What is Ecstasy/MDMA?
Ecstasy or MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is an artificially manufactured drug that produces euphoria and empathy in individuals who use it. It has properties of both stimulant drugs (e.g., amphetamine) and hallucinogenic drugs (e.g., mescaline). Other names for the drug include Molly and XTC.
MDMA is categorized as a Schedule I controlled substance according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that MDMA has no formal medical uses (although there are studies that suggest it may be useful in treating certain psychiatric disorders), and it is a significant drug of abuse. The drug was most commonly abused by younger individuals at dance parties (raves) and concerts, but it has lost some of its popularity due to significant controls placed on its distribution.
Users of the drug can develop severe issues with overheating and brain damage. The mechanism of action of MDMA is not completely understood, but it is believed to affect the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
How the Body Processes Ecstasy
Most people who use MDMA take it orally. It is quickly absorbed in the gastrointestinal system and begins to exert its effects about 30 minutes after it is taken. Its levels peak in the system about 1-3 hours after ingesting it.
The half-life of the drug refers to the amount of time it takes the normal metabolic processes to reduce the concentration of the substance in the bloodstream by half. The organ that is primarily responsible for metabolizing substances in the blood is the liver. Half-lives are typically used to determine how long a drug will remain in the system.
The best available sources suggest that the half-life of MDMA ranges from six to nine hours, depending on individual. This means that the psychoactive effects, which are typically short-lived and most often last between three and five hours, will have most likely dissipated before the drug has entirely left the individual’s system.
If one considers that the half-life of MDMA is 6-7 hours, then it would take about 1.5-2 days for ecstasy to be eliminated from a person’s system. If the half-life in the individual is longer (e.g., 8-9 hours), it would take a bit longer than two days for the drug to be completely gone from the body. Thus, the best estimates suggest that most individuals would have MDMA eliminated from their system within about 2-3 days after they have completely stopped using the drug.
Given this information, we can speculate that:
- MDMA would be detectable in urine for 2-4 days after use in most cases.
- Saliva tests could detect the presence of MDMA from 1.5 hours to 10 hours after use.
- MDMA would be detectable in blood for up to 24 hours following use.
- Hair follicle tests, which are expensive but can detect the presence of drug use that may have occurred in the past, would most likely be able to detect the presence of MDMA for 90 days.
Several factors affect the length of time that MDA will remain in a person’s system. These factors also affect the ability of tests to detect the drug.
- The amount of the drug taken can affect how long it will remain in the system. Obviously, taking large amounts results in the drug being eliminated at a slower rate than when smaller amounts are taken.
- Use of multiple drugs can affect the length of time that any single drug remains in an individual’s system. For instance, using ecstasy with alcohol, a common practice, will result in the liver giving priority to metabolizing alcohol before it metabolizes any other substances. This could extend the length of time that ecstasy would remain in the system.
- Different people have different rates of metabolisms. Some people have quicker metabolisms than others, and this can affect the rate at which drugs are processed out of the body.
- Body weight is a significant factor in how quickly substances are metabolized. Heavier individuals should have quicker elimination times in most cases.
- Genetic factors can also affect the rate at which specific drugs are metabolized.
- Gender can affect the rate at which drugs are metabolized. In most cases, males metabolize drugs more quickly than females.
- Older individuals typically metabolize substances more slowly than younger individuals.
There are some other factors that may be related to how efficiently ecstasy is metabolized.
- The best way to ensure that ecstasy is metabolized quickly is to stop taking ecstasy and any other drugs.
- Remaining hydrated will help the individual’s metabolism run smoothly and eliminate drugs more quickly than if one becomes dehydrated.
- Remaining active can help to speed up an individual’s metabolism.
- Individuals who are in better physical shape have more efficient overall body processes, including more efficient metabolisms.
- Some supplements may help clear certain drugs from the body more quickly.