Risks of Abusing MDMA

Contributor: written by SUWS clinical team member Erica Smith, MA, NCC.

Sad female teenager who is Abusing MDMAMDMA is an illicit drug that possesses both psychedelic and stimulant properties. Abusing MDMA has been said to promote feelings of energy while simultaneously enhancing tactile experiences.

The psychedelic component of the substance causes users begin to experience distortions in time and in their ability to perceive the world around them. The combination of these effects are said to come together in a pleasurable and euphoric high that is said to last, on average, between three and six hours.

MDMA stands for methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is the drug’s chemical name. MDMA can be taken on its own, most frequently in the form of a capsule or tablet, but it is also one of the prominent ingredients included in the street drug ecstasy. Ecstasy, however, is typically composed of other ingredients or drug combinations as well.

Escalation of MDMA in Teens

Enticed by MDMA’s effects, many adolescents begin experimenting with its use. This experimentation may then escalate into frequent abuse of the drug.

According to the Monitoring the Future Survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan in 2014, the lifetime prevalence of MDMA or ecstasy abuse among youth was noticeably high, with 1.4% of 8th-grade students, 3.7% of 10th-grade students, and 5.6% of 12th-grade students reportedly having abused MDMA or ecstasy1.

The Harmful Effects of MDMA Abuse

teenager-445433_640Whenever anyone uses MDMA, regardless of their age, they are vulnerable to experiencing any number of harmful effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA directly affects the chemistry of the brain by altering the activity of neurotransmitters [1].

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that act as messengers throughout its various parts, allowing nerve cells to communicate appropriately with each other [2]. The disturbances that the presence of MDMA causes within the brain’s communication is what allows users to experience such pleasurable effects. However, the longer that this drug continues to be abused, the more likely it is that permanent damage will occur.

Symptoms of MDMA Abuse

Once the high has worn off, users of MDMA may experience a number of effects, which can include irritability, feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and unwarranted feelings of aggression. Additionally,individuals have reported experiencing a lack of appetite and significant problems in their abilities to sleep.

However, these effects may seem somewhat minor when compared to the other potential health effects that have been known to arise as the result of MDMA abuse. Examples of these health effects include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Significant rise in body temperature
  • Blurred vision
  • Alternating between experiencing chills and sweating profusely
  • Muscle tension

Long-Term Consequences

Unfortunately, however, these are not the only effects that people who abuse MDMA are at risk for experiencing. The following devastating consequences have been known to result from long-term MDMA abuse:

  • Kidney failure
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Psychosis
  • Cardiovascular damage
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Deteriorated nerves

Teenage girl running in park with dogTragically, the most severe consequence that can occur from the abuse of MDMA is death. MDMA-related deaths have been known to occur even after an individual takes only a small dose of the substance. One of the most common causes of death in MDMA users is said to be heatstroke.

This substance causes users’ body temperatures to elevate drastically and dehydration is commonplace. If individuals are abusing this substance and are not consistently hydrating themselves, their risk for experiencing heatstroke increases.

Getting Treatment

Due to the number of negative effects that can occur from the abuse of MDMA, it is imperative that those who engage in this type of drug abuse put an end to their dangerous behaviors. Receiving treatment for chemical dependency can be the most beneficial way for adolescents who have fallen into this destructive habit to overcome their desire to use and return to a life of health and sobriety.


  1. Miech, R.A., Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., Bachman, J.G., & Schulenberg, J.E. (2015). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2014: Volume I, Secondary school students. Ann Arbor

About the Author

“Risks of Abusing MDMA” was written by SUWS clinical team member Erica Smith, MA, NCC. Erica has several years of experience working in the treatment field as a clinical therapist and has her Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the American School of Professional Psychology.

About SUWS:

SUWS of the Carolinas offers specialized wilderness treatment programs for children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 17. Located just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, SUWSof the Carolinas offers dynamic and multifaceted treatment interventions for youth who are struggling with a variety of concerns, including mental illness, behavioral problems, substance abuse, autism spectrum disorder, and more. The staff at SUWS is dedicated to providing individualized treatment that caters to the unique needs of each child or adolescent who is entrusted into their care.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 6, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 11, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com