Ecstasy is an illegal substance made by street dealers in clandestine laboratories. Unlike prescription drugs that are made in regulated environments and tested for purity, ecstasy is an underground drug that could contain almost anything. Often, ecstasy is contaminated with other drugs.
In one study of 250 ecstasy samples, about half of the drugs contained no MDMA at all.
It’s almost impossible to detect laced ecstasy by sight, taste, or smell. You may not even notice that your drug is contaminated until you’re in the hospital with a serious health issue.
What Substances Are Commonly Found in Ecstasy?
Dealers mix and match their ingredients based on what they can buy, what their customers want, and how addictive they want their pills to be. Fillers like cornstarch and flour are common, as they make pills bigger.
But laced ecstasy often contains dangerous substances, such as the following.
Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid painkiller that’s lethal even in tiny doses. Fentanyl is both easy to make and transport, and dealers like to add it to their drugs as it’s addictive. If a dose doesn’t kill, it could make you crave another.
PMMA (or paramethoxymethamphetamine) is a synthetic amphetamine that causes transformations similar to those you might feel from MDMA. But PMMA works slower than Molly, meaning some people take multiple doses as they don’t feel the first one’s impact.
Synthetic drugs known as bath salts typically contain very strong hallucinogenic substances that spark erratic behavior and psychotic episodes. As one reporter puts it, these drugs have a reputation for turning people into “naked, paranoid lunatics.” They’re cheap to make and lightweight, so they’re easy to transport.
What Are the Dangers of Laced Ecstasy?
Dealers could put almost anything into the drugs they sell you, and it’s easy to get fooled. In one study, 84 percent of people thought they’d purchased pure MDMA, but only about half of the pills they had tested contained any ecstasy at all.
Your health risks vary according to the contaminant use. The drugs inside your pill can cause very different health problems, depending on your dose and the other items you’ve used that day. Your overall health, personal metabolism, and any mental health conditions will also influence how substances influence you.
But these are the three common problems people face when using laced ecstasy:
Psychosis or a ‘Bad Trip’
MDMA can cause mild euphoria combined with sensory distortion. You might see, smell, hear, or taste things other people cannot. Experienced MDMA users are accustomed to these transformations, and they expect them when they use Molly.
Additives like bath salts and PMMA are stronger and different. People who take ecstasy laced with these substances can have very strong and vivid hallucinations combined with a burst of energy. You could harm yourself or someone else while under the influence of these drugs.
While ecstasy is a stimulant, fentanyl is a central nervous system depressant. Even experienced opioid users can overdose while taking drugs contaminated with fentanyl. Molly users may have no opioid experience whatsoever, so even a tiny dose of fentanyl may be enough to stop their breathing.
In 2022, three people crushed and snorted pills they thought were ecstasy. Instead, they snorted fentanyl. First responders administered an opioid blocker and reversed the acute symptoms. But if you take a contaminated pill, the people around you may not have blockers or realize you’ve taken an opioid.
Predicting your body’s reaction to an unknown drug is virtually impossible. You could have very severe or sudden reactions to the items buried in your pill, and your doctors may not know how to help since they don’t know what you took.
There have been several known cases of deaths caused by drugs marked as Molly. A contaminated dose isn’t safe for anyone to use or abuse.
- What Are the Most Common Adulterants in What's Sold as Molly or Ecstasy? Drug Policy Alliance.
- Warning Over Contaminated Ecstasy. (July 2013). Belfast Telegraph.
- Lots of People Might Be Taking Scary Synthetic Drug 'Bath Salts' by Accident. (February 2016). Insider.
- How Does MDMA Kill? (January 2019). The Conversation.
- Officials Warn of Ecstasy Pills Contaminated With Fentanyl as Three Santa Monica Students Recover from Overdose. (June 2022). Santa Monica Mirror.
- Police Warn of Contaminated Ecstasy Tablets After Three Deaths. (January 2013). The Guardian.
- Fentanyl Tainted Pills Bought on Social Media Cause Youth Drug Deaths to Soar. (May 2022). The New York Times.