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How Long Does Ecstasy (MDMA) Stay In Your System?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) is a synthetic psychoactive substance known for its combination of euphoric and empathogenic effects.  In the United States, it is commonly referred to as ecstasy and/or “Molly.”  MDMA is considered a Schedule I controlled-substance, meaning it has no accepted medical use, a high potential for abuse, and is considered unsafe when utilized outside medical supervision.

The drug itself is similar to amphetamine (a psychostimulant) and mescaline (a hallucinogen).  Ingestion of MDMA is known to boost mood, promote euphoria, distort time, alter perception, and amplify empathy.  As a result of these pleasurable effects, it is commonly used by adolescents and young adults that frequent “raves” (dance parties) and concerts to enhance the experience.

The effects or “high” derived from ecstasy is a result of its ability to trigger the presynaptic release and reuptake of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine; it acts primarily on TAAR1 (trace amine-associated receptor 1) as an agonist and VMAT2 (vesicular monoamine transporter 2) as an inhibitor.  Despite the fact that MDMA is among the least addictive drugs, it can cause brain damage, it can make you hallucinate, and kill brain cells (e.g. destroy serotonin producing neurons). As a result, many former users have discontinued MDMA and hope to clear it from their system.

How long does Ecstasy (MDMA) stay in your system?

Assuming you’ve stopped using the drug and have dealt with the uncomfortable ecstasy withdrawal symptoms, a significant portion of the drug may have cleared from your system.  While the effects of ecstasy ingestion typically span between 3 and 5 hours, the elimination half life of ecstasy is said by some sources to be an approximate 7 hours, while others suggest 8 to 9 hours.  In any regard, you can expect your “high” to have subsided long before half of the drug has been cleared from your system.

If the reported half life of 7 hours is correct, it can be estimated that it will take a total of 1.60 days for ecstasy to be fully cleared from your system.  If a half life of 8 to 9 hours is more accurate, it could take over 2 days for the drug to be completely eliminated from your body.  Although most users will have cleared MDMA from their system within 2 days, nearly everyone can expect the drug to have been eliminated within 3 days.

That said, some sources have suggested that urine with high alkalinity can prolong elimination of MDMA, increasing its half life between 16 and 31 hours.  Furthermore, the metabolite HMMA (4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-methamphetamine) is thought to remain in the body for nearly 33 hours longer than MDMA.  As a result, it could take up to 3 days to fully eliminate the HMMA metabolite from your system.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11085324
  • Source: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/methylenedioxymethamphetamine.htm
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9311621

Factors that influence how long Ecstasy (MDMA) stays in your system

When it comes to metabolism and clearance of ecstasy (MDMA), there will be factors that influence the speed by which it is eliminated.  One person may find that they are able to pass an MDMA drug test within 2 days following usage, yet another may fail a similar drug test.  Factors that influence a person’s ability to efficiently eliminate ecstasy from their system include: body mass index, genetics, liver/kidney function, ingestion of other drugs, and ecstasy sourcing.

  1. Individual factors

Why can two people take the same amount of ecstasy, yet one person clears it quicker from their system than the other?  Usually the expedited ability to clear exogenous substances from the body is subject to slight variation based on individual factors.  Important individual factors to consider include: genetic variants, liver/kidney function, and whether a person is taking other drugs (or supplements).

Age: A person’s age could influence the speed by which ecstasy is metabolized and ultimately cleared from the system.  Individuals that are younger tend to have quicker metabolisms, are more active, and are usually in better health than elderly (age 65+).  Elderly individuals often have less blood flow to their liver/kidneys, are taking other medications, and have poorer organ functioning than younger people.  As a result, it takes older people longer to metabolize and excrete drugs like MDMA from their system.

Body mass index: Whenever considering elimination speed of a drug, you may want to consider your BMI (body mass index).  Your body mass index accounts for both your height and weight.  In general, the greater the dosage of ecstasy you take in relationship to your BMI, the slower it may be eliminated from your system.  Bigger individuals should have a slightly easier time processing standard doses of ecstasy compared to smaller individuals.

Genetics: It is known that genetics can affect the speed by which we metabolize certain drugs.  Since ecstasy is metabolized primarily in the liver by CYP2D6 (cytochrome P450 2D6), genetic variants in CYP2D6 will influence rate by which our systems process MDMA.  MDMA is converted into the metabolite DHMA by CYP2D6 via demethylenation, but those who are poor metabolizers are unable to efficiently make this conversion.  This means that certain individuals may take longer than others to metabolize MDMA, whereas others may quickly metabolize and clear it from their system.

Liver/kidney function: Since ecstasy is metabolized mostly by the liver, individuals with poor liver functioning may not clear the drug as quickly.  Poor liver functioning results in a prolonged, less efficient metabolism process – extending the duration over which ecstasy stays in the body.  On the other hand, individuals with an optimally functioning liver are thought to metabolize ecstasy efficiently.

Metabolism: Your individual metabolism is influenced by things like exercise, lean body mass (and body fat), dietary intake, and hydration.  Individuals with faster metabolisms are thought to metabolize MDMA more rapidly than those with slower metabolisms.  The impact of daily exercise, muscle tissue, and dietary intake on metabolism is significant and may influence the clearance of MDMA from your system.

Other drugs / supplements: It is known that various drugs can interfere with the metabolism of MDMA.  Examples of such drugs include: fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), cocaine, and more.  Any drug that inhibits with the functioning of liver enzyme CYP2D6 is thought to significantly impair metabolism of MDMA.  As a result, the drug lingers in your system for longer than a person who isn’t taking any SSRIs or substances known to affect CYP2D6.  On the other hand, certain supplements or drugs may enhance CYP2D6 enzymes (i.e. “inducers”), thereby expediting MDMA metabolism.

  1. Ecstasy specifics (source)

Due to the fact that ecstasy (MDMA) is an illegally manufactured drug, most users don’t know the exact chemical contents.  The drug could be tainted with another substance and/or modified without their knowledge.  MDMA exists as a racemic mix of an S-(+)-enantiomer and a R-(-)-enantiomer, but the potency of unregulated MDMA is subject to significant variation.

As a result of differences in potency and/or modified forms of MDMA, the duration over which the drug stays in your system may be influenced by the sourcing.  If the MDMA is combined (e.g. “laced”) with a substance that extends its half life and/or prolongs metabolism via inhibitory effects on CYP2D6, the ecstasy may stay in your system for longer than expected.  On the other hand, if the MDMA is laced with a substance that expedites its metabolism, it may be cleared quicker than you expect.

Some forms of MDMA are laced with methamphetamine, acid, caffeine, ephedrine, fentanyl, ketamine, and LSD.  In other cases, individuals may be duped into thinking they’ve purchased ecstasy, when in reality the tablets (or pills) contain no actual MDMA.  The MDMA contents, potency, and whether other drugs are co-ingested will affect metabolism and how long the ecstasy remains in your system.

  1. Dosage (50 mg to 700 mg) / Single vs. Multiple

The amount of ecstasy a person takes is subject to significant individual variation.  On average, users ingest between 10 mg to 150 mg of MDMA taken in a series of pills to prolong the effects.  In most cases, a regular ecstasy user will take between 50 mg and 700 mg of MDMA per night at an event such as a rave, concert, or party.

In most cases, the greater the dosage ingested, the longer it takes for the body to metabolize and excrete the drug; higher doses alter metabolism via CYP2D6 and pharmacokinetics.  If an individual takes just a “single dose” of ecstasy, their body will clear the drug at a much quicker rate than a person taking multiple doses throughout the night.  This is due to the fact that multi-dose users have accumulated more of the drug in their system over a longer period than single-dose users.

A single dose user may have metabolized the majority of the MDMA by the end of a rave, whereas a multi-dose user may have just started metabolizing their last dose by the time the rave ends.  Furthermore, it is thought that when an individual goes to bed at night, metabolism of MDMA may slow.  If a bulk of the drug isn’t metabolized as an individual falls asleep – it could prolong clearance.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12110370
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7909223
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2014905/

How is MDMA (Ecstasy / “Molly”) metabolized and excreted?

Following ingestion of ecstasy, it is absorbed rapidly by the gastrointestinal tract, followed by an onset of effect within 30 minutes.  MDMA will reach maximum concentrations in a person’s bloodstream within 1.5 and 3 hours.  Post-ingestion, it is slowly metabolized by CYP450 enzymes; most notably CYP2D6, but also CYP3A4 and COMT.  Upon metabolism of MDMA, metabolite levels typically peak within 6 hours.  Various metabolites of MDMA in humans include:

  • MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine)
  • HMA (4-hydroxy-3-methoxyamphetamine)
  • HMMA (4-hydroxy-3-methoxy-methamphetamine)
  • HHMA (3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine)
  • DHA (3,4-dihydroxyamphetamine)
  • MDP2P (3,4-methylenedioxyphenylacetone)
  • MDOH (3,4-Methylenedioxy-N-hydroxyamphetamine)

Initially, the MDMA is metabolized into MDA, which is considered the chief metabolite present in the blood and plasma.  The MDA is then broken down into HMA and HHA and are conjugated prior to excretion through the urine.  For most users, MDMA will be excreted as: 20% HMMA, 15% MDMA, 1.5% MDA, 1% HMA.

When administered at 50 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg, the HMMA is the most notable metabolite indicating the presence of MDMA.  However, when administered at doses exceeding 100 mg, the percentage of unchanged MDMA is thought to exceed that of HMMA.  Between 30% and 34% of MDMA urinary excretion will have occurred within 24 hours of taking the drug.

Research has shown that the metabolite HMMA can be detected in urine for nearly 33 hours longer than MDMA.  As a result, it is thought that drug tests should determine whether HMMA is present rather than MDMA.  In certain people, HMMA will remain in the system for nearly 3 days following ingestion of a high MDMA dosage.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159864/

Types of MDMA (Ecstasy / Molly) Drug Tests

Most standard drug tests may not be able to detect the presence of MDMA (ecstasy).  However, comprehensive drug tests will be able to detect whether an individual has remained free from all drugs.  Advanced drug tests can detect the presence of MDMA, and in the future may be able to detect the presence of HMMA (a metabolite that remains in the system for ~3 days).

Urine tests: The most common way to test for ecstasy (MDMA) is via a fresh urine sample.  The urine sample is then analyzed to determine whether an individual had been taking any illicit substances like MDMA.  It is estimated that MDMA will remain detectable within urine for a period of 2 to 4 days post-ingestion.

Most users will have cleared it from their system within 3 days (72 hours) of ingestion.  That said, if an individual has urine with a high alkalinity, it may remain in their system for even longer than 3 days.  Furthermore, if the testing aims to detect the presence of HMMA (an MDMA metabolite with a longer half life), an individual could test “positive” from a urine sample for 4-5 days.

Hair tests: A less common way to test for the presence of MDMA is via a hair test.  Hair testing requires extraction of a hair sample (usually taken from the head, but can be taken from another area of the body).  The length of hair required for the hair testing typically ranges between 3 cm and 6 cm.  Although MDMA will not appear within the hair immediately after ingestion, it will remain in the hair for a longer duration than the urine.

A hair follicle analysis can reveal whether an individual has used ecstasy within an approximate 90 day period (3 months).  If an individual has long hair follicles, MDMA may be detectable for longer than 3 months, assuming it is analyzed in a laboratory.  Hair analyses are advantageous in that they are non-invasive and help detect ecstasy usage over a longer term.

Saliva tests: Another way to test for the presence of MDMA and other illicit substances is by analyzing a person’s saliva.  These tests generally require that an individual provide a sample of saliva (from their mouth), often taken via the tongue.  The samples are collected via application of a detection device to the tongue until a sufficient amount of saliva has accumulated (2 microliters).

The presence of MDMA is detected via saliva tests as soon as 1.5 hours after ingestion, and for as long as 10 hours after ingestion.  The saliva detection devices then determine MDMA concentrations in the range of micrograms per liter.  Ability to detect MDMA on a saliva test is easiest between 1.5 and 4 hours after ingestion and more difficult between 6 and 10 hours post-ingestion.  Saliva tests are most commonly administered by law enforcement agents when they suspect an individual may have ingested ecstasy.

Blood tests: Ecstasy can be detected in a blood test between 12 and 24 hours post-ingestion.  It is unlikely that MDMA will show up within the bloodstream after a full day.  If you are forced to take a blood test within a day after you’ve taken ecstasy, it will show up – along with its metabolites.

However, since blood tests are only able to detect the drug within a 24 hour period, and are considered highly invasive, they are rarely administered.  Blood tests are most commonly reserved to confirm results from another modality of testing and/or by law enforcement agents.  Laboratory mix-ups and errors are known to skew results of blood sample analyses.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11751553

Why are people tested for ecstasy (MDMA)?

There are several reasons why an individual may be tested for ecstasy (MDMA).  The most obvious reason a person could be tested is that a law enforcement agent suspects usage based on their behavior.  In addition, it is common for drug rehabilitation facilities to administer an advanced drug test battery to determine whether MDMA has been ingested.

  • Criminal justice: If a law enforcement agent arrests an individual and/or suspects that they may have ingested an illicit substance, they may test the person for MDMA. Since it is known that MDMA can cause drug-induced psychosis, a person may be hallucinating and exhibiting odd behavior.  To pinpoint whether a person has ingested any drugs, a test to detect MDMA could be administered.
  • Drug rehab facilities: If a person checks into a drug rehabilitation clinic, the clinic may require regular drug tests to ensure that a person has remained “clean” from all exogenous substances. These rehabilitation facilities generally administer advanced forms of drug testing to assess whether a person has stopped using MDMA.
  • Employment: Basic drug tests are often administered by employers to current and prospective employees. While basic tests will not reveal the presence of MDMA, certain employers may implement a more advanced testing protocol.  This advanced protocol may detect MDMA and/or metabolites.
  • Military: Individuals in the military are often tested for drugs regularly. Those in the military need to remain drug-free so that they can remain alert and focused when in training and/or battle.  For this reason it is common for extensive drug tests to be conducted to ensure that an individual has remained sober from MDMA.

Tips for clearing Ecstasy (MDMA) from your system

If you want to clear ecstasy (MDMA) from your body quickly and efficiently, there may be a few things you can do to speed up the process.  Keep in mind that these tips may not work for everyone, but could make a huge difference for others.

  1. Completely stop using: The easiest thing that you can do to ensure that ecstasy clears from your system quickly is to stop using it. Some people assume that low doses of MDMA will not be detected on drug tests. The truth is that while lower doses may be more efficiently metabolized, they can still be detected.  In reality, the longer the time since your last ingestion, the more likely ecstasy will have cleared from your system.
  2. Increase acidity of urine: Urinary pH significantly influences how long MDMA remains in your system. If your urine is highly alkaline, the half-life of MDMA could be extended within the range of 16 to 31 hours, resulting in a considerably longer clearance period. Therefore, it is recommended to increase the acidity of your urine if you want to ensure the fastest clearance of MDMA.
  3. Supplements: It is known that certain supplements and/or drugs known as “inducers” can enhance liver metabolism of MDMA. They do this by amplifying the ability of CYP2D6, which allows MDMA to get metabolized at a much quicker rate. Avoiding CYP2D6 inhibitors and considering natural enhancers may provide benefit.
  4. Exercise daily: Getting enough exercise daily will help improve circulation, blood flow, and ultimately metabolism of exogenous substances. Exercise is known to speed up metabolism and will likely help your body process MDMA with greater efficiency compared to if you remained sedentary. Doing daily cardio is thought to help with systematic clearance of drugs.
  5. Hydration / Diet: Staying hydrated is crucial if you want to clear any drug from your body. Drink enough water to help facilitate metabolism of MDMA and urinary excretion. In addition, eat a balanced, healthy diet with vegetables and fruits to give your body the antioxidants it needs to operate efficiently and clear MDMA.

Have you ever been drug tested for ecstasy (MDMA)?

If you’ve been tested for ecstasy (MDMA), share a comment detailing your experience below.  Mention how soon after you ingested MDMA the test was administered, the type of test you were given, as well as whether you passed or failed the test.  Did the test solely test for the presence of MDMA, or was it capable of detecting other metabolites such as HMMA?

Do you believe there are any tricks that can be used to expedite the clearance of MDMA from your system?  If so, feel free to share these in your comment – as they may be of benefit to others.  The best way to ensure that ecstasy (and its metabolites) have been fully cleared from your system is to stop using the drug, engage in healthy habits, and let time pass.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • RD February 6, 2016, 6:03 am

    Is it possible to show a false positive for ecstasy through a urine test?

  • Eric September 19, 2016, 9:12 am

    I took ecstasy and a small very piece of molly on Thurs around 11pm last usage. Stopped using it Fri to Sun. Got a red wood drug test Mon afternoon. That’s 84 hours. Will I past the drug test?

    • Paul M October 17, 2016, 10:27 am

      I can answer that, because I actually read the article…

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