Updated on November 21, 2023
5 min read

Microdosing MDMA

Key Takeaways

What is MDMA?

MDMA is a synthetic drug that functions as a stimulant and hallucinogen. When taken in typical doses, it increases the activity of:1

  • Neurotransmitters
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine

The drug produces effects like:1

  • An energizing and euphoric high
  • Distortions in time and perception
  • Enhanced enjoyment from sensory experiences

MDMA is also an entactogen that can increase self-awareness and empathy. 

Ecstasy often refers to MDMA in capsule or tablet form. These forms are the most common way people take MDMA. However, ecstasy tablets typically contain MDMA at different concentrations and other potentially harmful drugs.

Adulterants in ecstasy tablets bought on the street have included:

  • Methamphetamine
  • Ketamine
  • Caffeine
  • Ephedrine
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Heroin
  • Phencyclidine
  • Cocaine

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What is Microdosing?

Microdosing involves taking or administering small doses of a drug. People often do it to test or benefit from the drug’s effects while avoiding adverse reactions.

This type of drug-taking is a relatively new concept. However, medical researchers have studied this method’s effects on the brain for years.

Microdosing has been around since the 1960s. Therefore, the concept of microdosing for enhanced brain function is at least several decades old.

Microdosing in a Medical Setting

In drug trials, microdosing involves taking a small dose that is not considered pharmacologically active. It shouldn’t cause any effects because it’s a fraction of the standard recreational or therapeutic amount. 

Recreational Microdosing

Microdosing drugs in a medical setting can improve how substances interact in humans without risking harm from larger doses. However, many people without medical training are practicing microdosing.

Much of microdosing involves guesswork at what a ‘microdose’ is. And even with small doses of intoxicating substances, some people can develop a tolerance quickly.

Developing a tolerance may lead them to increase their dose until it becomes a standard recreational dose or larger. Therefore, microdosing can still be dangerous and lead to substance abuse problems.

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Potential Benefits of Microdosing MDMA

A standard dose of MDMA is anywhere from 80 to 125 mg. Taking half of this dose or less is microdosing.

Reportedly, microdosing MDMA can reduce depression and improve:

  • Mood
  • Physical and mental stimulation
  • Creative thinking

Short-Term Side Effects

Other side effects of microdosing MDMA include:

  • Increased alertness
  • Elevated mood
  • Energy
  • Enhanced sociability

These side effects may not seem serious, but the results of microdosing MDMA can be unpredictable. Determining a particular dose's strength is difficult as the drug is sold on the black market.

It’s common for people to develop a tolerance to a drug they take often. Once you become used to one dose, you may need to increase your quantity to reach the desired effects.

This continuous cycle can open the doorway to compulsive and continual drug-taking behavior.

Long-Term Risks

Additionally, long-term use of MDMA, however small the doses may be, can also lead to:

  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence
  • Addiction

While many claim that MDMA has its benefits when taken in small doses, the drug directly affects various neurotransmitters and inhibits their reuptake. This effect is typical in addictive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.

Chronic misuse of MDMA can lead to physical dependence. It can also worsen the symptoms of mental illness. 

Potential Risks and Dangers of Microdosing MDMA

While microdosing MDMA has its benefits, it also has its risks and dangers, especially when unregulated or unsupervised.

MDMA is addictive and often contains unknown chemicals. As MDMA is made in random labs, it’s hard to determine what’s in MDMA and what doses are 'safe.' 

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MDMA Use in Therapy

MDMA therapy uses regulated doses of the drug in a professional clinical setting. The treatment helps with certain conditions, including:

  • PTSD and trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Defensiveness

Clinical use of MDMA isn’t the same as recreational use. MDMA therapy uses pharmaceutical-grade MDMA. 

On the other hand, ecstasy might contain an unknown amount of MDMA with a mix of other harmful ingredients. Healthcare professionals deliver a regulated dose of MDMA in a controlled setting to treat certain psychiatric conditions.

How Does MDMA Help Trauma?

A recent study shows that MDMA can treat PTSD when medical professionals combine it with another type of therapy, like counseling.2

MDMA therapy may increase the trust and bond between the person and therapist, allowing for more productive sessions. People can revisit traumatic memories and work through them without feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Can Drugs Make PTSD Worse?

Drugs can’t cause PTSD but can increase the risk of developing it. They can intensify reckless, risk-taking behaviors and expose people to dangerous situations where they can be re-traumatized.

People who abuse drugs and alcohol dissociate and end up in unexpected situations that can be disturbing and violent.

Even when substance abuse doesn’t lead to re-traumatization, it can worsen PTSD. Some drugs can worsen:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma-related symptoms

Even in cases where drug use hasn’t progressed to dependence, negative feelings reduced by substance use may return with greater intensity as it wears off. It can lead to a vicious cycle of escalating drug use and addiction.

Treatment Options for MDMA Abuse

One of the most effective treatments for MDMA addiction is cognitive behavioral interventions.3 This type of treatment helps modify a person’s:

  • Thinking
  • Expectancies
  • Behaviors

Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps increase people’s skills in coping with life’s stressors.

Recovery support groups are also effective with behavioral interventions to maintain long-term recovery.

Several medications show promise in animal models and some early clinical trials. However, there aren’t currently any FDA-approved medications to treat MDMA use disorder.


  • Microdosing involves taking or administering small doses of a drug to test or benefit from its side effects while avoiding adverse reactions.
  • MDMA therapy uses regulated doses of the drug in a professional clinical setting to treat certain conditions, including PTSD and trauma.
  • Microdosing MDMA can improve mood, physical and mental stimulation, and creative thinking.
  • However, microdosing MDMA also has its risks and dangers, such as the risk of developing tolerance to the drug.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy and support groups are two potentially effective treatment options for MDMA addiction.

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Updated on November 21, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on November 21, 2023
  1. NIDA. "What is MDMA?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.
  2. Mitchell et al. “MDMA-assisted therapy for severe PTSD: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 study.” Nature Medicine, 202.
  3. "How are MDMA use disorders treated?." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021
  4. Cameron et al. “Psychedelic Microdosing: Prevalence and Subjective Effects.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2020.
  5. Bouso et al. “MDMA-assisted psychotherapy using low doses in a small sample of women with chronic posttraumatic stress disorder.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2008.
  6. Patel, R., Titheradge, D. “MDMA for the treatment of mood disorder: all talk no substance?.” Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 2015.

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