Molly vs. Ecstasy: What’s the Difference?
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Molly vs. Ecstasy: What’s the Difference?

MDMA is a synthetic drug often known as Molly and Ecstasy. It acts like a stimulant and hallucinogen, which energizes those that use it and increases their senses. While Molly and Ecstasy are sometimes used interchangeably for MDMA, they are actually distinct. We will look at Molly vs. Ecstasy and how they differ and what steps you can take to treat dependence on MDMA.

Molly vs. Ecstasy

How MDMA is Used

MDMA stands for methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. It is popular in clubs, dance parties, and raves to stimulate the senses, energize the body, and increase sensory enjoyment. In 2020, 0.9% of people in the U.S. who were 12 and older reported using MDMA. However, the DEA declared a ban on MDMA in 1985, naming it a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act. This means it has a high abuse potential with no safe medical uses.1

In 1990, the FDA approved human trials to research the potential medical benefits of MDMA. These studies are still ongoing.

The Difference Between Molly and Ecstasy

Molly and Ecstasy refer to the different forms of MDMA. MDMA, in its pure form, is either a white powder or crystallized.

What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy was around longer than Molly and is most often recognized as a tablet of pressed powder. However, the powder in Ecstasy is mixed with other ingredients to help it keep its shape and sometimes reduce production costs.

What is Molly?

Molly came later as a replacement for Ecstasy because of Ecstasy’s negative reputation for having mixed ingredients. It came from the word molecular and was thought to be purer because it did not require other components to hold it together as the tablet did. People use it in its original powder or crystal form, which they snort. Others use the powder in a capsule to ingest it. Less commonly, it is applied to blotting paper or used as an injection.

Molly is not as pure as people often assume. One news article reported findings by the DEA, which said only 13% of Molly seized in New York over the past four years contained any MDMA. Other drugs often found in Molly are methylone, MDPV, 4-MEC, 4MMC, pentedrone, and MePP.2

Other Names for MDMA

While Ecstasy and Molly are the most common names, MDMA is also known by several other street names. These include:3

  • Adam
  • Beans
  • Clarity
  • Disco Biscuit
  • E
  • Eve
  • Go
  • Hug Drug
  • Lover’s Speed
  • Peace
  • STP
  • X
  • XTC

Molly and Ecstasy Abuse

Ecstasy tablets range from 50 to 150mg. People will take two or three by ingesting them or crushing and snorting them. The person using the substance will often take the pills at once or take them one after another to prolong the effects. MDMA is also frequently abused alongside LSD (candyflipping), alcohol, or marijuana.3

The Effects of Molly and Ecstasy

People who take MDMA feel the effects within 45 minutes and peak between 15-30 minutes after that. These effects can last about 3-6 hours. However, some have experienced side effects for days after taking it.

MDMA targets three areas of the brain:4

  1. It increases dopamine production, which is responsible for energy production.
  2. It affects norepinephrine which increases the heart rate and blood pressure.
  3. It affects your serotonin, which is responsible for your mood, appetite, sleep, and other emotions.

The increased release of serotonin is responsible for the signature feelings of euphoria. It is also the cause of the increased sexual pleasure and feelings of empathy that come with MDMA abuse.

What are the Risks of Molly and Ecstasy?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has tested drugs sold under Molly and Ecstasy and found the majority contain little to no actual MDMA. Instead, the unknown mix of synthetic drugs makes these substances dangerous and often life-threatening. In addition, while legal medications have to adhere to safety standards and testing, MDMA has no standard that guarantees the components in the drug are a safe combination.5

Side Effects

Molly and Ecstasy have several adverse side effects in addition to the risk posed by mixing multiple unknown substances. Some of the psychological side effects include:3

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep problems
  • Drug craving
  • Overdose

MDMA also takes its toll on the body. Some physical side effects include:

  • Increased motor activity, alertness, heart rate, and blood pressure
  • Muscle tension
  • Tremors
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Faintness
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision

The use of MDMA also has some indirect side effects. For example, taking the drug can decrease inhibitions leading to dangerous situations that can cause physical or emotional damage. In addition, those who use MDMA also tend to be more sexually active, leading to unsafe sexual practices that increase the chances of contracting STDs.

Long-Term Effects of Molly and Ecstasy Use

Some studies show that prolonged use of Molly or Ecstasy causes permanent memory and learning problems. Prolonged use can also damage the serotonin system, which reduces a person’s sense of pleasure.3

Those who use it regularly feel the prolonged effects of MDMA throughout the week, including4

  • Irritability
  • Impulsiveness and aggression
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased sexual interest and pleasure

Molly and Ecstasy Dependence, Addiction, and Withdrawal

There is varying research on how addictive MDMA is. However, there are many signs that it has addictive qualities, such as the neurotransmitter systems it targets, which are the same as those addictive drugs target. Other experiments also found animals self-administer MDMA, a key indicator of addiction.6

People have reported symptoms of addiction, including continued use of Ecstasy or Molly even after negative physical or psychological consequences. Others reported building a tolerance to the drug, suffering withdrawal symptoms, and experiencing cravings.

Here is the complete list of signs you might be addicted to Ecstasy or Molly.7

  • Desire to regularly use the drug
  • Intense urges or cravings for the drug
  • Developing a tolerance, which means you need to use more of the drug to achieve the same results
  • Taking more of the drug than you originally planned
  • Ensuring you always have a supply available, even if you have to obtain it illegally
  • Spending money on drugs even when you don’t have the budget
  • Failing to meet work, social, educational, and family obligations
  • Using the drug even though there are negative consequences
  • Performing unsafe activities while under the influence of the drug
  • Spending extended periods getting, using, and recovering from the drug
  • Difficulty or failure to quit using the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, they should contact their doctor for treatment options. You can identify a potential drug abuse problem in a loved one by looking for several of these symptoms.7

  • Problems at work, school, or home
  • Increased or new health issues
  • Decreased attention to personal hygiene
  • Unexplainable changes in behavior
  • Financial issues or need for money without an explanation

Withdrawal Symptoms

MDMA withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how pure the drug is and the other substances in the drug. However, some common withdrawal symptoms people experience include:4

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating

Overdose Risks, Signs, and Treatment

An overdose occurs when someone takes too much MDMA in one setting or takes multiple doses within a short period.

People can easily overdose on Molly and Ecstasy as the ingredients are usually not pure MDMA and can be more potent than anticipated.

When taking pure MDMA in high doses, a person can experience increased body temperatures as it interferes with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. This can lead to hyperthermia leading to liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failures.4

MDMA Treatment Options

Treatment is available to help you overcome current addictions and create better habits to avoid future addictive behavior. Inpatient treatments allow you to stay in a facility to receive consistent support during withdrawal, detoxification, and treatment. You can then move on to aftercare, where you will receive continued support as you return to society.

Outpatient care offers similar treatment as inpatient, except the patient will stay at their house and continue in their usual routines while attending scheduled treatment activities and sessions. In addition, when you finish outpatient care, you can access aftercare support to help you achieve lasting freedom from drug abuse.

Receive Treatment for Ecstasy and Molly Abuse

Ecstasy and Molly are both dangerous drugs with potentially life-altering consequences. You or your loved one can receive support, treatment, and care through our facilities.

Contact us to find a treatment plan and start on your path to recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Molly and Ecstasy

What’s the difference between Molly and Ecstasy?

Molly and Ecstasy refer to the form in which MDMA comes. Ecstasy is the tablet form, while Molly is the powder or crystal form that is also found in capsules.

What does Molly/Ecstasy look like?

Molly is a white or off-white powder or crystallized substance. It also appears as a pure white powder inside a capsule. Ecstasy is a colorful tablet often imprinted with a specific brand and disguised among other colorful candies.

Are Molly and Ecstasy legal?

Currently, MDMA is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act. Therefore, it is not legal and has no approved medical uses. Legal repercussions for possessing and using MDMAs vary between states, from misdemeanors to felony charges depending on the amount and severity of your actions.

How addictive is Molly/Ecstasy?

There is varying research on the addictiveness of Molly and Ecstasy, but most researchers seem to agree it has some addictive qualities. However, most MDMA tablets and crystals are mixed with other drugs with unpredictable effects, including the potential for addiction.


1. NIDA. (2021, December 22) What is the scope of MDMA use in the United States? National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

2. Griffin, Drew. (2018, March 29). 9 Things Everyone Should Know about the Drug Molly. CNN Health.

3. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020, April). Drug Fact Sheet: Ecstasy/MDMA. DEA.

4. NIDA. (2020, June 15). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

5. NIDA. (2021, April 13). What is MDMA? National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

6. NIDA. (2021, April 13). Is MDMA Addictive? National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

7. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, October 26). Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder).


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