Does ±3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy) induce subjective feelings of social connection in humans? A multilevel meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2021 Oct 25;16(10):e0258849. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258849. eCollection 2021.


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a psychostimulant known for producing positive subjective effects and for enhancing social functioning and social connection in both clinical and recreational settings. Over the past two decades, scientists have begun to study the psychological effects of MDMA through rigorous placebo-controlled experimental work. However, most existing studies have small Ns, and the average sizes of the reported effects are unknown, creating uncertainty about the impact of these findings. The goal of the present study was to quantify the strength of MDMA's effects on self-reported social connection by aggregating sociability-related outcomes across multiple placebo-controlled studies. To this end, we conducted a multilevel meta-analysis based on 27 studies, 54 effect sizes, and a total of 592 participants. The results revealed a moderate-to-large effect (d = 0.86; 95% CI [0.68, 1.04]; r = .39; 95% CI [.32, .46]) of MDMA on self-reported sociability-related outcomes (e.g., feeling loving, talkative, and friendly). Given the magnitude of its effect on felt sociability, we propose that MDMA may have powerful implications for a variety of social contexts and for clinical settings, in particular. Finally, we discuss potential mechanisms underlying the relationship between MDMA and sociability-related feelings, as well as future directions for experimental work in this area.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Empathy / drug effects*
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Social Behavior*


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

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.