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Sassafras is a hallucinogen that’s also known as methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). You might also hear it called sass or sally.

It’s derived from the oil of the sassafras plant. The high comes from the active ingredient in the oil, called safrole. Safrole is also the key ingredient in MDMA, aka ecstasy or molly.

It’s a mild empathogen. That means it promotes feelings of closeness, affection, and empathy. Some people consider it a gentler version of molly, but that’s not exactly accurate (more on this later).

Sassafras causes your brain to release the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Together, these chemicals have a few different effects.

In addition to feelings of closeness and empathy, it can also cause:

  • euphoria or extreme pleasure
  • excitement
  • increased energy
  • confidence

But it isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. It can have some not so pleasant effects, too.

These include:

Sassafras and molly have a lot of similarities beyond their almost identical chemical names.

Sassafras is actually a minor metabolite of molly. In fact, commonly used molly tests, including the Marquis reagent, can’t differentiate between the two. They also cost about the same. Sassafras is sometimes sold as molly, too.

Their highs, on the other hand, are different. Both drugs are stimulant hallucinogenic empathogens, but molly gives you more of the lovey feels while sassafras produces a heavier high with more energy and visual effects. The effects of sassafras tend to last longer, too.

Sassafras usually comes in pill form. It can also be found in capsules or white powder that are consumed or sniffed. The powder is thought to be more potent than pills.

Not all batches are exactly the same and can vary depending on the source. Ingredients can also vary, even if you think you’re getting “pure” sassafras. As with other drugs, pills or powder are sometimes cut with other toxic chemicals.

You can expect to feel the effects of sassafras within 20 to 90 minutes of taking it, according to anecdotal reports.

A sassafras high can last from 2 to 5 hours, depending on the dose. The aftereffects or “comedown” tend to last about an hour.

Keep in mind that most people describe the comedown as not being very pleasant. Feelings of fatigue and depression are common and can linger for a few days.

Along with some unpleasant side effects, sassafras also carries the risk of overdose and addiction.

Safrole, the active ingredient in the sassafras drug, is classified as a cancer-causing substance. It’s been linked to liver cancer and tumor growth in animal studies.

Older studies have shown that sassafras destroys serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain, which can cause a condition called anhedonia. This refers to not being able to feel pleasure.

Interactions

Sassafras can interact with a range of other substances, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Here’s a list of things that have potentially dangerous interactions with sassafras:

Underlying conditions

The effects of sassafras can also be risky for people with certain underlying medical conditions, including physical and mental health conditions.

These include:

Nope, and that’s another big risk with sassafras.

It’s a Schedule I drug in the United States. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no accepted medical use and have a high potential for misuse. It’s illegal to buy, possess, manufacture, or distribute it.

MDA is a controlled substance in most other countries as well, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Using sassafras comes with several risks, especially for certain groups of folks. But if you’re going to use it, there are steps you can take to stay safe.

Here’s a look at the big ones:

  • Stay hydrated, but not too hydrated. MDA can raise body temperature and lead to overheating and dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty water before, during, and after use. Just be sure to not overhydrate: MDA may decrease urination, resulting in water intoxication.
  • Don’t take too much. MDA is toxic at higher levels. It can cause serious side effects in a short amount of time if you take too much. Stick to a lower dose to be safe, especially when using from a different batch or source.
  • Don’t mix it with alcohol or other drugs. This includes prescription or OTC meds, herbal remedies, and caffeine. Mixing makes it harder to predict the effects of sass and could result in a dangerous interaction.
  • Don’t take it if you have an underlying medical condition. Sassafras causes physical and mental effects that can worsen certain medical conditions.
  • Don’t take it if you’re pregnant. A fetus can be exposed to sassafras in the womb, leading to complications.
  • Don’t take it alone. If you do have a reaction or overdose, having someone else with you who knows what you’ve taken can mean the difference between life and death. A trusted — and sober — friend who knows the signs of an overdose is your best bet.

Healthline does not endorse the use of any illegal substances, and we recognize abstaining from them is always the safest approach.

However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using. If you or someone you know might be struggling with substance use, we recommend learning more and consulting a professional to get additional support.

The higher the dose of sassafras, the more toxic it becomes. Taking too much or combining it with other substances can increase your risk for an overdose.

Sassafras can also cause a drastic spike in your body temperature that can lead to kidney failure and death. Other signs that may indicate a sassafras overdose include high blood pressure and rapid breathing and heart rate.

Signs of an overdose can vary depending on the type of drug you take. Remember, sassafras may be cut with other chemicals, so you may have an unexpected reaction.

Know the signs

Call 911 if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms in yourself or someone else:

Make sure to tell the emergency responders what you or the other person has taken. This will help them administer the appropriate treatment.

Experts don’t know a ton about sassafras and addiction. But as with molly, the more you use sassafras, the more tolerance you build to it. This means you’ll need to use increasingly large doses to get the same effects you used to, raising your risk for toxicity or overdose.

If you’re concerned about your drug use, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can provide free and confidential information and treatment referral in your area. You can also call their national helpline at 800-622-4357 (HELP).