Ecstasy long term effects

Recreational ecstasy use over the long-term may lead to lasting brain damage and bring on other physical and psychological health risks. More about the long term effects of ecstasy (MDMA), here.

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The immediate effects of ecstasy vary and depend on a persons size, weight, general health state, whether they have a tolerance to ecstasy, and whether other substances (prescription meds, illicit drugs, and/or alcohol) are taken around the same time.

What are the long term effects of ecstasy use? How can taking ecstasy long term damage your health? In the long run, there is no safe amount of ecstasy to be used. Over a prolonged period of time, ecstasy changes a person’s brain chemistry and can seriously damage the function of crucial body organs. More about the long term effects of ecstasy here, with a section at the end for your questions and comments.

Long term effects of ecstasy use

MDMA produces long-term deficits in serotonin function in the brain. Serotonin function is an implicated cause of many psychiatric disorders which include depression and anxiety. This suggests that ecstasy users may experience more psychopathology than non-users. Moreover, evidence from studies on monkeys show that even seven years after a brief exposure to ecstasy, serotonin levels in monkeys’ brains have not fully returned to normal. We give examples of animal studies because of the poor number of tests on human brain damage.

Ecstasy use has been linked to some serious physical injuries such as liver, kidney and heart problems, as well as significant immune system weakening from staying awake for long periods of time and stressing the body.

Long term effects of ecstasy on the brain

When people use ecstasy chronically over a longer period of time, there may be changes in their brain chemistry that suggest that the serotonin neurons are damaged. One major clue is that serotonin itself and its metabolites are diminished in the brain. Long-lasting brain side effects from ecstasy can affect your thought and memory. Other CNS (central nervous system) damages from ecstasy use, include:

  • brain damage
  • convulsions
  • degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
  • dependency syndrome
  • drug craving
  • reduction of overall brain mass

Just like other similar mind-altering substances, the use of ecstasy has been associated with impaired mental health and impaired judgement. Heavy ecstasy users experience a number of psychiatric changes, which may persist for a period after cessation of the drug. These may include:

  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • depression
  • disturbed sleep
  • disturbing emotional reactions
  • impaired memory and trouble learning
  • low mood and irritability
  • paranoid thoughts
  • scoring significantly higher on measures of obsessive traits

Long term effects of ecstasy on the body

Ecstasy is associated with extensive periods of physical activity because it’s usually used at clubs during raves or at festivals. This can lead to one of the most significant, although rare, acute adverse effects hyperthermia, or overheating. Also, dehydration, hypertension, and heart failure may occur in susceptible individuals.


Ecstasy has the ability to reduce the pumping efficiency of the heart. This side effects is of particular concern during periods of increased physical activity, such as at dance parties where the drug is most commonly used, which further complicates the problem. The long-term physical effects on the heart of using ecstasy include:

  • cardiotoxicity
  • cardiovascular collapse
  • heart failure
  • hemorrhaging
  • increase in heart rate, leading to serious complications for people with cardiovascular disease

Blood pressure

Once administered, ecstasy is rapidly absorbed into the human bloodstream where the drug’s metabolites interfere with the natural ability of your body to break it down. As a result, additional doses of ecstasy, also known as “stacking”, can produce unexpectedly high blood levels, which could worsen the cardiovascular and other toxic effects of the drug.


Ecstasy is toxic to the kidneys. And, in many cases recreational use of ecstasy has led to some form of medical intervention. It is indicated that the hyperthermia (increase in body tremperature) caused by ecstasy is responsible for kidney damage in users.


The numbers of ecstasy users who have suffered from liver damage as a direct cause of recreational use of the drug is small. It is believed that one of the leading causes of liver damage is a compromised immune system, which is a side effect of long term ecstasy use. However, it is still not confirmed whether liver toxicity is caused by the drug itself, or by other substances found in ecstasy tablets.

Respiratory system

Crushing ecstasy pills and insulating the powder can cause burns in your nose and mouth, which can hurt the rest of your respiratory system. Ecstasy use can also lead to collapsed lungs and/or asthma. Excessive snorting leads to:

  • damage of the nose mucose
  • common nosebleeds
  • holes in your nose
  • nose becomes soft from the drug eating the cartilage

Ecstasy effects on pregnancy and fetal development

Ecstasy has the ability to pass from the mother’s body and into the fetus through the placenta. Normal prenatal and infant development can be affected by ecstasy exposure. The use of ecstasy during pregnancy also appeared to affect the sex of the babies born; male births are more common among women who used ecstasy while pregnant.

A great concern is ecstasy’s properties for depleting the level of serotonin, which is important for gross motor control among other functions. Early in fetal development, serotonin plays a vital role in brain formation.

Ecstasy use during pregnancy can lead to:

  • altered brain development in the first trimester
  • newborn behavior changes
  • delaying of the normal motor functions in the mid and late stages of pregnancy
  • long-term learning and memory problems

Long term effects of ecstasy addiction

Addicted or psychologically dependent ecstasy users report symptoms including:

  1. Continued use despite knowledge of physical or psychological harm.
  2. Tolerance or diminished response to previously effective doses.
  3. Withdrawal effects from ecstasy (fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating).
  4. Failed attempts to quit using ecstasy.
  5. Trying to control use, but ending up taking more than intended.
  6. Giving up important work, school, home and other activities due to ecstasy use.

But, the side effects of being addicted to ecstasy don’t end here. Ecstasy addiction can take its toll on your general health state, your financial stability, your relationships with close family and friends, your criminal record, etc.

Can ecstasy long term effects damage you permanently?

It is unlikely that the psychological side-effects of using ecstasy are permanent. However, research on animals (and less definitive research in humans) does point to the conclusion that taking ecstasy over the long-term may lead to lasting brain damage.

Long term effects of ecstasy questions

Got anything to ask or add? Please send us your questions and comments via the designated section at the bottom of the page. We appreciate your feedback and try to answer to all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to a question, we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: DrugAbuse: Long-term effects of ecstasy: Neurotoxic?
DrugAbuse: Long-term ecstasy use may impair memory
DrugAbuse: Is MDMA Addictive?
NIDA: MDMA/Ecstasy Research: Advances, Challenges, Future Directions
Mydr: Ecstasy effects on the body
Stopteendui: Short and Long Term Effects
Casemed: First and Only Study on Harmful Effects of Infants Prenatally Exposed to Ecstasy
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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