill, capsule or tablet, it’s called “bumping.” Ecstasy capsules sometimes have cartoons like Batmans, hearts, butterflies and angels on them so as to appeal even more to the user. Research on both rats and humans has shown that the drug has its powerful effect by increasing the effects of three neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and norephinephrine, all of which make you feel good—for a period of time (Fisk and Montgomery).

These neurotransmitters play crucial roles in your mood, appetite and sleep. What Ecstasy does is amplify all of them so that you feel loving, trusting and empathetic. The aftereffect of these surges is that certain chemicals in the brain are depleted after the initial boost. That leaves users in a downer state for days or weeks after taking Ecstasy. Users report confusion, depression, insomnia, anxiety and cravings when coming down from Ecstasy.

Ecstasy is potentially addictive. Ecstasy poses many dangers, especially given that supposedly pure tablets might contain a host of other drugs, from ephedrine (a stimulant) to ingredients in “bath salts” (Gahlinger, 2004; Erowid, 2016). While MDMA/Ecstasy is reported to cause impotence in men, it has also been reported to increase sexual arousal. Together with increased social openness and lowered inhibitions, use of this drug can lead to unprotected sex with strangers (Gahlinger).

Although used initially in the 1970s as an aid in psychotherapy, MDMA has now been labeled as a Schedule 1 substance—one with high abuse potential and no recognized medicinal use. It does continue to be used experimentally and carefully with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients and terminal cancer patients who struggle with anxiety (Oehen et al., 2013).

Concurrent Alcohol and Ecstasy Abuse


Mixing Ecstasy with alcohol is extremely dangerous and can be lethal (Sammler et al., 2010). Here are a few important Ecstasy facts of which you should be aware:

  • Ecstasy distorts sensory and time perception.
  • It produces positive feelings including euphoria, emotional warmth, empathy and increased energy.
  • Its effects last 3-6 hours, although many users “bump” with a second pill after the first one’s effects have begun to wear off.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol With Ecstasy

If you wonder if you have abused Ecstasy along with alcohol, or are monitoring someone else about whom you have suspicions, watch for these signs and symptoms of concurrent alcohol and Ecstasy abuse:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Muscle tension and cramping
  • Involuntary teeth clenching (users sometimes report constant biting and chewing of safe and unsafe objects, such as glass!)
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Faintness
  • Chills and sweating

Combined Effects of Ecstasy and Alcohol Abuse

When combined with alcohol, Ecstasy can be extremely dangerous for a wide variety of reasons (Hernandez-Rabaza et al., 2010). Here are a few of the concurrent alcohol and Ecstasy abuse-related health problems that users and researchers report:


  • Extreme dehydration, which can cause kidney failure, as excessive energy causes users to dance for long periods of time in hot and crowded conditions, such as at “rave” parties.
  • Profound sleep problems.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Long-lasting or permanent damage to the brain, specifically affecting judgment, thinking and memory.
  • Rapid increase in body temperature (hyperthermia) that can cause liver, kidney or cardiovascular system failure, which can lead to death.

Find out more about the harmful effects of Ecstasy use and how to help an Ecstasy addict by calling our helpline. Contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at .

Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Ecstasy Addiction

Many addiction treatment centers offer special help for people struggling with concurrent use of Ecstasy and alcohol. Users who have become addicted to Ecstasy often need prolonged stays in rehab programs, longer than the standard 30-day stays in most residential recovery programs. This gives people time to address underlying issues that lead to Ecstasy and alcohol addictions.

If you want help in kicking your addictions to alcohol and Ecstasy, call for free at to discuss your treatment options.

Statistics for Alcohol and Ecstasy Misuse

Perhaps enticed by its appealing name or the cartoon characters depicted on some of the capsules, Ecstasy is also used by early adolescents. Statistics show that nearly 2% of 8th-graders have taken Ecstasy, while nearly 6% of 10th-graders and 7% of high school seniors have taken the drug.

Usage of Ecstasy has peaked in the 18-25 age category, with nearly 13% of adults saying that they had tried it and 4% saying that they had done so within the past year. Users in the 26+ category, by contrast, report only 6% usage during their lifetime.

Ecstasy has become increasingly popular, with 2.8 million Americans saying that they had tried the drug in 2009, for instance (Wu, et al., 2010).

Teen Drinking and Ecstasy Abuse

Ecstasy is very popular among young people, especially high school and college students. When they combine Ecstasy with alcohol, it can put a huge strain on their heart and on the body in general, as high levels of hormones are produced and then exhausted (De Letter et al., 2006).

Ecstasy has gained wide appeal as a sort of “fun” drug that is central to party culture. However, it can become addictive and deplete a brain’s supply of serotonin. A drug that can produce such a rush that the person using it can stay awake for days at a time will be harmful to any young person’s routine and brain. The rush of Ecstasy is usually followed by a low mood known as a “comedown,” and symptoms can include depression, anxiety, paranoia and trouble sleeping.

Learn more about teen drug and alcohol misuse.

Resources, Articles and More Information

For more information on Ecstasy and alcohol, see the following articles:

You can also contact a caring admissions navigator with American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at to learn more about rehab programs and treatment options.

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