MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as molly, ecstasy, E, or pills—is the unsung psychedelic. It is perhaps the most popularly used psychedelic, though even many regular users would not consider it so. MDMA is commonly known as a party drug, used at concerts, raves, festivals, and other high-energy gatherings with music and crowds. Many who take MDMA do so for fun, to socialize and enjoy music, instead of embarking on the “trips” usually associated with other psychedelics like LSD, Psilocybin, or ayahuasca.
However, MDMA is, in fact, a psychedelic, and has the potential to provide profound insights, heal trauma, and relieve anxiety and depression.
WE GOT LAB ISSUES
MDMA is a chemically synthesized substance. Unlike magic mushrooms, one cannot enter a wilderness area to pluck MDMA from the lap of nature. It is a product of laboratories, illegal ones without any regulations or oversight. Because of the unreliable sourcing of the substance, ecstasy has earned a somewhat ugly reputation. There are plenty of stories of overdoses and toxic lacing. Additionally, even when pure, MDMA poses a much higher risk of toxicity than LSD, another unregulated, lab-synthesized psychedelic.
If you are planning to take MDMA, it is important to be aware the risks involved, and take the proper steps to avoid them. Legitimate manufacturers sell MDMA-testing kits, which can help you find adulterants in your pills. The results cannot completely assure your safety, but you will at least be able to identify potentially fatal poisons like PMA/PMMA.
To help avoid an overdose (which can be deadly), always start out by crushing your pill and taking a small dab on your finger. If you feel OK after an hour, you can take the normal dose. Some pills contain over 250mg of MDMA, which is enough for an overdose (especially if you’re a small woman).
PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PRACTICE
The last thing you want to do while peaking on E? Figure out what to do while peaking on E.
Plan ahead: a public or private party, camping, a date night with your partner, a rave or music festival, or just a night at home, often called a “house roll.” Surround yourself with friends, in an environment with plenty to do. MDMA is a social substance, and conversations and connections while on it will feel incredibly meaningful. It often gives users a strong compulsion to do something, to participate. Having nothing to do and nobody to speak to can leave you feeling very uncomfortable and restless.
Finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated – especially if you’re dancing. MDMA interferes with your body’s ability to regulate water, so you have to pay a little more attention than usual to your water intake.
“The last thing you want to do while peaking on E? Figure out what to do while peaking on E.”
HOWEVER YOU PREFER
Depending on where you are, MDMA can sell in tablet, capsule, or powder forms. Regardless of how it comes, you will always have the option of dose-management. That is, you can always crush a pill or a capsule, empty the contents, and divide into halves, thirds, quarters, etc. There’s no rule against taking less.
There are three different ways people usually take MDMA. You can directly ingest the substance orally, snort it, or dissolve it into some water. With snorting, the process of ingestion is immediate and will take effect quicker than swallowing or dissolving. However, snorting also irritates and can damage the nasal lining. Swallowing the substance directly (in pill or powder form) is perhaps the most common way to take MDMA. Dissolving it is also common, particularly when discretely trying to bring in MDMA to events. One drawback of this method is the taste — MDMA is very bitter, and drinking it dissolved into a liquid is not fun.
Just as it is with other psychedelics, you may feel some discomfort between ingesting MDMA and the time it takes to take full effect. Clamminess, a knot in your gut, anxiety, and uneasiness are all expected. Within half an hour, you will probably start to feel the onset, which occurs very gradually. The feeling almost seems like someone turns up the dial on all of your sensory inputs. Colors grow vibrant, sounds sharpen, and music, if it’s playing, will become mesmerizing.
An important note here: Sometimes users mistakenly think they’ve been sold a dud, due to a longer onset time than they expect. As a result, they carelessly take more MDMA to compensate for it. Not only is this physically dangerous, but it can result in an emotionally and psychologically overwhelming experience. Don’t rush to experience the effects. First timers aren’t sure what feelings to look out for and are often slower to notice. It’s safest to wait for at least an hour before considering any additional dosing. If you took a full dose to begin with, you might not want to add any more at all, and instead try again another time or from another source.
PEAKING AND THE TRIP
The peak usually comes an hour or two after ingestion, though it certainly differs between users. During both the onset and the peak, you may notice visual effects that are similar, but less intense, to those that can occur with LSD and mushrooms.
You will also feel a strong sense of connection with those around you. It is common to feel a sense of well-being and peace regarding your overall life. The tiny frustrations and resentment that infect your inner dialog during “normal” life fade away. If you have never used E before, you can imagine how the combination of inter-connectedness and the loss of mental baggage can lead to interactions that feel incredibly meaningful. MDMA is effective at relieving social anxiety, which is another reason why events like raves are so popular—the sort of openness and kindness you want to project while on MDMA is powerful, and can’t be matched or reciprocated in “normal” life.
People under MDMA also experience energy boosts. Many times, this is because pills contain caffeine or other stimulants. Even when pure, MDMA often leads to hyperactivity, which is why people will clench their jaws, grind their teeth, and grasp and toy with things between their hands (this also occurs because of an increase in tactile sensitivity, which makes all sorts of physical feedback feel great). Try to be aware of these tendencies, though, as they can result in some soreness and discomfort the following day.
Another thing to watch out for: during your trip, or your “roll”, your excitement and openness may lead you to seek out more MDMA, or indulge in other substances, especially at large, social gatherings.
Mixing MDMA with other substances can be dangerous!
Especially if it is your first time, you may want to refrain yourself from getting caught up in the moment and making risky decisions. It helps to limit yourself and resolve not to mix any substances beforehand. It also helps to have an experienced, level-headed friend with you.
The MDMA comedown varies, depending on a few factors — the quality of the MDMA, the composition of the pills, and whether or not you mixed your dose with other substances. Usually, coming down is unpleasant only when mixing substances, especially alcohol, or when the MDMA is cut with other substances.
However, with clean, well-sourced, and pure MDMA, the comedown should happen gradually, almost lightly. There is a slow dissolve of the senses, the openness, the excitement, and you feel dropped back gently to where you started. In the best case, you may notice the effects lingering for a while. But, it is also possible that you will want to continue your experience, and try to find or do more. Again, I caution against this, because I know that it can be tempting, and it can be dangerous.
I have been fortunate enough to have not taken E during or following any particularly traumatic experience—I can imagine the “return to reality” in such cases would be challenging. While MDMA carries potential to heal old traumas and wounds, treating it as an escape substance to numb pain may backfire.
One issue that has come up for both myself and friends, though, is a feeling of insecurity. You might suddenly feel awkward or self-conscious about things you said or did during the trip. Or, you may feel disappointed that your social freedom has gone, as you think about the monotonous, fake drudgery of reality to which you will inevitably return. Following the disappearance of that sense of intense social connectedness while on MDMA, all the rules of the everyday, conventional milieu return.
The comedown, however, also offers an excellent opportunity to examine and reaffirm relationships, to discuss and explore feelings that may have come up during the trip, and to reflect on yourself and your joy. One of the beautiful lessons that MDMA makes crystal clear is the value of sharing and having company. MDMA has a way of showing you that focusing only on yourself only breeds obsession and anxiety while sharing in the happiness and well-being of others does the opposite.
The term “Tuesday Blues” got its name from the tendency of people to take MDMA on a Friday or Saturday night, and to have all lingering effects of the MDMA high disappear by Tuesday. The Blues result from the way that MDMA works on your brain. Put simply, MDMA opens, and keeps open, the hatch where the feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin release. Your brain gets flooded with these chemicals and takes immense pleasure from the experience.
When you use MDMA, especially a lot of it, your brain gets used to that state of feeling so good. But when it wears off, you can feel uncomfortable, moody, and unstable.
The Blues are mostly avoidable, and some simple rules will go a long way: don’t mix substances, give yourself at an intake limit and hold to it, drink water, and get rest. The worst thing to happen is that you take MDMA, experience a rough comedown and depressing return to normal, and then rue the whole experience.
Instead, a responsible dose and comfortable post-trip environment will result in the opposite of the Tuesday Blues. Instead of a grumpy brain, you’ll feel a buzz from the wonderful experience you had. You’ll return to your life with a bit of lightness and warmth from your trip. Even though people often underestimate it as a party drug, it’s easy to see the psychedelic in MDMA — it removes the psychological and emotional barriers that so often enclose all of us. It takes you outside of your mind and gives you a glimpse of an alternate reality, of alternative experience.
When properly used, it’s no surprise at all why people call it Ecstasy.
THE ROSE’S THORNS
MDMA can produce beautiful psychedelic experiences. But it can also have a nasty bite.
Overdoses can be deadly. Mixing it with other drugs can be deadly. Frequent, high-dose use can be deadly.
Thankfully, it’s easy to avoid these risks. Take MDMA in a safe environment, surrounded by responsible friends. Test your substance and only start out with a tiny amount. Don’t mix it with other drugs. Only take it once every few weeks, at the most.
If we want to change the face of psychedelics, we need to promote responsible drug use. Spread the joys of MDMA without giving the papers another shock headline!