Ecstasy: effects on the body

Effects of ecstasy

The effects of any drug (including ecstasy) vary from person to person. How ecstasy affects a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken around the same time. The effects of any drug also depend on the amount taken.

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Immediate effects

The effects of ecstasy may start to be felt within 20 minutes to 1 hour after an ecstasy pill has been swallowed and may last for approximately 6 hours.

Low to moderate doses

Some of the effects that may be experienced after taking ecstasy include:

  • increased confidence and energy
  • lowered inhibitions
  • feelings of wellbeing
  • feelings of closeness to others
  • empathy
  • anxiety
  • paranoia, aggression and psychosis
  • poor muscle control and unsteadiness
  • muscle aches and stiffness
  • increased blood pressure & heart rate
  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • increased body temperature
  • sweating
  • skin tingles
  • dilated pupils
  • heightened sensations (sight, hearing, touch)
  • jaw clenching
  • teeth grinding.

Higher doses

A high dose of ecstasy can cause a person to overdose. This means that a person has taken more ecstasy than their body can cope with. The effects can include:

  • floating sensations
  • vomiting
  • high body temperature
  • high blood pressure
  • increased heartbeat
  • hallucinations
  • irrational or bizarre behaviour
  • convulsions (fits).

Ecstasy has also been linked to several deaths through heart attack and brain haemorrhage.

Coming down

After using ecstasy, people may experience a “coming down” phase and may experience some of the following:

  • physical exhaustion
  • depression and irritability
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • paranoia
  • difficulty concentrating.

These effects of coming down usually begin the day after taking ecstasy and can last for several days.

Long-term effects

There is some evidence that ecstasy can cause damage to some parts of the brain and that regular, heavy use can lead to depression.

A person taking ecstasy regularly may find that they are not eating or sleeping enough and are neglecting their health. They may become “run down”, have reduced energy levels and be more at risk for colds, flu and infections.

Other effects of ecstasy use

Social problems

All areas of a person’s life can be affected by drug use.

  • Disagreements and frustration over drug use can cause family arguments and affect personal relationships.
  • Legal and health problems can also add to the strain on personal, financial and work relationships.

Taking ecstasy with other drugs

The chances of an overdose are increased if ecstasy is taken with other stimulant drugs such as amphetamines or cocaine. This can increase effects such as heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety.

Taking ecstasy with benzodiazepines to help with the symptoms of the “comedown” can lead to a cycle of dependence on both drugs.

Using ecstasy and drinking alcohol at the same time can lead to dehydration and overheating, and can also increase the negative effects of comedown.

Taking ecstasy while on some antidepressant medication can lead to some unpleasant effects such as increased heart rate, loss of coordination, nausea and vomiting.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Read about the effects of taking drugs during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Driving

It is dangerous to drive after using ecstasy. The effects of ecstasy, such as over-confidence and poor muscle control, can affect driving ability. People with over-confidence may take more risks when driving which increases the chances of an accident.

The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to drive safely.

Read more about the effects of ecstasy on driving.

Ecstasy use in the workplace

Under occupational health and safety legislation, all employees have a responsibility to make sure they look after their own and their co-workers’ safety.

The effects of ecstasy such as over-confidence and poor muscle control can affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively. The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively.

For more information, please click on the Australian Drug Foundation's DrugInfo Clearinghouse web site link below.
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