Page medically reviewed by Dee Johnson (Mbacp, MNCS), Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford.
MDMA (3, 4 – methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as ‘ecstasy’ or ‘molly’, is a powerful synthetic drug that has hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. When taken, it can cause feelings of euphoria, high energy and an altered sense of perception and reality. Recreational MDMA typically comes in the form of a tablet, capsule or powder, and may be mixed with other unknown substances.
In this blog, we explore how long MDMA remains in your system and the factors that affect this.
How long does MDMA stay in your system?
The half-life of MDMA is around 8 to 9 hours in adults. This is how long it takes for half of the substance to be processed and removed by the body.
Depending on the type of test that’s used, ecstasy can be detected in your system anywhere from 1 to 90 days after you’ve taken it.
Different drug tests have different detection windows for MDMA:
- Blood – a blood test can usually detect ecstasy in your system for around 1 to 2 days after it’s been consumed. However, in some cases, it can be detected in your blood for a longer period of time
- Saliva - saliva tests can detect MDMA for 1 to 2 days after you last took it
- Urine – MDMA can be detected in urine tests for up to 3 days after you’ve taken it
- Hair – traces of ecstasy can be detected in your hair and hair follicles for up to 3 months after ingestion
What factors affect how long MDMA stays in your system?
There are a number of different factors that can affect how long MDMA stays in your system.
Dose and frequency of use
Larger doses of MDMA will take longer to leave your system than smaller doses. Also, taking ecstasy more frequently means it will typically stay in your system for longer than it would for one-time users.
Method of consumption
The method you use to take MDMA can also affect how long it can be detected in your system. The faster the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream, the faster it will leave the body. In the case of ecstasy, snorting the drug means this gets into your bloodstream faster than if you take it orally. Therefore, snorting ecstasy means this will leave the body quicker than if you take it as a tablet.
Some drugs and their metabolites are stored in a person’s fatty tissues. Therefore, a person with a higher body mass index (BMI), or a higher proportion of body fat, may take longer to fully eliminate the drug from their system.
People with faster metabolisms are able to break down and eliminate drugs quicker than those with slower metabolisms. Your metabolism can be affected by a number of different factors, including your activity level, certain health conditions, and your age. Generally speaking, young, healthy and active people are able to clear MDMA from their system quicker than older people.
Underlying health conditions can also influence how quickly you’re able to break down and eliminate a substance from your system. For example, if the function of your liver or kidneys is impaired for some reason, this can mean that MDMA stays in your system for longer as these are the organs responsible for flushing it out.
Whether MDMA is mixed with other drugs
If you take ecstasy alongside other drugs (whether this is done knowingly or unknowingly), this can make the process of elimination take longer because your body has to break down a number of substances at the same time.
How long do the effects of MDMA last?
You’ll usually start feeling the effects of ecstasy around 20 minutes to an hour after taking it. The effects of the drug usually peak at around the 2-hour mark and it can take up to 6 hours for the MDMA ‘high’ to fully wear off.
Effects of MDMA include:
- Euphoria, excitement and happiness
- Feelings of emotional closeness to others
- Confidence and sociability
- Heightened senses
- Increased energy
These are some of the more ‘sought after’ effects of the drug. They can cause people to want to take more and more MDMA to keep feeling these effects. This cycle can ultimately lead to ecstasy addiction, and can then progress to someone using other recreational drugs to seek a further high as the tolerance levels increase.
There are a number of other negative effects of MDMA, including:
- Sweating and chills
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Blurred vision
- Confusion and paranoia
In high doses, MDMA can increase your body temperature to the extent that this results in heart failure, kidney failure or even death.
Withdrawing from MDMA
If you take MDMA regularly, your body and brain will eventually become used to having it in your system. If you were to then stop taking MDMA or are unable to get hold of it, it’s likely that you’ll experience a range of MDMA withdrawal symptoms.
These can include things like:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Excessive sweating in the absence of physical exertion
- Panic attacks
- Intense cravings for ecstasy
This process is also known as a ‘comedown’. Read our tips on how to manage a comedown.
Ecstasy addiction treatment
If you think you might be showing signs of MDMA addiction, it’s important to reach out for professional addiction treatment. At Priory, our residential programme gives you the chance to go through a medically assisted detox for MDMA, safely removing this substance from your system in a carefully controlled way.
Once you’re physically stable, you’ll then be able to commence with intensive addiction therapy, helping you understand the root cause of your addictive behaviours and learn coping skills for the future. You’ll also receive psychoeducation on drug use and the physical and emotional effects of this, meaning you can start your journey to recovery and wellbeing.
For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT.
Book a FREE Confidential Assessment at your Nearest Priory Hospital Today.