Often described as a ‘party drug,’ ecstasy is a recreational drug used in a night club and dance settings. Ecstasy is the commonly used term for a substance known as MDMA. Other street names for the substance include Molly, Mandy, and E.
Ecstasy became popular in the 80s club scene, but recently it has been used by a broader range of people, including in medical settings. Despite recent research suggesting some effectiveness for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, the substance brings a high risk for the user and has side effects that can be fatal.
The length of time the drug remains in the body varies depending on several factors: dose, frequency of use, body weight, and composition. We look at these factors in detail below and the options for addiction treatment if you or a loved one live with substance abuse problems.
What Is Ecstasy?
MDMA is a synthetic drug that typically produces a euphoric high for users. In some cases, it can have psychedelic effects; for this reason, it is sometimes associated with LSD.
Originally derived from amphetamines in the early 1900s, ecstasy was used for its appetite-suppressing properties and could be acquired on prescription. It was a rarely used substance until the 1970s when it began being used as an alternative psychotherapy method in individuals living with PTSD, addiction, and depression.
MDMA then made its way into the mainstream through club nights, music festivals, and raves, where it was and is commonly abused until this day. For this reason, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rescheduled MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance, categorizing it as a substance without any medical use.
What Are The Effects of Ecstasy?
Typically the effects of MDMA last between 2 and 6 hours. This substance has hallucinogenic and stimulant properties, and it works by stimulating serotonin activity in the brain, which affects the body and mind.
Users tend to report feelings of increased energy, joy, and empathy. They also may become more trusting and compassionate of others, friends, and strangers.
Ecstasy affects your need for sleep and food, with users typically reporting a decreased appetite and increased warmth and activity. Ecstasy users report many other associated side effects. Physical side effects include:
- Tensed muscles
- Jaw clenching
- Gastrointestinal system issues
- Increased perspiration
- Increased body temperature
- Raised heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Impaired or blurred vision
Psychological effects include:
- Increased senses
- Feelings of joy and euphoria
- Compassion for others
It is common for these effects to feel positive and enjoyable for the first few hours after use; however, less positive side effects tend to occur after the euphoria wears off. After the body has metabolized the MDMA, users will commonly experience difficult and distressing after effects, also known as a comedown.
Depending on how much the drug is used, the effects will vary. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that a standard dose of MDMA will see the user experience the most intense effects 15 to 30 minutes after the onset of symptoms.
The effects of the drug usually last between 3 and 6 hours. However, some symptoms have been known to last for days or weeks. After the initial dose, like many drugs, the user is likely to search for the same feelings from the first high. This can result in them taking increasing quantities of the drug. This affects the length of time that MDMA stays within the body and increases the risks of adverse side effects.
Can You Develop an Ecstasy Addiction?
It is common for users to become addicted to the effects of ecstasy. Individuals may begin to feel they cannot have a good time without the drug, and they spend a lot of time thinking about and acquiring the drug.
Signs of an ecstasy addiction could include:
- Intense cravings for the positive effects of MDMA
- Increasing dosage of use
- Continuing to use the drug despite negative impacts
An individual’s tolerance to the substance will increase reasonably rapidly with regular use; despite taking the same dose or more, the drug will have fewer effects. This often leads users to take higher doses to feel the same euphoria. Over time, ecstasy use depletes serotonin levels in the brain, which gives you the ecstasy ‘high.’
How Long Does Ecstasy Stay In Your System?
When we talk about the body’s ability to metabolize drugs, we use the term ‘half life’; this refers to the amount of time taken for the initial concentration of the drug to reduce by half. After one half-life, 50% of the dose taken remains in the body.
Research has found that it can take approximately forty hours, or five half-lives, for 95% of ecstasy to go from the body.
The length of time MDMA stays within the system depends on several factors, including dosage, body composition, metabolism, and other drugs in the body. Furthermore, different tests have varying sensitivity and different detection windows. Although it is not possible to give a specific time frame, ecstasy is detectable for approximately:
- Three days in blood tests
- Three days in saliva tests
- Five days in urine tests
- For months after hair follicle tests
What Is an Ecstasy Drug Test?
The length of time MDMA stays within the system is variable. Furthermore, different tests have different sensitivity and detection times. Although it is not possible to give an exact time frame, an individual may test positive approximately:
- Up to 3 days in blood tests – Ecstasy is typically ingested orally, which does not release the substance instantly; it releases slowly, resulting in prolonged highs compared to other drugs. Blood tests are an invasive procedure, so they are not usually used.
- Up to 3 days in saliva tests – Saliva tests are a quick way of detecting MDMA. This type of test is not usually used in treatment centers; it is more likely to be used by the police to check for substances at the time of the arrest.
- Up to 5 days in urine tests. This is the most typical way to test for MDMA. Ecstasy is excreted through the kidneys after it is metabolized and has a detection window of between two and five days.
- Up to 4 months in hair follicle tests – This is not a standard testing method as it can’t accurately detect very recent drug use. However, hair tests help identify substance abuse history as they can show whether you used ecstasy in the three months before being tested. This drug test method is generally used in employment environments to screen potential employees for substance abuse.
MDMA Addiction Treatment
If you, or someone you know, wants to stop using ecstasy, help is available. The cycle of substance addiction is a complex condition, and medical supervision is strongly advised to keep you on the right track to recovery.
Every drug addiction is unique, and therefore, so is the recovery. A quality rehabilitation center should offer you treatment options, incorporating flexibility to suit your recovery goals and needs. Most recovery plans begin with detox, which flushes the body of substances and the associated toxins. Here we look at some of the elements you may find in an addiction treatment program:
Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of substances. This is a crucial first step in your journey, allowing you to focus on the psychological aspects of recovery. There are no FDA-approved medications for treating ecstasy addiction, but comprehensive drug detox programs can provide a secure environment with medical supervision to manage the distressing symptoms of withdrawal.
Ecstasy withdrawal is not usually harmful, but it can be uncomfortable. Individuals may experience exhaustion, brain fog, loss of appetite, anxiety, and depression. If you choose a holistic healing program, your medical supervision will treat any co-existing conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which may trigger your drug abuse.
Inpatient programs are recommended for individuals with a history of substance abuse or co-existing mental health conditions. If you choose this option, you will live in a safe, residential setting and determine several therapy modalities and 24/7 support.
Outpatient programs enable you to stay within your own home and fulfill necessary responsibilities while attending treatment. This can be an effective option for those with a supportive home environment or a milder form of addiction.
Talking therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are often used in ecstasy addiction treatment. These techniques can help people identify and alter the thoughts and behaviors contributing to their substance abuse and find healthier coping mechanisms. Talking therapies can be run in individual sessions or during group therapy. Finding a support group can be combined with CBT, as you find support from others who truly understand your challenges.
Getting Help for Drug Abuse
Suppose you are asking the question ‘how long does ecstasy stay in your system’ because you are anxious about testing positive for MDMA. In that case, it may indicate you need to seek advice from a qualified addiction treatment center.
Our team is ready to support you through the detox process, giving you the best chance at a complete and safe recovery. As you walk through our doors, we provide you with the utmost care and attention. Family therapy and various talking therapies are also offered to those trying to recover from a substance use disorder.
Our substance abuse treatment programs are tailored to your specific needs and goals, including medication-assisted treatment, mental health treatment, and specialized trauma treatment.
Asking for help and admitting you have a problem is difficult, but once you’ve stepped through that threshold, a life of sobriety can be yours.