Avoid mixing drugs

While MDMA may have a reputation of being low risk, it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as a "safe" drug.

MDMA (also known as pingers, molly, mandy, E, ecstasy) is a chemical stimulant that produces feelings of energy and exhilaration, while also producing distinct social and emotional effects.

It has a reputation as a low risk drug, and has been growing in popularity in New Zealand over the last few years. But what will regular MDMA use do to your health?

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How does MDMA work?

MDMA works by boosting the activity of three brain chemicals called neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These chemicals play a part in a variety of functions such as mood, energy level, appetite, trust, sexual activity, emotions, and sleep.

It increases your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, which can lead to dehydration, and feeling hot. Teeth grinding and reduced appetite are also common while too much MDMA can make you confused, anxious, feel like vomiting and even hallucinate.

What are the effects on the body?

Prolonged MDMA use can put significant stress on the body. It causes a greater release of serotonin, which essentially leads to the brain running short of this important neurotransmitter. Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, appetite and other behaviours, so this depletion contributes to the negative comedown effects people experience for several days after taking MDMA.

Scientific research has shown that prolonged exposure to MDMA can have long-lasting effects on the brain, and on the serotonin system. Low serotonin levels are linked to poor memory, anxiety and depression. Some studies have shown regular MDMA users experience confusion, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and impaired memory.

The NZ Drug Foundation recommends waiting two or three months before using MDMA again to give your brain and body time to recover.

The longer term health effects (including those experienced days or weeks after use) potentially include:

  • Irregular heartbeat, and heart damage
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Impaired attention and memory
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Lack of appetite
  • Heart disease
  • Decreased cognitive function

While no drug use is safe, some steps can be taken to help reduce the risks.

  • Avoid re-dosing. It’s unlikely to enhance positive effects and increases the risk of neurotoxicity and feelings of a comedown.
  • Stay hydrated and take regular breaks from dancing. The NZ Drug Foundation recommends drinking 250ml of water per hour if being active.
  • Avoid mixing drugs, especially anti-depressants.
  • Have a plan – as with all drug use, it’s better to have people around that you trust and who have knowledge of first aid.

If you’re worried about your own drinking or drug taking, you can reach out to the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You'll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential. You can also chat to them online through the website.