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MDMA vs Ketamine | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects, and More!

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There is a long history of people using MDMA (also known as ecstasy or “Molly”) and ketamine for recreational purposes. While these two drugs are similar in some ways, they have very different effects on the body. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between them, how they affect the body, and what side effects they can cause. 

What is MDMA?

MDMA is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception by affecting levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. It produces feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure. It has been used for recreational purposes since its synthesis in 1912 but has gained popularity in recent years due to its use in dance clubs and music festivals. 

Chemical Composition of MDMA

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a psychoactive drug that belongs to the amphetamine class of drugs. Its chemical structure includes a methylenedioxy ring, which is composed of two oxygen atoms joined together, and a methoxy group. The chemical formula for MDMA is C11H15NO2.

What is Ketamine? 

Ketamine (also known as special K) is a dissociative anesthetic primarily used for veterinary purposes but also used recreationally for its hallucinogenic properties. It works by blocking certain neurotransmitters from binding to their receptors which causes an altered state of consciousness with hallucinations, dreamlike visions, and feelings of detachment from one’s self or environment.

Chemical Composition of Ketamine

Its chemical structure includes a cyclohexanone ring, which is composed of six carbon atoms, and an amine group. The chemical formula for ketamine is C13H16ClNO.

MDMA vs. Ketamine: Fact Sheet



Generic Name Molly, Ecstasy Special K
Drug Type Stimulant Anesthetic
Active Ingredients  3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine C13H16ClNO
Used as treatment for: None Pain during surgery
Available Form(s) Pills Injection, Pills, Inhalants
Available Strengths  200 mg, 250 mg, 300 mg 10-100 mg/ml
Is it a controlled substance? Yes Yes
Legal Status Schedule I Class C drug
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes Yes
Risk of Addiction Very low Yes

Ketamine Dosage and Side Effects:

Ketamine is a drug that is used in both human and veterinary medicine. It has different medical uses, including anesthesia, pain relief, and sedation. The usual dosage of ketamine for medical purposes is 0.5 to 0.75 mg per kg of body weight, with higher doses being used for certain procedures. However, it should be noted that the dosage can vary significantly depending on the individual’s age, weight, and medical condition.

Ketamine has a wide range of side effects that can occur in users who take too much or use it too often. Common side effects include dizziness, confusion, disorientation, drowsiness, impaired judgment and coordination, blurred vision, euphoria or dissociative state (feeling “out of body”), changes in heart rate and blood pressure, and difficulty breathing or hyperventilation. Long-term use of ketamine can lead to memory problems and impairments in cognitive functioning as well as increased risk for addiction and other mental health disorders.

Because ketamine is so potent, it is important that patients adhere to the specific guidelines set forth by their doctor when taking this drug medically to ensure safe usage while minimizing potential side effects. 

In addition, those looking to use ketamine recreationally should be aware of the potential dangers associated with doing so as well as any possible legal ramifications if caught abusing this substance without a prescription.

MDMA Dosage and Side Effects:

MDMA, commonly referred to as Ecstasy, produces feelings of euphoria and pleasure by affecting the brain’s serotonin levels. It works primarily by targeting the serotonin transporter and increasing its activity, resulting in a greater concentration of serotonin in the brain. 

This causes a major surge in dopamine and noradrenaline production, creating feelings of happiness and an increased social aptitude. The drug also appears to increase oxytocin levels, which is believed to promote empathy towards others and reduce the fear of social interaction. 

There is no recommended dosage of ecstasy as it is purely a recreational drug and has no uses in a clinical setting. Most commonly available ecstasy pills have a range of 200-300mg. However, it is often advised to keep your dosage to less than 200 mg every 12 hours.

While the long-term effects of MDMA have not been conclusively established yet, it has been linked to potential long-term mood problems and reduced cognitive functioning in some individuals.

Ketamine vs. MDMA: Can You Withdrawal for Either? 

Both ketamine and MDMA can lead to withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using them after a period of regular use. However, the withdrawal symptoms and the severity of withdrawal can vary between the two drugs.

For ketamine, withdrawal symptoms can include changes in mood, such as depression or anxiety, as well as physical symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and cravings for the drug. Withdrawal from ketamine can be psychologically challenging, as it can lead to depression, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties.

For MDMA, withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and a decrease in appetite. These symptoms can be severe and last for several weeks, in some cases longer.

It is important to note that when getting off Ketamine and MDMA, one should always consult a medical professional to safely manage withdrawal symptoms.

MDMA vs Ketamine: Prevalence in the United States

Ketamine and MDMA (also known as ecstasy or molly) are both commonly used recreational drugs in the United States. According to a 2020 report by NSDUH, an estimated 3.1 million people aged 12 or older (or 1.2% of the population) had used ketamine in the past year while  3.5 million people from the same age group (or 1.4% of the population) had used MDMA in the past year.

It’s also worth noting that according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the number of emergency department visits involving ketamine use has increased over the last decade, from about 4,200 in 2005 to about 13,000 in 2019, and most of the cases involve the non-medical use of ketamine.

Most of the emergency department visits involving Ketamine use are caused by mixing it with illicit anti-depressants heroin or opioids to enhance the euphoric and hallucinogenic effects of Ketamine.

Bottom Line: MDMA versus Ketamine

While both drugs have potential benefits such as providing euphoric experiences or emotional insight – they also come with risks such as addiction or organ damage that should not be ignored. If you choose to use either substance make sure you do so responsibly by researching them thoroughly beforehand and always having someone else around who knows what you’re taking.

Always remember to stay safe!

FAQs on Ketamine and MDMA 

Ketamine vs MDMA: which is more addicting?

Ketamine is more addicting than MDMA.

Can you get addicted to MDMA?

Although the chances are very low, one can only get psychologically addicted to MDMA after prolonged use. MDMA doesn’t cause any physical dependence.

Ketamine vs MDMA: Which has more severe withdrawal symptoms?

MDMA has more severe withdrawal symptoms due to its habit-forming potential.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.