How long does it take MDMA to kick in?
So you’ve decided you might like to give MDMA (Molly, ecstacy) a try. You’ve found some pills and tested them. But what does MDMA feel like? How much MDMA should you take? Is this a recreational experiment, a quest for personal growth? Time to make some choices and preparations. (“Rolling” is slang for being high on MDMA. The origins of the expression are not known, but the explanation I like best is that “rolling” describes the effortless energy and inner strength of the MDMA state…rolling along on sheer momentum.)
How much MDMA (Molly, ecstasy) should I take? What’s a normal dose of MDMA?
MAPS pioneering therapy work uses a standard dose of 120 mg. For most people, a ‘normal’ dose is likely to be in the 80-160 mg range. But, it depends on the person. A very large, athletic man may not feel much at all from 80 mg, while a small person might find 160 mg far too intense for comfort. If the drug is new to you, start with a lower dose and see how you react to it. You can always take more, but there’s no way to un-take that pill you swallowed an hour ago, so start out a bit on the low side. (Some people find that they’re happy with as little as 50 mg, while some reach fairly massive doses (such as 250 mg+) before they get the effect they want. Both cases are unusual, though; most people will prefer something closer to that 120 mg that MAPS is using.)
How long does it take MDMA (Molly, ecstasy) to kick in?
MDMA usually takes effect in about 30-45 minutes when swallowed. However, some people will start to feel high in less time, and in some cases (for instance, if you’ve taken the MDMA after a meal) it could take an hour or more to kick in. Snorted MDMA can take effect much more quickly, and injecting (which I strongly advise against) is almost instant. The drug can start to affect your judgement and attention span before you feel particularly ‘high’, so you shouldn’t drive or do other potentially dangerous things after taking a dose of MDMA.
How long does the MDMA (Molly, ecstasy) high last?
Depending on the person and the dosage taken, most people will feel truly ‘high’ for around 3-5 hours after the MDMA takes effect. But that doesn’t mean you’re entirely sober after that time period either! Avoid driving or other activities that require mental sharpness until you’ve had a good night’s sleep. MDMA can continue to have lingering effects on your mental state for a day or two.
How often can I use MDMA (Molly, ecstasy)?
It depends on a lot of things (including your genetics), but generally you shouldn’t use MDMA more than once a month at most (and even that is too often for some people.) The reason is that getting high stresses your brain, a bit like running a marathon stresses your body. It takes time for it to get completely back to normal. If you keep hitting your brain with more and more MDMA without enough recovery time, you can end up with problems with memory, concentration, anxiety, depression, etc.
Is MDMA really safe?
It’s safer than being a drinker or smoker. It’s not as safe as sitting on the couch watching Netflix. Although a handful of people do die from MDMA use each year in the US, more often than not they did something unwise to cause it (massive overdoses, heatstroke from dancing for hours straight at a hot club, drinking gallons of water out of fear of overheating, trying to drive while high, drug mixing, etc.) If you exercise a few simple precautions, there is very little chance you will be harmed. (Visit the Science section for statistics and more information on causes of MDMA related injuries and deaths.)
What does MDMA feel like?
After ‘is it safe’, by far the most common question people have is what an MDMA experience feels like. Strangely, this is a hard question for most users to really answer, because the effects are subtle and often personal in nature. The famous Dr. Shulgin describes MDMA this way:
“(with 100 mg) MDMA intrigued me because everyone I asked who had used it answered the question, ‘What’s it like?’ in the same way: ‘I don’t know.’ ‘What happened?’ ‘Nothing.’ And now I understand those answers. I too think nothing happened. But something seemed changed.”
If you’re a psychiatrist, it might be meaningful for me to say that MDMA produces a dissolution of neurotic fear, emotional openness, and euphoria with hyperactivity. But that doesn’t really capture the feeling.
Perhaps it would be more useful to start with what it doesn’t do:
• MDMA doesn’t (normally anyway) cause hallucinations. (At quite high doses convincing hallucinations have been reported.)
• MDMA doesn’t ‘make you stupid’ the way a lot of alcohol does. (People who are trying MDMA for the first time are often amazed how perfectly normal and ‘themselves’ they feel.)
What it does do:
• MDMA produces relaxation, energy, and a sense of peace and joy. It’s a wonderful drug to hang out with friends and family on (but sooner or later they’ll notice you aren’t sober, so use with people who won’t mind.)
• MDMA has a strong stimulant effect. Most commonly, this manifests itself in rapid (but coherent) talking and a drive to be physically active. (Many people at raves have reported feeling compelled to dance when the drug took effect.)
• It is intoxicating–you will be somewhat less able to deal with unforeseen problems (you certainly don’t want to drive while high.)
• MDMA enhances appreciation of music, vision, touch and taste. (Massages are popular with people on MDMA.) This is not an amplification of your senses per se; rather, your brain is enjoying sensations much more.
• MDMA suppresses emotional fear (fear of rejection, insecurity, etc.) and promotes socialization/talking.
• MDMA can relieve pain (serotonin is involved in pain control.) In some cases this effect is profound: Terminally ill people suffering terrible chronic pain have reported complete temporary relief during an MDMA experience.
• People on MDMA are almost incapable of aggression or hostility (although violence isn’t impossible if the user feels it’s necessary to protect themselves or others.)
• People on MDMA are “overly focused”…they’re living fully in the moment, and as a result are easily distracted (which is the main reason you don’t want to try to drive.)
OK, that’s interesting…but what does it FEEL like?
At its best? It feels like joy. Like standing in the presence of God and knowing you are loved without reservation. It feels the way you haven’t felt since you were a small child, absolutely alive, absolutely in the moment, able to feel and experience and share with others without fear or hesitation. It is the most perfect moment of the most perfect day of your life, when trouble was nothing but a memory and the possibilities rolled on forever. It is the achievement of the inner peace the religions try to sell but rarely deliver. At its best, MDMA is one of the finest, purest, most profound experiences life has to offer.
If that sounds a little intense, it is. But…that’s not necessarily the typical MDMA experience. Producing such peak experiences depends on the dosage taken, the environment, and the person’s mental and physical state going in. At lower doses, etc. the experience is much milder (but still often remarkable.) How far you want to take it is up to you. At low doses, a person on MDMA can wander about public places, strike up conversations, etc. and not be thought of as ‘odd’ or particularly noticed. At low doses, you just feel unusually cheerful, sociable and energetic, as though you were extraordinarily well rested and relaxed. MDMA is fairly flexible in what it can do. If you seek an at-one-with-the-universe religious experience, that can be achieved…but it’s also a perfectly nice and controllable recreational drug for going out on the town. Like alcohol, it’s not a matter of simply being completely drunk vs. completely sober…there is a large range of possibilities in between. You pick your dose, you pick your environment, you pick what you want to try to get out of it.
• Visit Erowid’s MDMA Experience Vault for a huge collection (over 500) of individual descriptions of MDMA experiences.
So is it a party drug or not?
Although simple recreation is the most popular use, MDMA first became popular because of its use in therapy. Under the influence of MDMA, many people have been able to overcome fears, let go of past traumas, and examine and come to terms with aspects of their own lives. Currently, the US government has given approval for human experiments with MDMA in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD in soldiers as a result of combat trauma (being wounded, seeing friends die, etc.) Such cases used to be called “shell shock.”) For more information or to contribute to this research, visit MAPS.
There’s got to be a down side. What can go wrong?
The most unpleasant potential psychological event while on MDMA is a “bad trip.” Such events are unusual, and appear to be caused by taking too much, being in a threatening environment, or trying to fight and suppress the drug’s effects. I describe them as a “panic”, not in the sense of running around screaming, but in the sense of an overwhelming fear that things are slipping beyond your control. An MDMA panic/anxiety attack usually consists of extreme emotional discomfort and a fear that something terrible is happening or about to happen. It’s not medically dangerous, but feeling like you might be going to die is a miserable experience either way. If a panic occurs, you’ll just have to ride it out. Try to relax, and remind yourself that you are physically fine and will soon be back to normal. If possible, talk to somebody you trust. Once it passes you can still enjoy the rest of time until the drug wears off.
Avoiding a ‘panic’ is fairly easy. First, use MDMA (or any drug, for that matter) in places and around people where you feel safe and comfortable. Second, don’t go wild with how much you take…know your limits. And finally (and perhaps most importantly) be at peace with the idea of altering your state of mind. When the world starts to look a little different and you start to feel a little different, your response should be “cool, the drug is kicking in”, not “oh my god what’s happening to me?” Once you introduce a drug into your system, it will run its course, one way or the other. Address any major reservations you have before dosing. After you’ve swallowed a pill is not the time for second thoughts…at that point you’re committed.
These ‘panic’ states are most likely to occur during the onset or peak of drug effects, but may also occur later on if you are faced with a threatening situation (threat of violence, etc.)
Another issue with MDMA use is that, as with any intoxicating drug, you might do something that seemed like a good idea at the time but which you might regret the next day. Maybe you were a little more open with your feelings than you planned. Maybe you had sex with somebody that by the light of the day after wasn’t necessarily a good match for you. It’s one more reason to either use in a public setting (such as a rave) where you can’t really get yourself in trouble, or a private setting with people you really trust.
MDMA doesn’t force people to tell the truth…you can easily lie while high if you think it’s appropriate. However, you’ll be much more open about things that you really wanted to talk about (but wouldn’t normally feel comfortable bringing up.) You can just go dancing or be by yourself and never have the issue of ‘saying too much’ come up…but frankly, the sense of interpersonal trust and compassion is part of the charm of a MDMA experience.
Because it temporarily alters your brain chemistry (like any psychoactive drug) MDMA may trigger or worsen psychiatric problems in vulnerable individuals. In particular, the risk of depression/anxiety during the hangover period may be particularly high for people who were already suffering from a psychiatric problem. This risk can be reduced with 5-HTP, a nutritional supplement that helps replace serotonin.
What are some MDMA side effects?
There are a broad range of side affects, from the amusing to the genuinely troublesome. These side effects are all dose-dependant (the more you took the more likely to occur/severe the side effect may be):
• Pupil dilation. Always a favorite, be sure to look in the mirror during the onset/peak of effects to see how large your pupils have gotten. Typical user reaction: COOOOL! Pupils remain light-responsive (they will contract in the presence of bright light.) Still, if one planned to use MDMA while out in sunlight, a pair of sunglasses wouldn’t be a bad idea.