Parents Understanding Drugs


What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug known as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA).

Ecstasy is often seen as the original designer drug because of its high profile links to the dance music culture of the late 80s and early 90s. Clubbers took ecstasy to feel energised, happy, stay awake and dance for hours.

What it looks like

Ecstasy is usually sold in tablets of different shapes, sizes and colours that can have a design or logo stamped on to them. They are sometimes given nicknames after the design on the tablet. It sometimes comes in crystal or powder form.

It is also known as Sweeties, Eckies, X, Jabs, E, Rolexs, MDMA, Mandy, Pills, and XTC.

It is categorised as an hallucinogen and a stimulant.


How is it taken?

Ecstasy tablets are usually swallowed - although some people do crush them up and smoke or snort them. Crystal/powder form can be 'dabbed' onto the gums or snorted.


Users experience an energy buzz that makes them feel alert, alive, in tune with their surroundings, and sounds and colours are often experienced as more intense. Users often develop temporary feelings of love and affection for the people they're with and for the strangers around them.

The effects usually come on within 20 minutes to one hour and tend to last 3 to 6 hours, followed by a gradual comedown.

Unwanted physical side effects can include dilated pupils, a tingling feeling, tightening of the jaw muscles, raised body temperature and the heart beating faster.



It can take as long as an hour to feel the effect of ecstasy. As a result, some people may take another tablet to speed up the process, increasing any negative side effects.

In the short term, ecstasy has been known to cause anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, paranoia, or even psychosis. Use in clubs with dancing has caused overheating and dehydration, which has been fatal: regular water and with a salty snack is advised to reduce the risk of serious side effects. Users can feel tired and low for a few days after use.

Anyone with a heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have a very dangerous reaction to the drug.

Over the long term, users have experienced memory problems and may develop depression and anxiety. Ecstasy use has also been linked to mental health problems, and liver, kidney and brain damage.

Probably, the biggest problem with ecstasy is that it is rarely pure. Sometimes, there is no MDMA in it at all but other drugs, like PMA, instead, some of which may be fatal. Regardless of what it looks like and what it is called, you can't be sure what's in a pill or a powder and thus you can't predict how you'll react.

There are no guarantees or quality control so no safe amounts or levels. You won't know whether you have taken something particularly dangerous, until it takes affect, and it may then be too late to get to a hospital.

Mixing drugs can make the positive and negative effects more intense. Alcohol and ccstasy together, can have serious adverse effects, and have resulted in deaths.


Legal Status

Ecstasy is a Class A drug. This means that it's illegal to possess, give away or sell. Possessing it can lead to a prison sentence of up to 7 years or an unlimited fine or both. Supplying (which includes giving it to a friend) could lead to a life sentence or an unlimited fine or both.


Drugs in the News

Nobel Peace Prize: Santos calls for 'rethink' of war on drugs


The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to "rethink" the war on drugs.

He said the zero-tolerance policy might be "even more harmful" than all the other wars being fought worldwide.Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 8 December 2016

Heroin deaths prompt 'fix room'


Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 26 November 2016

The babies starting life in rehab


According to NHS figures, 1,087 babies in England were affected by maternal use of drugs in 2014-15, while in Scotland 987 babies were affected.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

GHB: The killer drug


The Metropolitan Police has said it will examine 58 GHB-related deaths, following the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

Club drug testing 'may be useful'


A leading police chief says recreational drug testing "may be very useful". Commander Bray is in discussion with the government about it.

Newsbeat, 24 November 2016

MPs call for cannabis legalisation


Britain should follow America's lead and legalise cannabis, and rake in £1 billion a year in tax revenues

Metro, 21 November 2016

Pharma's fight to block marijuana


Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month.

Guardian, 22 October 2016

10 years for cannabis for cancer


Police in Denmark have arrested a man and woman on suspicion of providing cannabis to cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses.

Independent, 5 October 2016

UK National Drugs helpline: 0300 123 6600

The National Drugs Helpline is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, free and confidential telephone service that offers advice and information for anyone.

It is run by the government agency, known as FRANK, created to provide drug support and advice for the public.

If you need emergency help, are worried about a friend or relative's drug use or want support coping with your own, contact FRANK on-line contact or by phone.

Material for billion ecstasy pills seized in Netherlands


Police in the Netherlands say they have seized a haul of raw drugs material that would have been enough to make a billion ecstasy pills.

The products were stored inside a truck trailer parked near Rilland, a village close to the Belgian border. They included 100 bottles of hydrogen gas, 15,000kg of caustic soda and 3,000 litres of other chemicals. Police did not give an estimate of the street value of the drug or say if anyone was arrested.

BBC News, 9 February 2017

We need more campaigners like Leah Betts's parents


Standing outside a rave in a grotty Nottingham warehouse, a girl I vaguely knew came up to me and smilingly slurred: "Go on Emma, just take one. It's amazing." For the umpteenth time at university I was about to refuse ecstasy. All because of another girl I'd never met and never would: Leah Betts.

The teenager, who died in 1995 after taking a single tablet at her 18th birthday party, unwittingly became the anti-drugs poster girl for a generation.

The Guardian, 26 January 2017

Ecstasy: Knowing the dangers


Twenty years ago the image of Leah Betts lying in her hospital bed came to symbolise the dangers of ecstasy.

Leah died after taking the drug while celebrating her 18th birthday. The image worked as ecstasy deaths fell.

But two decades on, there's a new generation unaware of Leah's image and many are naive to the dangers of ecstasy.

ITV, 14 December 2016

Ecstasy sold in US is less pure and more dangerous than in Europe


The purity of drugs being sold as "molly" or "ecstasy" in the US is dangerously poor compared to Europe, experts say, with many buyers unwittingly putting themselves at risk by ingesting a random and dangerous concoction of substances known as bath salts or other new psychoactive substances.

"Popping a pill always carries risks, but it's different depending on what side of the Atlantic you are on," explained Adam Winstock, an addiction psychiatrist.

The Guardian, 10 December 2016

MDMA approved for final trials to treat PTSD before possible legalization


The US FDA has given the green light to phase three trials of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

The treatment involves giving patients the drug just three times, once a month, during long talking therapy sessions, interspersed with weekly sessions without the drug. Early trials of the drug have shown encouraging results for patients with treatment-resistant PTSD.

The Guardian, 1 December 2016

'My therapist gave me a pill': can MDMA help cure trauma?


For as long as Alice, now 32, can remember, her father, "a major drug dealer with freezers full of cocaine", was physically abusive towards her and her mother. "My first memory is of him backing us to the front door with a gun, saying he'd kill her, kill me and kill himself one day."

Alice's PTSD, a debilitating mental condition that can be caused by witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening event, went misdiagnosed for years.

Guardian, 16 September 2016

Danger from ecstasy 'greater than ever' say drug experts


There's a warning that 2016 may be the most dangerous time to take MDMA for a generation. The Global Drug Survey 2016 polled 50,000 ecstasy users and found much stronger pills and powders are in circulation.

It's leading to an increase in hospital admissions, according to researchers, because users are not always aware of purity levels.

BBC Newsbeat, 14 June 2016

Usage figures show the War on Drugs is the stupidest policy of our times


The 2016 European Drug Report headlined the surge in usage of ecstasy. The report estimated that 2.1 million people aged between 15 and 34 used ecstasy in the past year, 300,000 higher than the estimate for 2015.

The findings are alarming for two reasons: first, because ecstasy usage had been falling since its mid-2000s peak; and second, as the purity of the ecstasy now being taken has a much higher level of purity than in earlier years.

Independent, 31 May 2016

Ecstasy and MDMA is 'getting stronger


Ecstasy and MDMA is getting stronger with dangerously "pure" pills and crystals in circulation, it's claimed.

There's a new warning from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Its latest report highlights a "recent resurgence in use of MDMA in Europe and increased availability of high-strength MDMA tablets and powders".

BBC Newsbeat, 4 May 2016

Could MDMA Save Your Relationship?


Autumn first used MDMA in 2007, in Sarasota, while attending the New College of Florida. "There [were] thrice yearly parties called 'Palm Court Parties,' which were heavily themed and ritualized drug parties," she explained. After testing the purity of her drugs, Autumn took the MDMA and suddenly the difficulty processing disparate thoughts she'd experienced all her life as a result of her autism began to recede.

Complex, 17 February 2016

Is ecstasy really that dangerous? All your questions answered


1. Why do young people with everything to live for take drugs like ecstasy?

For many people, taking ecstasy is a enjoyable experience. These people consider ecstasy a better, gentler and more social drug than alcohol. Ecstasy is not associated with violence while alcohol is often linked to aggression and anti-social behaviour.

Guardian, 8 December 2015

MDMA resurges with marketing and stronger pills attract young users


Ecstasy is making a resurgence since the rave scenes of the 1990s, becoming the drug of choice for young people in stronger forms than before.

The 2015 European Drug Report found indications that ecstasy is making a comeback with established users and a new generation of young users. Until recently MDMA use had been in decline after peaking in the early to mid-2000s. Recent survey data shows an increased use of the drug in Europe.

Guardian, 8 December 2015

How ecstasy-related deaths can be traced to illegal logging in Cambodia


New Year's Day 2015. In an Ipswich flat a young woman pressed her palms to the chest of her comatose boyfriend and desperately pumped.

Paramedics pronounced Gediminas Kulokas, a Lithuanian labourer, dead at the scene. 'Superman' pills killed three more men in Britain that day. They had all been duped. They thought they were buying MDMA - the drug known as ecstasy. Instead they were sold the toxic imposter chemical PMMA.

Telegraph, 21 November 2015

Teenager took ecstasy then bought another pill at Fabric, inquest told


A teenager who died after taking ecstasy on a night out at Fabric had bought a pill inside the London nightclub because he felt "frustrated" at not feeling the effects of drugs he had smuggled in, the inquest into his death heard.

Ryan Browne, 18, of St Albans, Hertfordshire, died in hospital on 25 June after becoming ill in the now-closed nightspot in Farringdon. Browne was among a group of 7 friends who had smuggled the drugs into the club in their socks

The Guardian, 15 November 2015

On a high: why Britain is back on ecstasy


It's 2am on Saturday morning and in the smoking area of a south London club groups of young people cluster in an alleyway, while muffled house music thuds in the background. Speaking to one group, students in their early 20s, it doesn't take much for the conversation to slip into the subject of drugs.

"When you're on a night out it's what you do", says Ed. "I first tried ecstasy when I was 16, but it was really at uni when it became more usual."

Guardian, 16 September 2015

The evolution of ecstasy from Mandy to Superman


Ecstasy is a nickname for the drug MDMA. The drug has been popular among dance music enthusiasts for decades, but it has begun to change in recent years, changes which have led to adverse outcomes, like death.

Four people in the UK died after reportedly taking a "bad" batch of ecstasy - officers suspect a batch of "Superman" pills from Ipswich. Over the last couple of years, many users have been hospitalized or have died after taking ecstasy.

Independent, 6 January 2015

Superman ecstasy deaths are result of 'illogical and punitive drugs policy'


The deaths of four men who had taken pills they thought were ecstasy are the result of the government's "illogical and punitive drug policy", a former drugs tsar has said.

Dr David Nutt, who advised the last government on drug policy until 2009, said the policy had targeted the production and sale of MDMA, only to see it substituted by a more toxic substance.

Guardian, 5 January 2015

I like the way MDMA gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends


Most nights I'd rather share a bottle of wine with friends than stay up till 6am getting sweaty and boggle-eyed on a bender. But while I associate alcohol with talking about past experiences, I associate drugs with making new ones.

I have probably taken drugs once a fortnight since I was 16 (I'm 27 now). I like the way MDMA softens reality and gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends that you never get over dinner when they moan about their jobs.

Guardian, 5 October 2014

Ecstasy: the new generation


Behind the scenes of dancefloor euphoria in clubs aross the country is "an endless cat-and-mouse game" between criminal drug producers and the police. It is a game in which the criminals are gaining ground.

It had seemed the widespread use of ecstasy, the drug which fuelled the rave scene 20 years ago, had faded, replaced by other stimulants including alcohol and cocaine.

The Herald, 9 February 2014

Parents Understanding Drugs