MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine) is a synthetic stimulant drug known commonly as ecstasy. Although not technically a psychedelic drug, MDMA has psychoactive effects that may hold medical and personal benefit.


MDMA was discovered in 1912, although was not used for its psychoactive properties until the 1970s. Subsequently, many psychotherapists, especially in the US, began using MDMA as part of their sessions, believing it increased patients’ openness and empathy. After over a decade of popular use in psychotherapy and as a recreational drug, MDMA was made illegal in the US and elsewhere in 1985.

MDMA is taken in tablet form, typically at a dose of around 100mg, and has cognitive effects including euphoria, increased empathy and sociability, increased energy, anxiety, sensory enhancement and visual hallucinations. MDMA works by mimicking serotonin, an important neurotransmitter in the brain.


Examples of typical ecstasy tablets

High doses of MDMA can cause dehydration, exhaustion and organ failure if not taken responsibly. Users should always be aware of dosage and purity, drink plenty of water, and avoid mixing with other drugs.

MDMA is a controlled substance in most countries. Frequent use of MDMA has significant potential for harm and as such should be treated with respect and caution.


Useful links:

Posts about MDMA on The Psychedelic Scientist

More detail about MDMA



Capela et al. (2009) Molecular and cellular mechanisms of ecstasy-induced neurotoxitcity: an overview. Mol Neurobiol 39:210-271

Kirkpatrick et al. (2012) A direct comparison of the behavioural and physiological effects of methamphetamine and MDMA in humans. Psychopharmacology 219:109-122

Nichols (2016) Psychedelics. Pharmacol Rev 68:264-355

Passie & Benzenhofer (2016) The history of MDMA as an underground drug in the US, 1960-1979. J Psychoactive Drugs 48(2):67-75