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The Dangers Of Using MDMA And Alcohol

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 4, 2019

MDMA is a stimulant drug that distorts the user’s senses while giving them feelings of warmth and pleasure. Mixing this drug with a depressant like alcohol, which has the opposite effect on the body, can leave the user dealing with severe health consequences including addiction.

MDMA, more commonly called Ecstasy or Molly, is a powerful drug that can alter your mood and perception. It’s similar in chemical makeup to both hallucinogens and stimulants.

Because of this, MDMA produces effects similar to those drugs: energy surges, feelings of emotional warmth and pleasure, and distortion of your senses and perception of time.

In contrast, alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means it produces feelings of calm and relaxation. While MDMA works to stimulate the brain and body, alcohol works to relax them. As you might guess, these opposing effects are not a good combination.

In fact, combining MDMA and alcohol can actually be quite dangerous. While there is no hard medical or scientific proof that MDMA abuse can lead to addiction, alcohol abuse can lead to addiction.

And when regularly abusing alcohol, you might make choices you wouldn’t normally make—like abusing a stimulant-like drug and increasing health and safety risks.

What Is MDMA And How Is It Used?

MDMA was originally a drug used in nightclubs for the energy increases and euphoric effects it produces. Now, it is abused by a much wider range of people.

MDMA works in your brain by increasing the “happy” brain chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Each of these chemicals plays a role in energy, mood, or behavior, so increasing them increases their effects on your body.

MDMA is usually found in tablet form and taken orally, but can also be crushed and snorted or taken anally. It can also be found in geltabs, and may be smoked.

As the Center For Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) explains, “when ingested in the body, MDMA causes the brain to flood itself with serotonin, causing the body to have heightened sensitivity and the individual to be intensely emotional and empathetic.”

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What Are The Side Effects Of MDMA?

MDMA begins to take effect about 20 to 40 minutes after use, with a rush of euphoria and emotion. Peak effects tend to happen in 60 to 90 minutes after use, though you might feel side effects from MDMA up to six hours after taking it, according to CESAR.

Short-term effects include:

  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Blurred visions or Nystagmus—condition that causes the pupils to quiver back and forth during peak effects
  • Chills/sweating
  • Emotional warmth and empathy
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling faint and nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Heightened senses
  • Increased blood pressure or body temperature
  • Muscle tension
  • Severe dehydration
  • Teeth grinding/jaw clenching

Even if MDMA doesn’t result in you becoming addicted, it can still cause some dire long-term effects, such as:

  • Confusion
  • Cravings
  • Depletion of serotonin
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble sleeping
  • In extreme cases, death

Why Is It Dangerous To Use MDMA And Alcohol?

For all the stimulating ways MDMA affects the brain and body, alcohol does just the opposite. It causes a feeling of calm and relaxation and also slows your reaction times and perception of things.

This means you may not realize how intoxicated you are, either from MDMA or alcohol. Without knowing exactly how much you have taken of each substance or recognizing how each is affecting you, you can more easily overdose.

Side effects like dehydration and overheating are common with MDMA, but your risk of these side effects increases when you combine the drug with alcohol. Risk of fatal overdose also increases due to dangerously high body temperature or blood pressure, breathing troubles, and increased levels of these substances in your body.

Treatment For Abuse Of Multiple Substances

Though it’s not yet proven that MDMA is addictive, many people have reported addictive effects after taking it. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that for some, behavioral therapy has been helpful in treating MDMA abuse.

In any case, the most important factor for treating abuse of multiple substances is that the treatment is comprehensive. That means that whatever treatment you choose, it should address the symptoms and needs of any and all substance abuse disorders, helping you to properly heal.

Treatment for multiple substances of abuse also requires outstanding quality in care. Each substance use disorder has to be extensively treated to ensure you address all the physical symptoms as well as the emotional and psychological effects.

Treating one disorder while ignoring the other would mean you would have a lesser chance of effectively healing from either. In the end, it’s best to get help for any substance abuse issues and mental health issues simultaneously to give yourself the greatest chance at overcoming abuse and learning to manage addiction.

So, what types of treatment are available? Behavioral therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), has proven effective in helping people overcome habits and behaviors that foster substance abuse.

Counseling is another evidence-based approach that can help you delve into troubling emotions and thoughts to cope with recovery. Alternative forms of therapy, such as adventure or wilderness therapy, offer skill-building and exercise combined with nature for a holistic approach.

Medication-assisted therapy provides the help you may need to detox from substances like alcohol. Managing withdrawal during detoxification is extremely important.

Finally, seeking treatment in a private, residential rehab center is perhaps one of the biggest components of a successful substance abuse treatment plan. Pulling yourself out of the heavy environment of abuse and relocating to a serene, welcoming environment will give you the space you need to recover.

Break The Cycle Of Abuse—Find Help In Treatment Today

Abuse of either alcohol or MDMA is risky on its own. Combined, abuse of these drugs can be fatal. If you’ve been abusing alcohol for some time, you may not see the dangers of abusing these substances together.

We’d like to help you recover with a program that’s designed specifically for you. When you call a treatment specialist today, your information will be kept confidential. Contact us today at to find a rehab center that’s right for you.

National Institute On Drug Abuse - What Are The Effects Of MDMA?

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Alcoholism And Alcohol Abuse

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