Ecstasy and MDMA Overdose Treatment, Signs & Symptoms

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine is a widely used psychoactive drug across both the United States and the world as a whole. Most people know it by its acronym, MDMA, and more still know it simply as ecstasy. This popular drug is manufactured and used exclusively for recreational purposes, with no accepted scientific or medical applications whatsoever.

MDMA differentiates itself from other drugs in that it combines stimulant and hallucinogenic effects all in one substance. This is where its nickname, ecstasy, originates, as it is said to create feelings of euphoria in its users. On top of this, users often point to increased entactogenic effects — empathy for others and a spirit of togetherness. For these reasons, it is universally considered to be the premier party drug of the last few decades. An unofficial title once held by cocaine.

Though ecstasy isn’t considered addictive per se, it is used in excess among its preferred user demographic: young adults. Clubs, parties, concerts, college campuses and other such social venues for this age group have become a hotbed for MDMA recreational use. In truth, MDMA had a measurable dip in popularity and overall usage among this crowd in years past. However, this apparent absence was short-lived, as ecstasy has had a resurgence since 2008 thanks to “molly.”

What exactly is molly? Broadly speaking, there are no true differences between it and ecstasy. Molly is simply a newer moniker of the same drug, if nothing else, the same drug in its purest form.

While the chances of a fatal ecstasy overdose are relatively low, dangerous symptoms and side effects persist in the short term and with repeat overuse.

Ecstasy and MDMA Overdose | Ecstasy and MDMA Overdose Treatment, Signs, & Symptoms
Tens of thousands of hospital visits are caused by MDMA each year. Some are life-threatening in their own right. Others originate from bad trips causing users to work themselves into a mental frenzy while on the drug.

Most ecstasy deaths are related to symptoms and side effects, not so much because someone took too much ecstasy.

As it stands, the leading causes of MDMA mortalities can be traced back to overheating and dehydration. Stimulation leads to excessive overheating. Compound this with a crowded dance floor, party, or concert setting, and it’s clear why hypothermia is such a threat. Alcoholic beverages, which are easily accessible in most places one may find MDMA, can exacerbate an already trying situation. The energizing effects of caffeine should be avoided as well.

Additionally, many ecstasy “overdoses” are a direct result of impurities in the pill themselves. Don’t let the innocuous smiley faces, peace signs, or clovers printed on the tablets fool you, each ecstasy pill has the potential of hardly being ecstasy at all. This is because many illicit manufacturers will cut their batches of ecstasy with cheaper or more deadly substitutes. It is not uncommon to find MDMA pills combined with hazardous levels of cocaine, PCP, and opioids. There is no guarantee from pill to pill and use and use — it is truly a gamble and a dangerous one at that.

Recreational use places a typical dose at between 10 and 150 mg. There is a serious possibility that ecstasy users will take part in a binge session when on the drug, too. Several hundred milligrams in a night is not out of the question in said instances. There is no definitive answer as to the amount of ecstasy it would take to cause an overdose. Some estimates put the number at a very general range of approximately 10–20 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. In other words: a lot.

As mentioned, the deadliest component found within an ecstasy pill is likely to be any number of additives that are thrown in. The overdose threshold for these is where the true peril lies.

Ecstasy use symptoms range in the affected body region and relative intensity. Because reaching overdose levels is so difficult, understanding other MDMA use complications and consequences are often more important. Such symptoms can include:

  • Cardiac arrest: heart failure and malfunctions are among the most serious results of excessive ecstasy use. Rapid heart rate is a precursor to this.
  • Chest pain: ranging from mild to severe, such pain will radiate outward from the upper chest area.
  • Restlessness: grinding teeth, fidgeting, foot tapping, and more may occur.
  • Confusion, paranoia, and memory loss: the drug’s hallucinogenic effects can take hold and manifest in destructive and or disorganized thought processes.
  • Dilated pupils or blurred vision: over-stimulation can lead to erratic eye function.
  • Dry mouth and locked jaw: along with the aforementioned teeth grinding, other mouth symptoms are equally common.
  • Dehydration: dryness is not confined to the mouth. A full-body fatigue can set in within a matter of hours, even minutes.

Every health complication from recreational drug use must be thought of as being terminal if not treated. Being as MDMA is a social drug, it is likely that if you’re not the one exhibiting said symptoms that someone you know is. Get friends and loved ones the help they need before complications become exponentially more complicated over time.

When ecstasy users arrive at a hospital or rehab center for care, their situation is a bit of an enigma. Physicians will not immediately know what percent of the pills they’ve ingested was MDMA as opposed to other additives. This requires blood toxicology examinations. In the meantime, medical professionals will do their best to treat the underlying issues related to ecstasy misuse, namely, dehydration and overheating. Once a victim is rehydrated, cooled, and stabilized, there is a high likelihood they will make a full recovery.

Worried about your or a loved one’s drug usage? Don’t risk an overdose situation or a lasting addiction. The Recovery Village can help. Offering individualized drug and alcohol treatment programs, this renowned center can help you find the strength you need to leave a substance use disorder behind for good. To get started, call The Recovery Village today. 

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.