What is MDMA?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) is a synthetic psychoactive substance, meaning it is made in a laboratory. It is a central nervous system disruptor, which means it modifies sensory perceptions (sight, hearing…). MDMA is a derivative of amphetamines which also gives it stimulant properties.

First used for therapeutic applications, it then became popular as a recreational substance, mainly in the party culture: raves, festivals, clubs, bars… Today, it is widely sold on the black market for this type of use.

MDMA is generally sold as crushed crystals, capsules or pills. It is most often taken orally but could also be sniffed or smoked.

What are the effects that are sought after?

In a recreational context, the effects that are sought after are mainly:

  • Feelings of well-being
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations, change in sensory perceptions
  • Increased empathy
  • Increased energy
  • Wanting to socialize
  • Wanting to physically touch others

Because of these effects, MDMA is often used during party-type environments where the senses are already on alert (loud music, bid crowds, dancing…).


Side effects and other risks

Like all psychoactive substances, MDMA has its own side effects which can be quickly felt, such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Sweating
  • Heart rate acceleration
  • Contraction of the jaw muscles
  • Nausea

MDMA can also cause serotonin syndrome1. Serotonin syndrome is caused by too much serotonin in the cerebral system which causes a combination of symptoms: spasms or muscular rigidity, confusion or delusions, heart rate acceleration, increase in body temperature, agitation, anxiety…

If it is sniffed, MDMA can also increase the risk of infections, nasal problems (bleeding, nasal wall perforation…) and even respiratory or pulmonary problems.

Other side effects generally show up when the wanted effects fade. The most common are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression, including a risk for suicide
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

The effects that are felt, whether they are wanted or unwanted, depend on various factors, such as the quantity used, the way it was used, tolerance (see below), the physical and psychological state of the person, the environment, etc.

Attention: as with other drugs that are illegally sold on the black market, MDMA may be mixed with other substances and thus can increase the side effects and their intensity. Products used to “cut” MDMA are varied. They include starch, detergent or other psychoactive substances such as ketamine or other amphetamines. Contamination by fentanyl, an opioid in part responsible for the opioid crisis in the country, is also possible and has already been detected.

By purchasing MDMA on the black market, it is impossible to know exactly what we are getting. However, the presence of particularly dangerous substances such as fentanyl can be detected thanks to detection technology. Certain organizations offer this service. To find the one closest to you, go to Trouve ton centre.

Long term effects

Prolonged MDMA use can cause the following psychological disorders:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Memory problems
  • Etc.

Tolerance, addiction and withdrawal

As with other psychoactive substances, MDMA can cause tolerance. Meaning that a person must increase doses to feel the same effects which can in turn, increase the risk of overdose.

Even if MDMA does not seem to cause a true physical addiction, it does cause a quick and strong psychological one, mainly because of the feelings of well-being it procures.

When someone has been using for a long time, stopping can cause withdrawal symptoms such as depression, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and even panic attacks. These symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks.

We can help

If your use of MDMA or that of a loved one worries you, or if you want to learn more about MDMA, call us at 1-800-265-2626 or chat with us, bottom right. We provide personalized support, information and referrals towards resources suited to your situation. Our services are available 24/7.

Ce contenu a été traduit grâce au soutien du Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d’expression anglaise