A review of the acute subjective effects of MDMA/ecstasy

Addiction. 2006 Jul;101(7):933-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01423.x.


Aim: Although several relatively recent reviews have summarized the neuropsychiatric effects associated with chronic ecstasy use, there is no published comprehensive review of studies on the acute subjective effects (ASEs) of MDMA/ecstasy.

Design: The present study reviewed the prevalence, intensity and duration of ASEs collected from 24 studies that provided frequency data on the prevalence of self-reported ecstasy effects and/or provided data on the intensity of ecstasy effects.

Findings: Although hundreds of ASEs have been reported following MDMA consumption, we identified a subset of effects reported repeatedly by meaningful proportions and large numbers of participants across multiple investigations, most of which were either emotional (e.g. anxiety, depression, closeness, fear, euphoria, calmness) or somatic (e.g. nausea/vomiting, bruxism, muscle aches/headache, sweating, numbness, body temperature changes, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, increased energy). Only one sexual ASE (sexual arousal/increased sensual awareness), one cognitive ASE (confused thought), one sensory-perceptual ASE (visual effects/changes in visual perception), one sleep-related ASE (sleeplessness) and one appetite-related ASE (decreased appetite) were reported across five or more investigations. Three factors-number of hours between ingestion and assessment, dose level, and gender-have been associated with the acute subjective experience of MDMA/ecstasy.

Conclusions: This review provides useful information for clinicians and researchers who want to understand the desirable and undesirable ASEs that may motivate and restrain ecstasy use, for public health advocates who seek to reduce biomedical harms (e.g. fainting, dehydration, shortness of breath, bruxism) associated with recreational use of MDMA/ecstasy, and for educators who wish to design credible prevention messages that neither underestimate nor exaggerate users' experiences of this drug.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Emotions / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence


  • Hallucinogens
  • Illicit Drugs
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine