What Does An MDMA Hangover Feel Like?
An MDMA hangover is familiar to many people who have taken the substance, although some seem to experience it worse than others. The MDMA hangover, crash, or comedown is a constellation of negative states, which can be both physical and psychological in nature.
While we know from clinical trials that MDMA is safe and effective in the treatment of mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this doesn’t mean there are no downsides to the drug.
Whether discovering MDMA therapy, or using for recreational reasons, there is always the possibility of a crash when the experience is over or in the following days. (Here it is worth highlighting that in a clinical context, per a recent study, MDMA does not result in a decline in mood and cognition.)
To give you a better understanding of what an MDMA hangover feels like, we’re going to describe its various physical and psychological aspects, briefly explain why this crash occurs, and offer some tips on mitigating side effects.
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What Is The MDMA Hangover?
The MDMA hangover is, in a sense, the opposite of how you might feel during an MDMA experience. This compound is known to make people feel heightened levels of joy, bliss, relaxation, empathy, closeness to others, and emotional openness. Fear and anxiety are also reduced.
All of these effects make MDMA especially valuable as a therapeutic tool, especially in the context of PTSD, as patients with this condition can be especially fearful about confronting their trauma and discussing it with others. When this fear response is dampened, however, patients are able to explore their trauma(s) more openly and freely with a psychotherapist, which aids the healing process.
During an MDMA hangover, on the other hand, you won’t be feeling all of these positive states. When the high comes to an end, or in the proceeding days, you may experience some unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms.
It is common for many people to experience an “afterglow” when the classic subjective effects of MDMA dissipate. This afterglow may consist in an increased feeling of well-being, calmness, and affection for others. However, not everyone gets an afterglow, and moreover, an MDMA crash may follow it even when it does occur.
Many other drugs are known to have comedowns, including other stimulants like amphetamine (which MDMA is a derivative of), methamphetamine, and cocaine.
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What The MDMA Hangover Feels Like
For many people, the MDMA hangover is the price to be paid for the experience. The crash that MDMA users come to expect involves feeling low instead of high, unsociable instead of sociable, and tired instead of energetic.
The film Human Traffic (1999), which follows a group of 20-somethings and their drug-fueled weekend, describes the MDMA comedown as follows.
“What goes up must come down, and down, and down. Everyone looks ill at the end of the night. All have lost the power of speech, desperately avoiding eye contact. Your new soulmate, that you’ve been talking…to for the past five hours about the story of creation or the fourth Star Wars film, is now a complete stranger. You can’t even look him in the eye. The only thing you’ve got in common now is paranoia. It’s coming through the walls, man…We are no longer all together as one but separate mental patients, that yearn to be ejected out of this poisoned atmosphere to a warm bed and friendly therapist…All you have to look forward to now is unconsciousness, but you can never sleep.”
This description will ring true for many MDMA users. However, it might not necessarily be this unpleasant.
Individuals will vary in their responses to MDMA: some with resilient serotonin systems may not experience such a drastic crash. Also, taking a lot of MDMA and/or drinking or using other drugs at the same time can worsen the comedown.
Physical Symptoms Of An MDMA Hangover
In terms of physical effects, you may experience the following during an MDMA crash.
- Reduced appetite
Psychological Symptoms Of An MDMA Hangover
Often, it is the psychological symptoms of the comedown that MDMA users find the most unpleasant, the kind described in Human Traffic.
These effects can include the following.
- Depressed mood
- Social withdrawal
- Impaired concentration and memory
Many of the physical and psychological symptoms of an MDMA hangover can be worsened by the fact that, even when the MDMA high is over, it can still be difficult to sleep.
Indeed, like other stimulants, the stimulation from the MDMA can continue when you no longer feel upbeat and happy. An inability to sleep or having little sleep following an MDMA session can end up making you feel more fatigued, depressed, and irritable.
When experiencing an MDMA crash, it is common to just want to recuperate in bed, and not go out and be sociable. At this point, people often find that their thoughts and emotions are more negative.
This experience is also sometimes delayed, which is why the term “Tuesday blues” was coined. It refers to the fact that someone can take MDMA on the weekend but not experience a crash until Tuesday. “Monday blues”, it seems, does not occur for everyone.
It should be noted that the “blues” may persist for a few days after an MDMA session, although the symptoms will improve day by day.
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The Reason For The MDMA Comedown
According to a common explanation, an MDMA hangover occurs due to the way that this substance affects neurotransmitters in the brain.
MDMA causes its much-desired effects through a surge in the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin plays an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, pain, appetite, and other behaviors. The increased levels of serotonin are likely what is behind the mood-boosting effects of MDMA.
But this drug also causes a surge in oxytocin (the “love hormone”), which plays a role in social bonding — and this can help explain the feelings of love, empathy, sociability, and interpersonal closeness that people experience while on MDMA.
After releasing large amounts of serotonin, the brain becomes significantly depleted of this crucial neurotransmitter. This can contribute to the negative psychedelics side effects someone may experience for several days after dosing. As the brain replenishes serotonin, a person will start feeling normal again.
Since new research shows MDMA hangovers don’t appear in a clinical context, the comedown may, in fact, be more related to various aspects of recreational MDMA use, including high doses, lack of sleep, dehydration, drug adulteration, and drinking and using other drugs as well.
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Is It Possible To Prevent Or Minimize The MDMA Crash?
Henry Fisher, a senior chemist at The Loop (a UK harm reduction charity that provides on-site drug testing at festivals) says, “there’s no way of avoiding a comedown entirely.”
So if you’re hoping that there’s a way to prevent an MDMA hangover, you should manage your expectations. At best, you can reduce its severity. Below are some tips that may help.
Get Enough Sleep
Since MDMA can keep you up, it may stop you from getting enough sleep. This sleep deprivation can then exacerbate the negative after-effects of MDMA, such as fatigue, low mood, and irritability.
You can encourage sleep by doing the following.
- Drinking calming, sleep-inducing teas like chamomile and passionflower.
- Using CBD, which — unlike the THC-containing cannabis — can help you sleep without altering your mind. Many MDMA users do use cannabis to sleep, but you should know that, as well as inducing sleepiness, this drug combination can result in perceptual changes, an altered sense of time, anxiety or paranoia, and issues with memory (some users use the term “goldfish memory” to describe a state of constantly forgetting what they were talking about or meant to be doing).
- Avoid taking MDMA too late, as this will just prolong the time it will take for the stimulation to wear off.
- Eat foods that can help with sleep, such as nuts, rice, kiwis, and oatmeal. Avoid foods known to disrupt sleep, such as oily, sugary, and spicy food. MDMA suppresses appetite, but it’s important to eat when you normally would. Going without food can make it harder to sleep.
- Keep bedrooms dark and cool, as this encourages sleepiness.
- Take a hot shower or bath after an MDMA session. This will lower your core body temperature, which prepares your body for sleep.
- Try taking a melatonin supplement. There is some evidence that doing so could help you fall asleep.
Since an MDMA crash can result in low mood, make sure to eat mind-boosting foods in the days that follow. These foods include the below.
- Dark chocolate
- Fermented foods
- Beans and lentils
At the same time, avoid foods that can have a negative impact on your mental health, as well as increase feelings of fatigue and lethargy, such as junk food, highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and foods high in refined sugar.
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What About Supplements?
Many MDMA users will swear by certain supplements as a remedy for an MDMA hangover. However, these claims comes with a grain of salt. For instance, 5-HTP is a common recommendation, as the body converts it into serotonin — which taking MDMA depletes.
Other supplements claimed to help include vitamin B12, vitamin C, magnesium, ginseng, and antioxidants.
Nevertheless, there’s no specific evidence that these supplements help ease comedowns. Fisher, instead, states that “the most effective way to reduce a comedown, besides not taking drugs at all, is to eat healthily, get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated”.
Ultimately, the MDMA experience can be incredibly pleasurable, meaningful, therapeutic, and even life-changing, but it can come with costs. The MDMA hangover may be inevitable to some degree, but there are certainly ways to mitigate it.
Disclaimer: We do not endorse the illicit use of Schedule 1 psychedelic compounds in a non-therapeutic setting. We do, however, hope the regulations look at the research to understand how these drugs can used in powerfully positive ways.