Ecstasy can have an effect on different systems of the body, including the mind and brain, by acting as a central nervous stimulant. The effects vary depending on the user and the amount of the drug taken.
When taken, ecstasy can affect the user's health by causing chills, involuntary muscle cramping, nausea, and sweating. Ecstasy is often taken in environments where excessive physical activity takes place, such as an all-night dance party. In some rare instances, use of the drug can cause hyperthermia, or a significant rise in body temperature. If this happens, professional medical care is needed quickly, as it could possibly result in kidney failure. Users may experience blurred vision, as ecstasy causes pupil dilation. Most people using the drug will find themselves clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth, leading to temporary pain in the jaw, and in extreme situations, more serious dental conditions. When snorting ecstasy in powder form, the user could suffer from chemical burns and nosebleeds, and long-term snorting could even create holes in the user's nose.
In addition to physically affecting the user's body, ecstasy has a negative effect on mental abilities. As information processing in the brain is impaired, it in turn makes activities using motor skills incredibly dangerous (for example, driving a car or operating heavy machinery). The user could suffer from changes to their memory, lasting up to a week. If the user regularly takes ecstasy, the effects could last even longer.
MDMA causes increased activity of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. The excess release of these neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine and serotonin, is why people feel a sensation of pleasure and heightened empathy for others while under the influence of ecstasy. Excess release of serotonin can also have a negative effect on the brain, however, by causing a depletion of the neurotransmitter. This can cause behavioral changes in the user after taking the drug, including changes in regulations of aggression and sleep, as well as aggression in mood. These effects could potentially be long-term, as well. Regular ecstasy users may experience heightened anxiety, impulsiveness, aggression, sleep disturbances, and lack of appetite. Some users have reported a lack of interest in and pleasure from sexual behavior.
Ecstasy can negatively affect a user's heart by causing hypertension, tachycardia, and other stressors that coincide with suppressed appetite (this causes concern for users who also suffer from diabetes or low blood sugar), thirst, and sleep. The drug increases heart rate, and in some cases can reduce the efficiency of the heart. Heart failure can even occur with some individuals. When ecstasy overdoses occur, high blood pressure, faintness, anxiety and panic attacks can happen. If the overdose is severe, the user could pass out or even experience a seizure.
While it is not proven that ecstasy directly causes liver damage, it has been seen in a small amount of users. It could possibly be from other elements of the actual tablet, however. High body temperature has shown to cause liver damage in animal studies, so ecstasy that increases the user's body temperature could have an increased chance of causing liver damage. Some cases of collapsed lung and exercise-induced asthma have also been connected to MDMA use.
Women may experience irregularities with menstruation, ovulatory dysfunction, and even reduced ovarian reserves. MDMA use while pregnant will most certainly affect the fetus negatively by leading to the possibility of altered brain development in the first trimester, behavioral changes once the fetus is born, and in later stages of pregnancy, delayed development of motor functions. It is suggested that ecstasy could affect a child if the mother is using while breastfeeding, as well. Men taking MDMA may experience a lowered sperm count, reduced libido, and abnormally-shaped sperm.
Again, the effects of ecstasy will vary from person to person, and really depend on the amount of the drug taken.