Why ecstasy in the U.S. is getting more dangerous by the day

New infographics present the latest data on ecstasy impurity in the United States. 

A lot of people consider ecstasy to be one of the safe drugs, but that’s becoming less and less true. The MDMA it contains is becoming stronger on one hand, and on the other, tablets are often impure, with all sorts of nasty stuff thrown in. Research by Florida House Experience (FHE) looks at the state of the love drug in the U.S. in a series of new infographics.

About Pure MDMA

In theory, an ecstasy pill is 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or “MDMA” introduced as a help for “talk” psychotherapy in the 1970s. According to the NIH, MDMA boosts the levels of:

  • Dopamine—for feelings of euphoria and a burst of energy.
  • Serotonin—which makes one more trusting, empathetic, and is often sexually arousing.
  • Norepinephrine—that raises one’s blood pressure and heart rate, an issue for people with cardiac and circulatory issues.
  • Side effects can include:

  • nausea
  • muscle cramping
  • involuntary teeth clenching
  • blurred vision
  • chills
  • sweating 
  • The aftermath of ecstasy is sort of the opposite of the hug-drug experience. In the following week, it’s not uncommon to experience:

  • irritability
  • impulsiveness and aggression
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • memory and attention problems
  • decreased appetite
  • decreased interest in and pleasure from sex
  • FHE reports that today’s MDMA is about five times stronger than it was as recently as 2009, to potentially lethal levels. And as MDMA’s strength continues to increase, its downside becomes more a factor, the norepinephrine boost is more dangerous, and taking E more often leads to further usage a way to avoid the after-effects. (As to whether MDMA is physiologically addictive, the jury is still out, according to the NIH.) Having said all that, we leave you to decide if the fact that ecstasy in the U.S. is becoming more pure is good news or bad.

    Florida House Experience

    Is This E or Something Else?

    Of course, knowing what’s in any given pill is also very complicated, given the number of variants that exists, as well as regional differences. Pills are cut with all manner of nasty stuff, from amphetamines to piperazine, and more: The DEA has found some 200 other compounds in drugs marketed as ecstasy since 2009, with 80 just since 2012, according to FHE.

    Only 30.13% of pills sold in the U.S. as ecstasy are pure MDMA. In 26 states, they’re less pure than that.

    Florida House Experience


    Oh, and about Molly: Many assume that one of ecstasy’s variants, Molly, is the surest bet for getting pure MDMA, but, in fact, the opposite is true. EcstasyData.org reports that it’s the form of E that’s least likely to be pure.


    The Purity of E Colors

    Broken down by tablet color, here are the average purity levels associated with each tablet hue.

    Florida House Experience

    The Purity of the Car Brands of E

    Ecstasy bearing a car brand will generally have purity approximating the hotness of the associated car. At the top of the lot are Tesla and Lamborghini. Surprisingly, Rolls Royce doesn’t seem to be so well-regarded in the E community.

    Florida House Experience

    Evil Superhero E

    We know that Superman and Batman aren’t usually considered evil, but they can apparently pack a lethal punch in E world. FHE recounts the cases of three unlucky users who were found dead on New Years Day 2013, their Superman tablets having contained high amounts of PMA (para-Methoxyamphetamine), a substance 10 times more potent than MDMA.

    As was the case in the recent movie, Superman and Batman come out about even in the data. Oddly, the generic Warner Brothers pills are purer than either of them, with no sign of the MCU in E world.

    Florida House Experience

    No Longer Such a Safe Experience

    What all of this suggests is that using ecstasy these days in certainly no longer the safe recreational experience people could once assume it was. Ingesting E is a three-way roll of the dice: Will a tablet contain too strong a dose of MDMA, could it contain some other secret chemical horror, or will it be alright? The data suggests taking E now is less of a ride to love and trust and more and more a frightening ride to worry and doubt.


    3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

    What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

    Northwell Health
    Sponsored by Northwell Health
    • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
    • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
    • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
    Keep reading Show less

    Why Elon Musk doesn't like Jeff Bezos's space colonies

    Elon Musk took issue with recent ideas for space exploration from Jeff Bezos.

    Getty Images
    Technology & Innovation
    • Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have sparred over space exploration previously.
    • Musk wants to focus on Mars while Bezos has the moon and space colonies as goals.
    • In a recent tweet, Musk called out Bezos's plans for space colonies as unrealistic.
    Keep reading Show less

    10 new things we’ve learned about death

    If you don't want to know anything about your death, consider this your spoiler warning.

    Culture & Religion
    • For centuries cultures have personified death to give this terrifying mystery a familiar face.
    • Modern science has demystified death by divulging its biological processes, yet many questions remain.
    • Studying death is not meant to be a morbid reminder of a cruel fate, but a way to improve the lives of the living.
    Keep reading Show less
    Big Think Edge
    • Push Past Negative Self-Talk: Give Yourself the Proper Fuel to Attack the World, with David Goggins, Former NAVY SealIf you've ever spent 5 minutes trying to meditate, you know something most people don't realize: that our minds are filled, much of the time, with negative nonsense. Messaging from TV, from the news, from advertising, and from difficult daily interactions pulls us mentally in every direction, insisting that we focus on or worry about this or that. To start from a place of strength and stability, you need to quiet your mind and gain control. For former NAVY Seal David Goggins, this begins with recognizing all the negative self-messaging and committing to quieting the mind. It continues with replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones.