Updated on February 6, 2024
9 min read

MDMA Statistics

MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, was once a recreational drug limited to the festival crowd. But today, it's easy for people of all ages and backgrounds to come by.

It’s essential to be aware of the potential dangers of MDMA. Stay informed and read on as this article delves into MDMA facts and numbers to help you make informed choices.

Prevalence of MDMA Use

  1. Ecstasy use among Americans aged 12+ in 2021 was approximately 2.2 million, equating to 0.8% of the U.S. population.2
  2. About 0.6% of American 8th graders, 0.7% of 10th graders, and 1.4% of 12th graders have admitted to using MDMA in 2022.3
  1. Over 21 million Americans dabbled with MDMA in 2021, and almost 594,000 reported recent use.4
  2. A mere 1.7% of young students in the U.S. reported using the drug in their lifetime, which is far lower than the 23% who admitted to smoking weed.4
  3. At least 3% of Australians indulge in the party pill at least once a year. That's three times more than their British and American counterparts, whose population of MDMA users stands at 1%.5

Risks and Dangers Associated with MDMA

What are the Short-term and Long-term Effects of MDMA Use?

Short-term effects of MDMA include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. It can also cause the following negative consequences:

  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Muscle cramping
  • Disorientation
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Sweating

The effects of MDMA usage can last between 3 to 6 hours. However, some people take another dose as the first one gradually loses its impact.

Unfortunately, doing so increases the risk of adverse physical and psychological effects. Using moderate amounts of the substance — especially when taken with other drugs — can lead to a week of unpleasant experiences that include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor appetite
  • Irritability
  • Lower libido
  • Poor sexual satisfaction
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Irregular sleep
  • Absentmindedness
  • Attention deficit

Overdose and Other Health Risks Related to MDMA

Taking large amounts of MDMA can cause a dangerous increase in body temperature, which can have severe consequences like organ failure and even possible fatal outcomes.

It also creates an illusion of trust and intimacy that may result in risky sexual behavior.6 Paired with Viagra, this can result in even more dangerous sensual acts, which increases the likelihood of contracting HIV or other STDs. 

Risk Factors for MDMA Abuse and Addiction

Despite conflicting research, it's possible that MDMA could be addictive. Studies suggest that even animals will self-administer this drug, although not to the same extent as other addictive substances like cocaine.6

In contrast, people who tried abstaining from MDMA reported withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Weariness
  • Depression
  • Poor appetite
  • Lack of focus
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International Monitoring and Control of MDMA

Organizations and Agencies Monitoring MDMA Use and Trends

Organizations and agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the European Monitoring Centre for Drug and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) are critical players in tracking the global prevalence of MDMA.

The UNODC and WHO collect and analyze data on drug production, trafficking, and use. They also work to create evidence-based policies that regulate drug use and reduce its related harms.

The EMCDDA monitors and reports on trends in drug use, production, trafficking, and availability at the European level. It provides information to policy-makers to make informed decisions on MDMA guidelines and approaches.

Global Efforts to Control the Distribution and Use of MDMA

International drug agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971) and the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) are essential tools in regulating the use of MDMA.

These agreements state that signatories must take steps to limit and control the production, trade, and use of MDMA. This includes limiting export and import, preventing confidential manufacture and distribution, managing supply chains, and criminalizing MDMA use.

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MDMA: An Overview

The Connection Between MDMA, Ecstasy, and Molly

Molly and ecstasy are two variations of MDMA. Ecstasy has been around for longer and is commonly in the form of a pill. However, it typically contains other ingredients to save on production costs and maintain its shape.

On the other hand, Molly is the "purest" form of MDMA's crystalline powder form. This slang term came from the word "molecular." Molly is also what street dealers promote as pure MDMA, but it's not always the case.

What is MDMA and Its History?

A German pharmaceutical company created this compound in 1912 to control bleeding. Dubbed initially "Methylsafrylaminc," this powerful substance was never meant for weight loss despite common misconceptions.1

MDMA began making waves within the psychiatric community in the late 70s and early 80s. Some doctors believed it enhanced communication during sessions and helped patients understand their thoughts.

But despite this popularity, MDMA lacked clinical trials at the time. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration has not given the green light for its use in treating any psychological condition. The drug also began to make its way onto the street.

MDMA in the Context of Club Drugs

MDMA As a Part of the Club Drug Culture

From 1977 to 1985, Ecstasy was the drug of choice of yuppies, LGBTQA+, university students, and "New Age" enthusiasts.

Then MDMA slowly entered rave parties, bars, clubs, concerts, and public places like parks and supermarkets.7 It quickly became popular among people looking to elevate their experience. 

MDMA's presence in the drug club culture stems from its effects. While occasional users often cite increased energy, happiness, and friendliness, its most significant impact is its ability to strip away aggression and hostility.

The drug also creates intense intimacy, trust, and empathy toward others. That's why it's often associated with all-night raves, parties, and concerts.

Comparing MDMA to Other Club Drugs and Their Risks

MDMA is associated with euphoria, empathy, and heightened senses. However, it can cause physiological problems such as increased body temperature, dehydration, and cardiovascular issues.

MDMA differs from other drugs in terms of its effects and risks. For instance, cocaine is a stimulant, so it causes paranoia, addiction, and even death if taken in large amounts.

Sedatives like GHB can lead to sedation, muscle weakness, and in extreme cases, coma, while inhalants like nitrous oxide can cause brain damage and even death.

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Harm Reduction Strategies for MDMA Use

Promoting Safe Usage and Minimizing Harm to Recreational Users

MDMA is an illegal drug, so reducing risk is essential in its use. These strategies can help users stay safe while using the drug.9

  • Start low and go slow (especially for first-time users)
  • Avoid taking MDMA on an empty stomach
  • Stay hydrated
  • Routinely test your MDMA for contaminants
  • Be aware of drug combinations and interactions
  • Don't mix drugs with alcohol or other drugs
  • Know your source
  • Learn the signs of an overdose and seek medical attention
  • Take antioxidants or vitamins before taking MDMA

Role of Education and Awareness in Reducing MDMA-related Risks

Education and awareness can help create a safer environment for MDMA consumption. People can make better-informed decisions about drug use, recognize signs of an overdose, and understand the potential consequences of using MDMA.

Public health campaigns can provide information about the risks associated with MDMA use and harm reduction tips. Providing free drug testing services can also help users determine if their MDMA is contaminated.

Finally, creating awareness about the availability of evidence-based treatment and therapy can help people seeking help with addiction.

MDMA-Assisted Therapy

MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Mental Health Disorders

MDMA-assisted therapy (MDMA-AT) has been identified as a unique and innovative approach to treating mental illnesses. Its preliminary results have shown that it could be a transformative treatment for:8

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Anxiety related to life-threatening diseases
  • Social anxiety in autistic adults
  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)

The temporary increase in interpersonal trust and decrease in psychological defenses brought about by MDMA could aid in processing memories and emotions in MDD. Additionally, MDMA-AT allows for a therapeutic experience characterized by safety, trust, and collaboration with therapists.

The Food and Drug Administration also recognized MDMA-AT as a “breakthrough therapy” for treating PTSD in 2017, paving the way for further research into its application.

Current Research and Future Prospects for MDMA in Therapy

Recent years have seen a surge of interest in using psychedelic drugs like MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin to treat mental disorders. This practice, known as psychedelic therapy, is now being explored in clinical trials to help combat:

  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol use disorder

There have been 13 global clinical trials from 2000 to 2021, solely focusing on how MDMA can ease the symptoms of PTSD.4

Legality and Penalties of MDMA Use

The Legal Status of MDMA Around the World

MDMA's legality depends on the place. In the United States, it is a Schedule I controlled substance, and possession of MDMA can result in jail time and hefty fines.

In the United Kingdom, it is a Class A drug representing an especially hazardous type of narcotic with heavy legal repercussions for possession or sale. In Canada, MDMA is listed as a Schedule I drug, and possession can result in up to 7 years of prison.

But other countries have taken a different stance on the drug. For example, Australia has approved MDMA and psilocybin as treatments for various ailments. This opens up new possibilities for those with PTSD, depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders.

Legal Penalties for MDMA

Possession

Possession of the substance can lead to suspension of driving privileges. Carrying less than 10 grams of MDMA is also a third-degree felony. A person can face a $5,000 fine, up to 5 years imprisonment, and probation.

Those who manufacture, sell, or deliver less than 10 grams of the drug also faces a third-degree felony charge.

Trafficking

If you're caught buying, selling, making, transporting, or just holding onto over 10 grams of molly, you could be sued for a first-degree felony. That's punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

GramsFineImprisonment
At least 10 grams but less than 200 grams$50,000mandatory minimum imprisonment of three years
At least 200 grams but less than 400 grams$100,000at least seven years
400 grams or more$250,000mandatory minimum imprisonment of 15 years

Legal consequences can also worsen under special circumstances. For instance, if the person you sold MDMA to dies, you could be charged with a capital felony. Distributing MDMA near a school or church could result in even steeper penalties.

MDMA Addiction and Treatment

Breaking free from MDMA addiction can be challenging as no specific medications help one recover. However, behavioral therapy is highly effective in helping people overcome their addictions.

While some have found it beneficial, there is still a need for scientific research to ascertain the efficiency of this treatment for MDMA addiction.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “What is the history of MDMA?” National Institutes of Health, 2021.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “What is the scope of MDMA use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  3. Monitoring the Future. “Ecstasy (MDMA): Trends in Last 12 Months Prevalence of Use in 8th, 10th, and 12th Grade,” 2022.
  4. Elflein, J. “Number of people in the U.S. who used ecstasy (MDMA) in the past year from 2009 to 2021.” Statista, 2023.
  5. Doctor, A. “Ecstasy use in Australia, a world high.” myDr., 2022.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts.” National Institutes of Health, 2023.
  7. García-Montes et. al. “Ecstasy (MDMA): A rebellion coherent with the system.” Nordisk Alkohol & Narkotikatidskrift, 2021.
  8. Kvam et al. “Study protocol for "MDMA-assisted therapy as a treatment for major depressive disorder: A proof of principle study.” Frontiers In Psychiatry, 2022.
  9. Davis, AK., Rosenberg, H. “Specific harm reduction strategies employed by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetmine/ ecstasy users in the United States and the United Kingdom.” Drug Science, Policy and Law, 2017.

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