The Manchester Tab Safe Drugs Guide: MDMA

Safe sesh encouraged

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Like the earth will always rotate around the sun, Manchester students will always take drugs. But do all of them know how to take them safely?

Obviously the safest way to take drugs is to not take them at all. But that's never stopped anyone, so you might as well know how to take them safely.

MDMA is a particular favourite, with the University of Manchester and MMU ranking near the top of The Tab 2018 drug survey. If you're a Philosophy, Art and Design, Economics, Journalism or Politics student then at least half of you will have tried MDMA at some point. From microdosing MDMA for a week, to general recreational use, it's an endemic drug deeply embedded in student culture.

Also known as Ecstasy, E, X, XTC, MD, Molly, Mandy, Madge and Magic, MDMA is easy to buy and often costs around £25-35 a gram. It comes either in pills or in off-white crystals.

Students are quite willing to pour lots of suspect off-white powder up their nostrils, but most of us have no idea how much to take to ensure a good time, if redosing is a good idea, or if they are mixing potentially dangerous substances. Some of you readers are probably experienced psychonauts, perfectly comfortable getting cross-faded on acid wandering around Creamfields or Boomtown, warmly clad in your waviest garms.

For those a little more inexperienced or unsure, this article is for you. We've told you how to minimise the comedowns. Here's your guide to taking MDMA.

Test your drugs first

Once you've found a dealer, you need to test your drugs. Pills are often not pure, and dosing with them can be a lot more difficult. For beginners I would strongly recommend crystal MDMA, rather than pills as it is easier to get an accurate dose when weighing out the active component. Invest a decent set of milligram scales and gelatin capsules.

It's always best to get your MDMA tested so you can ensure that it's safe. Test kits, and advice on how to use them are available from Manchester Students' Union for £2.50. Not an expensive way to potentially save your life given that many other substances are sold as MD. Some are simple cheap imitations like methylone where as others are deeply dangerous and far more potent research chemicals like PMA. None of them have the years of widespread use MDMA has, and most have unknown risks.


Once you've tested the purity, you need to know how much to take. Dosage varies from person to person but the following recommendations tend to hold true.

50mg/one twentieth: A very light dose, but enough to feel the effects, especially as a first time user. Emotions feel strengthened and mood improved. It's sensible to start with a dose around this level, so you can get a read on how much the drug affects you.

100mg/one tenth: Bottom end of common dosage, this being the amount to expect in weaker pills. Minor to medium euphoric effect.

150mg: Standard. The sweet spot dose. Increasing the amount you take beyond this point actually doesn't have too great an effect.

200mg+/one fifth or more: Generally a bad idea, health wise. The effects are stronger, but beyond this point the risk of serious harm goes way up. Only for experienced sesh heads who know the risks.

The come up

Upon taking MDMA you begin with a process known as the come-up. This is the period between swallowing the drug, and feeling its true effects. In this period you may feel slight nausea, especially while smoking cigarettes. You might also feel a bit anxious. Don't worry, it will pass in between forty five minutes and two hours(at the absolute most). After this, expect to remain high for three to four hours.

It is important to drink water while on MD. Generally between one and two litres in an evening is fine. More is not recommended, and can be dangerous.

It can be extremely difficult to find out what's in pills and how much of it there is. Crystal powder can be easily weighed and tested.


MDMA induces strong feelings of comfort, empathy, and connection to others. It also gives the user enough energy to dance like a crazy person all night. Prepare to be hugging your friends, strangers and even the bouncers.

It genuinely deserves its monikers Magic and Ecstasy because on a good night, with good friends, it is honestly, that good.

The comedown

The following day from taking the drug you will experience the dreaded comedown. Headaches, tiredness, and misery can abound. I recommend drinking plenty of fruit juice, and eating some salty food to restore your electrolyte levels.

Reasons to avoid it

If you are currently taking any antidepressants you should avoid MD. The chemicals in some anti depressants interact with MDMA and can cause it to have unpredictable and dangerous effects.

SSRIs and MDMA are not good together. Deeply unpredictable, the far worse comedown is the least of your worries.

Individuals with a history of heart ailments, high blood pressure, aneurysm or stroke, glaucoma, hepatic (liver) or renal (kidney) disorders, or hypoglycemia may be at higher risk of negative side effects.

Avoid strong stimulants like cocaine or speed in combination with MDMA.

Avoid high doses and frequent use. Recent studies suggest that the heavier and more frequent the useage, the worse the long term after-effects may be.

A small percentage of people are "slow metabolizers", who have low levels of a liver enzyme (P450 2D6) which metabolises MDMA. These people may be more sensitive to MDMA, require lower doses, and should be cautious.