Caution

In New Zealand some substances being sold as MDMA are actually synthetic cathinones (bath salts). These drugs can have more unpleasant and unpredictable effects than MDMA.

Key things to know

Use drug checking services to make sure it isn’t a different drug. If you can’t get to drug checking services, use a reagent test.

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MDMA is usually swallowed as a pill or mixed into water. If swallowing, wait an hour for the effects to kick in before deciding to take more.

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If snorting, use clean straws and surfaces and rinse out your nose with a saline rinse.

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If you can’t test it, take a lower amount in case it is something else.

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Stay hydrated and look after yourself during the comedown.

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How does MDMA make you feel?

MDMA can give you the feeling of euphoria or make you more emotional and empathetic. It can also make you feel dizzy, sweaty and agitated. Remember, a low dose for one person can be a high dose for another as people’s bodies process drugs differently. 

Keep in mind that, when mixed with alcohol or other drugs, MDMA can have different effects to those listed below. Pressed pills can often contain other fillers or drugs that can also alter the effects of MDMA.

See Know Your Stuff NZ's pill library for MDMA pills that are in the NZ market and contain other substances, no MDMA or more than one dose.

A Reddit user describes the ups and downs of a lower dose of MDMA:

“I feel like when each wave hits, I panic for a few seconds as I think I am coming down and then I feel a roller coaster drop in my gut and I can feel and hear this rising electrical energy through my body and it explodes in my brain and this wave of warmth and euphoria slowly flows through my body starting in my chest.”

Pleasant effects

Unpleasant effects

Energetic

Enhanced sensory perception (heightened senses of sight, hearing and touch)

Sensations of ‘floating’

Wanting to have deep conversations with others

Empathetic

Sense of wellbeing

Emotional warmth towards others

Confident

Euphoria

Not feeling hungry

Dilated pupils (obvious sign of intoxication)

Jaw clenching and teeth grinding

Sweating

Nauseous

Tingling skin

Agitated and irritable

Heart palpitations

Very thirsty (or drinking too much water)

Muscle aches and pains

Anxious

Pleasant effects

Unpleasant effects

Increased euphoria

Pleasant hallucinations

Increased feelings of connection with others

Sexually aroused

Extremely heightened emotions

 

Intense sensitivity to light

Personality changes

Mood swings

Paranoid

Intensely agitated or aggressive

Severely anxious

Feeling panicked or having panic attacks

Excessively sweating or feeling very hot or very cold

Disturbing hallucinations

Vomiting

Pleasant effects

Unpleasant effects

Extremely vivid hallucinations (can be pleasant for some people)

Having an ‘out of body’ experience

High fever

Severe panic attacks

Acting aggressive or violent

Severe vomiting

Extremely vivid, disturbing hallucinations

Becoming unresponsive

Seizures

Losing consciousness

Some people drink too much water when on MDMA so you may also experience symptoms of water intoxication – faintness, extreme confusion and trouble moving

How can you be safer when using MDMA?

MDMA comes in many different forms and is taken in many different ways. It can also effect everyone differently at different doses. However you are using MDMA, it is always a good idea to think about the things you can do to be safer. 

If you are swallowing MDMA, wait an hour before re-dosing. 
Swallowing is the most common method of taking MDMA. It delivers the drug more slowly into your bloodstream, which can reduce your risk of overdose. However, because it releases the drug more slowly, it is good to wait 1 hour before re-dosing as you will not feel the effects right away. People may also take MDMA by snorting, smoking, injecting or taking it rectally (‘boofing’ or ‘shelving’). These methods deliver the drugs faster to your body, which can result in an increased risk of overdose.

Take care if you are snorting MDMA. 
Snorting MDMA can result in damage to your nose, especially if you do it often. If you choose to snort, try to take longer breaks between using this way to reduce the damage. Use a clean straw and surface when snorting and do not share tools with others. It is best to avoid snorting MDMA that has been pressed into pills, as it is likely to be mixed with other fillers that can be dangerous when snorted. You can also do a nasal saline rinse after snorting to clear your nose. 

Test your MDMA to make sure it isn't a different drug. 
Before you use, it’s a good idea to have your MDMA checked to see if there are other drugs like synthetic cathinones (bath salts) mixed with it. There are two ways in New Zealand to check what is in your drugs – going to a drug checking clinic where they use a spectrometer or using reagent tests yourself. For MDMA, you should use more than one reagent test as reagent tests only show if there is MDMA in the drug, not whether it is mixed with something else.

If you can't test your MDMA, start with a low dose. 
As MDMA is commonly mixed with or substituted with other, more dangerous drugs it is a good idea to start low  if you aren't sure. Many of the drugs sold as MDMA like eutylone are stronger than MDMA, so taking a smaller dose can reduce your chance of overdosing. Taking a smaller dose will also reduce the unpleasant effects if you have taken a drug that is not MDMA. 

Stay hydrated. 
MDMA can make you really active, which can dehydrate you, especially if you are dancing in a hot environment. Try to replace the water you lose without going too overboard - a glass or two an hour is usually enough.

Visit tripsit for more information on MDMA doses.

For more information on how to be safer when using drugs and alcohol, see Safer using

To order self-help workbooks and other free resources for safer use, see Resources.

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What do comedowns from MDMA feel like, and how can you feel better?

Most people will experience some sort of comedown from MDMA. It usually starts 6–12 hours after taking it and can last for about 1–4 days. How bad the comedown is will depend on how much you took, whether you re-dosed and if you also took it with alcohol or other drugs.

If you...

  • Have a sore jaw or mouth
  • Have changes in appetite
  • Feel tired
  • Feel sweaty, very hot or very cold
  • Feel irritable, agitated, anxious or low
  • Lose interest in sex
  • Have difficulty sleeping
  • Have sore or blurry eyes
  • Have stomach-aches or nausea
  • Are easily distracted or have difficulty concentrating
  • Have memory loss
  • Have mood swings or intense emotions

Then try: 

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep.
  • Remember to eat and drink plenty of water.
  • Get moving to release feel-good brain chemicals.
  • Reach out and talk with friends and whānau for support.
  • Relax and do things that you enjoy to take your mind off not feeling well.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs.
  • Practise mindfulness and deep breathing, and try writing down your thoughts and feelings.

If any of these symptoms intensify or don't go away then call a doctor or Healthline 0800 611 116. They can talk you through the next steps.

If your symptoms worsen or you are with somebody who:

  • Have severe tremors
  • Are unable to control your body movements
  • Have trouble breathing
  • Have chest pain
  • Experience severe dissociation
  • Experience psychosis
  • Lose consciousness

Call 111. These are signs that something more serious is going on. You or the people around you should act quickly.

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You might experience numbness in your body, feel like you cannot walk or move, clench your jaw, grind your teeth, have muscle soreness or muscle cramps, feel disoriented or confused, feel dizzy, have heart palpitations, feel dehydrated, sweat or feel very hot or very cold, feel anxious, paranoid or low, or experience disturbing hallucinations. 

Try:

  • Focus on breathing – try taking slow, deep breaths.
  • If you are able, call and talk to somebody you trust and ask them to help keep you calm.
  • Do not take more MDMA, caffeine, alcohol or other drugs, as these can make you feel worse.
  • Move to somewhere quiet – try to sit or lie down and do something relaxing.
  • Drink water to stay hydrated.

If your symptoms worsen or don't improve, or you feel very dehydrated, vomit, have a panic attack, are aggressive or have violent thoughts, have suicidal thoughts or have severe disturbing hallucinations, call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116). You won't get in trouble if you tell them you've used drugs. They can talk you through the next steps.

If you experience psychosis, have serious disturbances in mental abilities (delirium), have a high fever, act violently, attempt suicide, have a seizure, become unresponsive or lose consciousness, these are signs of an MDMA overdose. You or the people around you should act quickly. Call 111.

Some people drink too much water when on MDMA so you may also experience symptoms of water intoxication – faintness, extreme confusion and trouble moving.

If you experience unexpected or concerning effects from MDMA you can notify High Alert to help keep others safe.

One Reddit user describes having a bad experience on MDMA at a New Year’s Eve event:

“About 30 minutes after taking the molly, I started to feel it, at first I was just more energetic but within a couple minutes I lost control of everything. All of a sudden I couldn’t feel anything in my body at all, like I was completely numb. Along with this I couldn’t move any part of my body and felt extremely heavy, I couldn’t even hold my head up or stand.”

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What are the long-term effects of using MDMA?

Most people who use MDMA may only use it from time to time like at festivals, events or parties. However, some people use MDMA regularly and over a long period of time, which can lead to more long-term effects.

If you are using MDMA nasally, rectally or by injecting (even if it is just from time to time), this can cause long-term damage to your body. For more information on how to be safer when using drugs and alcohol, see Safer using.

MDMA can affect the serotonin system in your brain, and this can contribute to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety over time. At higher doses or in longer periods of use, MDMA can cause problems with memory, behaviour, personality changes and learning difficulties. MDMA has also been linked to brain events like strokes. 

If you are using MDMA regularly, it might disrupt your sleep and appetite (feeling very hungry or not hungry at all). You may also be more likely to make impulsive decisions, have trouble concentrating or have low mood.

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How do you manage withdrawal from MDMA?

See the 'Making changes' page for more information on how to Manage withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.

MDMA is often talked about as not being addictive, and while it is not as addictive as other drugs, some people do become dependent on MDMA.

There are lots of reasons other than addiction that people want to stop using MDMA. You may want to take a break because you are using it more than you would like or find you are not having fun without taking it.

Below are some things to be aware of if you are taking a break or stopping MDMA use, especially if you have been using it regularly. These symptoms may be different if you have been using other substances that have been sold as MDMA or if they are mixed. Synthetic cathinones (sometimes called bath salts) that are often sold as MDMA have more unpleasant and unpredictable effects from cutting down or stopping.

You might: 

  • Have cravings to use MDMA
  • Have sore muscles or muscle cramps
  • Experience changes in appetite
  • Feel antisocial
  • Feel irritable, agitated, anxious or low
  • Have trouble concentrating or thinking
  • Have problems sleeping
  • Feel tired
  • Have memory problems

You can try:

  • Follow a tapering plan from a health professional to reduce your dose slowly.
  • Consider counselling or support groups if feelings of anxiety and depression are getting worse.
  • Lean on a support network of friends, family and professionals.
  • Stick to a routine – waking up, eating well, keeping active and rewarding yourself with things that bring you joy.
  • Practise mindfulness by writing down your feelings, doing breathing exercises or meditating.

If your symptoms worsen or don't go away, or you have ongoing insomnia, have heart palpitations, have a panic attack or hallucinate, call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116).

You can talk to your doctor about:

  • other medicines to help you get through withdrawal
  • rehab or withdrawal clinics in your area – visit Health Point to see what services are available.

If you feel severely emotionally distressed, have chest pain, experience psychosis or have a seizure, these are signs you could be experiencing severe withdrawal or that something serious is going on. You or the people around you should act quickly. Call 111.

 For more information on getting support for drug and alcohol use, see Finding support.

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How can MDMA affect your daily activities?

Even at low doses, MDMA can affect your work and everyday activities. The effects of MDMA usually peak 1–2 hours after taking it depending on how it’s used (swallowed, snorted) and can last for 4–5 hours before the effects wear off. If you take a larger dose, use regularly or mix with alcohol or other drugs, the effects can last a lot longer.

MDMA can cause changes in experiences so that the user has a change in perception or hallucinates, feels dizzy or is sensitive to sensations and surroundings (such as light). It can be unsafe to drive or operate heavy machinery when experiencing an MDMA high. It can also make you feel overly emotional, agitated, jittery or anxious, which means that interacting with others can be difficult.

Will MDMA show up on a drug test?

MDMA is usually tested for using hair, urine, saliva (spit), sweat or blood. The detection timeframes may change depending on how much MDMA you take and how often you take it. Generally, MDMA can be detected for 1–4 days in urine, 1–4 days in saliva, 1–2 days in blood, 2 days in sweat and up to 90 days in hair. It is important to remember that every person’s body is different and will process drugs differently.

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Is MDMA illegal?

MDMA is illegal and is a Class B controlled drug. This means using, buying, selling, possessing, making, or importing MDMA is against the law.

You can also get in trouble with the law if you are found to be impaired by MDMA while driving.

To find out more about the law around legal and controlled drugs, including MDMA, see Drugs and the law.

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