Also known as ecstasy or Molly, MDMA is known as a club drug because it was most popularly used in recreational settings like clubs, music festivals, and raves. Many people tend to confuse MDMA for LSD, another popular recreational drug commonly referred to as acid. Although acid is also a potent, psychedelic drug, are they the same? Today, we’re comparing MDMA vs. LSD to find how they’re different and how they’re similar.
What Is MDMA?
MDMA is the acronym for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is also known as Molly or ecstasy. MDMA is one of the most popular party drugs in the United States and is referred to as a “club drug” because of its popularity at clubs and raves.
MDMA is usually sold in pill form, which is known as Molly. Due to the drug’s euphoric and energizing side effects, people often take Molly pills while clubbing or partying to enhance the experience.
However, like many other illegal drugs, Molly is often laced with cutting agents or dangerous chemicals that can increase users’ risk of intoxication and overdose. Usually, any form of MDMA that’s been altered or has been mixed with other stimulants or substances is known as ecstasy.
MDMA produces a euphoric and stimulating high by manipulating certain chemicals in the brain, particularly serotonin. Serotonin plays a large role in regulating functions like appetite, nausea, sleep, and mood.
MDMA increases serotonin levels in the brain, producing side effects like euphoria, alertness, and a sense of well-being. The drug is also called an empathogen because of the way it influences people’s feelings of empathy and closeness to others.
Oftentimes, people who take Molly may experience feelings of love, interpersonal connection, and romance. These side effects are believed to be caused by the increased levels of serotonin.
Even so, this high is usually short-lived. Because Molly causes such a sudden and large influx of serotonin, when side effects wear off, users may experience a severe emotional crash or comedown that leaves them feeling sad and tired. These feelings may remain for hours depending on how much MDMA the person took.
What Is Acid (LSD)?
Acid is the street name for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). This drug was first synthesized in 1938 by a scientist named Albert Hoffman, who learned about the drug’s side effects after he accidentally ingested a dose.
Nowadays, LSD is illegal and known for producing mind-altering, psychedelic side effects like hallucinations, distorted visual shapes and colors, altered sounds, anxiety, depression, and increased heart rate. Because it’s so potent, acid is usually sold and taken in small doses or micrograms.
Acid works by affecting several neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine, and glutamate. Together, these chemicals contribute to functions like heart rate, breathing, sleep, digestion, concentration, alertness, and thinking, and memory.
LSD mostly affects serotonin levels, however, which is likely why it produces hallucinations and visual and auditory distortions. Acid’s side effects are also long-lasting because the drug may continually activate the serotonin receptor for more than 12 hours.
MDMA vs. LSD: How Are They Different?
The main difference between LSD and MDMA is that LSD belongs to the psychedelics drug class while MDMA belongs to the drug class of synthetic cathinones or bath salts. Synthetic cathinones like Molly are naturally occurring in the khat plant, while LSD is made from a substance found in ergot, which is a fungus that grows on rye (grain).
Additionally, acid is much stronger than MDMA; it impacts more chemicals in the brain and produces longer-lasting side effects. One study that tested the effects of acid compared to Molly found that acid produces stronger side effects than MDMA, including ego death or dissolution, emotional excitation, anxiety, and greater impairment in concentration, perception of time, and speed of thinking.1
LSD is also known for producing flashbacks of “acid trips” or highs that can occur days, weeks, and even months after the person’s last use. On the other hand, MDMA’s side effects will typically last a few hours, and users don’t usually experience any recurring highs or trips after their last use.
The two drugs may also be used differently, as well. There are more ways to administer or use acid than there are ways to use Molly, including dropping the solution onto gelatin sheets, pieces of blotting paper, or on sugar cubes.
Although MDMA does not produce recurring flashbacks or highs from past use, it does pose the immediate danger of dehydration. MDMA tends to raise your body temperature, making you sweat more, which dehydrates you.
Ecstasy that’s mixed with other substances can exacerbate this side effect, which is why people who take this drug should drink water to avoid complications. Most medical complications associated with MDMA are caused by severe dehydration.
Additionally, Molly can also produce long-term effects like neurotoxicity and nerve damage. Research also suggests that MDMA can permanently damage dopamine and serotonin receptors as well, which can contribute to mental illness and other problems.2
On the other hand, while LSD may not produce immediate effects like dehydration, it can be more dangerous for people with underlying mental health issues. Acid alters your consciousness, causes hallucinations, and reduces your sense of self, which can be dangerous for someone with preexisting mental disorders like schizophrenia.
A study from the 80s found that people who experienced LSD psychosis were clinically indistinguishable from people with diagnosed schizophrenia. This means that acid may not only worsen schizophrenia symptoms but contribute to its development, as well.
Unlike MDMA, LSD is also known for causing disturbing psychological effects known as bad acid trips or bad trips. These trips can cause severe anxiety, panic, and paranoia, as well as flashbacks that produce similar effects from a high even months after use.
Risks of Candyflipping
Despite their individual dangers, many people also engage in a practice called candyflipping, which is when they take Molly and acid together – but combining the two increases the individual’s risk for a bad trip as well as overdose.
When taken together, MDMA and LSD can produce undesirable side effects like:
- Mood swings
- Intensified feelings
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Increased mood and energy
- Muscle cramping
- Teeth clenching
- Excessive sweating
- Increased body temperature
Because ecstasy often contains additional substances that are unknown to the user, it’s hard to measure doses, which increases the risk of overdose. Although the list above mentions some common side effects of both drugs, when taken together, these symptoms may be unpredictable.
Synthetic Drug Addiction Treatment
When comparing LSD vs. ecstasy, you’ll find that both drugs can produce adverse side effects and increase your risk for long-term health complications. So take it from us. Your safest bet is to avoid these drugs altogether.
However, for those who have become dependent on acid or Molly, our Clearbrook rehab offers programs like ecstasy addiction treatment that can help with the recovery process. By starting patients off with a medically monitored detox, we slowly wean them off drugs in a safe and controlled environment.
Following detox, patients will be able to move on to one of our Massachusetts drug rehab programs. Our programs are held at an inpatient level of care, during which our specialists utilize therapy and individual and group counseling methods to help patients heal from the physical, mental, and social impact of drug abuse.
If you’re ready to recover from drug or alcohol abuse, Clearbrook Treatment Centers is here to help. Call our Northeast addictions treatment center at 570-536-9621 to get started.