Smoking, injecting, snorting, drinking, vaping — there are a lot of potential ways to consume a drug. But not every route works for every drug. What about MDMA, also known as molly or ecstasy?
In short, while you can smoke MDMA, it’s not usually considered a desirable way to consume the drug. Let’s have a look at why.
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MDMA is typically sold as a pressed tablet or as loose powder in a capsule. This form, chemically speaking, is a salt, but not the kind that flavors your food. In chemistry, a salt refers to a certain physical form of a molecule.
Due to its chemical makeup, the salt form of MDMA doesn’t handle the heat of a flame well. Technically, you could smoke MDMA, but you likely wouldn’t feel anything.
While there are a handful of anecdotal reports from people who tried this method and felt some effects, most people find that it doesn’t do anything.
You might be familiar with powdered cocaine (another salt) and crack, which is the freebase form of cocaine. While you can’t smoke powdered cocaine, you can smoke crack.
Similarly, you can create a freebase form of MDMA using a separation and extraction process. This results in a sticky, tacky substance that you can smoke.
But this process requires the use of a flammable chemical, which carries a high risk of explosion, especially when used outside a proper laboratory.
Making a freebase form also results in the loss of some MDMA as reaction waste. An inexperienced chemist could easily lose a significant amount of the MDMA they started with. That’s why you don’t typically hear about anyone selling it — it would be an economic loss.
Then there’s the issue of actually smoking it. To do so, you’d need to heat it to its boiling point in a pipe or on a piece of foil. But the boiling point of MDMA in freebase form is very high, making this difficult to do with household lighters and commonly used pipes.
Still, you can find a few anecdotal reports from people who’ve tried it. The experience is typically described as being short-lived, making the user feel jittery and anxious. This is also somewhat similar to how people describe the difference between the effects of cocaine and crack.
While everyone has different reasons for using drugs — and each experience is different — smoking MDMA generally seems to be undesirable, especially compared with other methods of using it.
MDMA is often taken orally, but this can result in a slower onset time because the drug has to work its way through your intestines and pass through your liver before reaching your brain.
That trip through the liver also means that some MDMA is metabolized before it reaches your brain.
If you’re considering smoking MDMA to feel the effects quicker, you have some other (less flammable) options.
Some people prefer to crush up tablets or open MDMA capsules, so they can snort it. While this is a fairly popular way of ingesting MDMA, it tends to quickly produce more intense effects, which some people might find unpleasant.
Snorting, also called insufflation, also means you’ll likely taste the MDMA, which can be quite bitter.
Boofing refers to dissolving a drug into a solution and using a syringe or enema bulb to squirt the solution up into the rectum.
This route gets MDMA into your bloodstream quickly and is often compared to intravenous injection in terms of how it feels and how quickly you feel the effects.
If you regularly inject drugs, boofing can also be a way to give your veins some time to heal and reduce your chances of infection.
MDMA can also be dissolved into water and injected into a vein. The resulting feelings from this method are described as very intense, fast, and “pleasurable,” similar to the experience of using methamphetamine.
But this option also seems to produce less of the sense of empathy and connectedness that orally ingested MDMA is well-known for, according to anecdotal reports.
Keep in mind that the process of preparing and injecting a solution isn’t sterile, so bacteria and other pathogens can make their way into your bloodstream and cause potentially life-threatening infections.
Injecting can also increase your chance of skin infection and vein damage.
Regardless of how you use it, MDMA comes with risks.
Physically, it can cause an increase in:
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- body temperature
If you have a preexisting heart condition, these effects can exacerbate it. They can also cause dehydration (more on how to avoid this later).
Psychologically, MDMA may cause:
You’ll want to be especially cautious (or even avoid MDMA) if you take any of the following types of antidepressants:
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- tricyclic antidepressants
Combining MDMA with these medications may lead to something called serotonin syndrome. It’s not common, but it can be life-threatening.
If you or someone you’re with takes any of the medications listed above and uses MDMA, make sure everyone knows the signs to watch for:
- muscle rigidity
- heavy sweating
- very high body temperature
Call 911 right away if you notice these symptoms.
Regardless of how you consume MDMA, there are some simple steps you can take to make the experience safer:
- Plan ahead. Before ingesting any drug, come up with a game plan. It’s best to stay around people you feel safe with in a setting that feels comfortable. Have a “fallback” plan and have a trusted friend or partner on standby to help in case things take an uncomfortable turn. If you’re going to be at a music festival, ask around about “trip sitters,” or people who help those having an uncomfortable psychedelic experience. These folks are becoming an increasingly common presence at many festivals.
- Have something to suck on. MDMA has a tendency to cause jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which can lead to pain and dental damage. Try sucking on a pacifier or hard candy to help relax the muscles in your jaw.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure to regularly drink fluids, especially if you’re dancing or doing other intense physical activity. That said, don’t drink more than you would while exercising at any other time to avoid overhydration. Consider portioning out your liquids ahead of time.
PSA: Be prepared
Recently, there have been reports of MDMA containing contaminants, like phencyclidine, ketamine, and synthetic cathinones. There have also been reports of fentanyl contamination in MDMA.
Test your drugs whenever possible, avoid using alone, and keep naloxone on hand in case of accidental opioid overdose.
Local harm reduction organizations will usually provide both fentanyl test strips and naloxone for free. Be sure everyone you’re with knows when and how to use it. When in doubt, call 911 for help if someone appears to lose consciousness or has trouble breathing.
While MDMA isn’t best consumed by smoking, there are several alternatives. If you’re going to consume MDMA, approach it with a plan, a friend, and plenty of caution.
Claire Zagorski earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She has practiced clinically as a paramedic in multiple treatment settings, including as a member of the Austin Harm Reduction Coalition. She founded Longhorn Stop the Bleed and is committed to supporting healthcare professionals who seek to integrate harm reduction principles in their practice.