Street name: Ecstasy, E, Adam, Eve. Often known as 'brand names' such as 'Doves', 'Speckled Doves', and 'New Yorkers' though these names frequently change.

Street form: Off-white or occasionally coloured tablets. Clear or coloured capsules. White powder (rare).

Street use: Originally associated with the dance scene. Now more widespread among young people not necessarily associated with the dance scene. Usually taken by mouth.

Drug effect: Stimulant with mild 'psychedelic' effect. Possible hallucinogenic effect, particularly in high doses.

Dependency: Psychological

Withdrawal: Tolerance to Ecstasy develops with time, but not as rapidly as cocaine or amphetamine. Drug effects begin within 20 to 60 minutes after use. There is no evidence of physical withdrawal, although after-effects of the drug can include fatigue, depression and anxiety. 'Flashbacks' following repeated use over several days have been reported.

Long-term use: Ecstasy use can be associated with anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia, especially in cases of long-term use, or use of large doses. Increased susceptibility to minor infections such as colds, flu and sore throats have been reported. Pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, and epilepsy can be exacerbated. In addition, there is some evidence to suggest that Ecstasy may have the potential to cause brain damage associated with mood disorders. Evidence from research of an association between heavy Ecstasy use and liver damage.

Ecstasy controls the body's temperature control mechanism and can cause an increase in body temperature to dangerously high levels in rare cases. The cumulative effects of the high ambient temperature of a dance venue coupled with dehydration due to dancing have the potential for 'double heat-stroke'. Ecstasy can cause the release of a hormone called Anti-Diuretic (ADH) that prevents the production of dilute water. Excessive drinking in turn causes water build – up inside the body cells. Users should take care to replenish lost body fluids and take regular breaks from physical exertion to help avoid dehydration and overheating. In acute cases of Ecstasy related overheating and dehydration, the body's temperature regulation system can be impaired, or break down altogether.

Overdose risk: Overdose risk still needs to be properly assessed. However, there have been a number of deaths in the UK linked to the use of Ecstasy. Most of these deaths are thought to have been associated with a rare but fatal drug reaction, which can cause lung failure. Furthermore, heat stroke or dehydration are also thought to be possible contributing factors. Some deaths have been attributed to dilutional hyponatremia; i.e. people have drunk too much water in attempting to counteract the dehydrating effect of the drug.

Legal status: MDMA (Ecstasy) is a Class A controlled drug. This means it is an offence both to possess the drug and to supply it to others.

Maximum penalty:

For possession: 7 years and/or unlimited fine

For dealing: Life and/or unlimited fine.

SPECIAL NOTE: A range of drugs including amphetamine, ketamine and over the counter cold remedies have been sold as Ecstasy.