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National Drug Intelligence Center

Product No. 2003-L0559-001

March 2003

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Cover image linked to printable MDMA (Ecstasy) Fast Facts brochure.
Background photo © John Foxx Images; 
photo of pills © Porrata Consulting

Printable brochure (759 KB pdf)

Fast Facts

Questions and Answers 

     - What is MDMA?
     - What does it look like?
     - Who uses the drug?
     - Where is it used?
     - What are the risks?
     - What is it called?
     - Is it illegal?

Other products of interest
Contact us 

National Drug Intelligence Center
a component of the 
U.S. Department of Justice.

hat is MDMA?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) is a synthetic (man-made) drug that causes both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects. The drug was developed in Germany in the early twentieth century as an appetite suppressant, but today's users consume the drug for its hallucinogenic effects, which they claim heighten their senses and make them feel less inhibited. Users also consume MDMA for its stimulant properties, which enable them to dance for hours at all-night parties and nightclubs.


Photograph of glass bottles and pills.What does it look like?

MDMA generally is sold as a tablet, which is taken orally. MDMA tablets are available in various colors and shapes and generally are imprinted with a logo. Popular logos include smiley faces, clover leaves, cartoon characters, and symbols associated with commercial brands such as Mitsubishi, Nike, and Mercedes.


Who uses the drug?

Most MDMA users are teenagers or young adults. More than 10 percent of high school seniors have tried MDMA at least once, and more than 2 percent have used the drug in the past month, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey. MDMA users typically come from middle- and upper-class households. MDMA is inexpensive. The average retail price of an MDMA tablet is between $20 and $30 making it attractive and accessible to younger users.

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Where is it used?

MDMA is called a club drug because it often is used at all-night dance parties (called raves) or at techno parties and nightclubs. In addition, MDMA increasingly is being used in private homes and on high school and college campuses.


What are the risks?

The effects produced by consuming MDMA can last for 4 to 6 hours, depending upon the potency of the tablet. Using the drug can cause confusion, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, craving for the drug, and paranoia. Use of the drug also may result in muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, tremors, rapid eye movement, sweating, or chills. People who have circulatory problems or heart disease face particular risks because MDMA can increase heart rate and blood pressure.

MDMA abusers also risk dehydration, hyperthermia (exceptionally high fever), and heart or kidney failure if they use the drug while physically exerting themselves or in hot environments. (These factors pose particular risks to individuals who use MDMA at raves or techno parties, where they may be dancing among crowds of people.)

Users also are at risk of consuming other drugs that may be sold to them as MDMA. In some instances, the synthetic drug PMA  (paramethoxyamphetamine) has been sold as MDMA. Because PMA's  hallucinogenic effects take longer to appear, users may consume too much of the drug, which can result in overdose death.

An additional risk results when other substances are added to MDMA tablets without the user's knowledge. Drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine reportedly have been added to MDMA tablets in some parts of the United States.

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What is it called?

The most common names for MDMA are ecstasy, Adam, and XTC. (Please see the below for additional names.)

Street Terms for MDMA

Disco biscuit

Hug drug

Love drug
Morning shot
Scooby snacks

Speed for lovers


Is it illegal?

Yes, MDMA is illegal. Since 1985 MDMA has been a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances, which include heroin and LSD, have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose.

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Other products of interest:

Check out Fast Facts on:

  • Crack cocaine
  • Crystal methamphetamine
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Inhalants
  • Jimsonweed
  • Ketamine
  • Khat
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine
  • PCP
  • Powdered cocaine
  • Prescription drugs
  • Yaba

Also available from NDIC:

  • Huffing--The Abuse of Inhalants
  • Prescription Drug Abuse and Youth
  • Drugs, Youth, and the Internet

For more information on illicit drugs check out our web site at:  Call 814-532-4541 to request NDIC products.


Contact us

Our addresses:

National Drug Intelligence Center
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Johnstown , PA 15901-1622
  Telephone: 814-532-4601
  FAX: 814-532-4690

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8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean , VA 22102-3840
  Telephone: 703-556-8970
  FAX: 703-556-7807

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