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Heroin vs MDMA | Differences, Similarities, Side Effects and more!

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Heroin and MDMA, are both illicit drugs that are very commonly used in parties and clubs. These two drugs might in some ways, but they are vastly different in terms of their chemical makeup, effects, and risks. 

In this article, we will explore the key differences and similarities between these two drugs, including how they affect our bodies, potential risks, and the current trends in their use. So let’s get started!

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug that is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. It is typically sold as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” When used, it is usually injected, smoked, or snorted. Heroin use can lead to serious health problems, including respiratory failure and fatal overdose. It is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell heroin in most countries.

Chemical Composition of Heroin

The chemical formula of Morphine, the primary ingredient in Heroin, is C17H19NO3.

What is MDMA? 

MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, is a synthetic drug that is also known as “Ecstasy” or “Molly.” It is a stimulant and a psychedelic, meaning it can cause changes in mood and perception. 

When consumed, it can produce feelings of euphoria, increased energy, and emotional warmth, as well as distortions in time and perception. It is commonly used as a recreational drug, often at parties and dance events known as “raves”.

Chemical Composition of MDMA

The chemical composition of MDMA is C11H15NO2.

Heroin vs. MDMA: Fact Sheet



Generic Name Tar Molly, Ecstasy
Drug Type Opioid Stimulant
Active Ingredients  Morphine 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine
Used as treatment for: None None
Available Form(s) Powder, pills, and injection Pills
Available Strengths  200 mg, 250 mg, 300 mg
Is it a controlled substance? Yes Yes
Legal Status Schedule I Schedule I
Risk of Withdrawal Effects Yes Yes
Risk of Addiction Yes Very low

MDMA Dosage and Side Effects:

MDMA, sometimes known as Ecstasy, raises serotonin levels in the brain, which results in sensations of exhilaration and pleasure. It essentially functions by concentrating on the serotonin transporter and boosting its activity, which causes a rise in serotonin levels in the brain.

Dopamine and noradrenaline production significantly increases as a result of taking MDMA, resulting in positive emotions and improved social skills. The medicine also seems to raise oxytocin levels, which is thought to encourage empathy for others and lessen social anxiety.

Ecstasy has no prescribed dosage because it is only used recreationally and has no medical applications. Ecstasy tablets with a wide range of availability range from 200 to 300 mg. However, it is often advised to keep your dosage to less than 200 mg every 12 hours.

Although MDMA’s long-term effects have not yet been shown studied yet, it has been associated with decreased cognitive function and probable long-term mood issues in some people.

Heroin Dosage and Side Effects:

Heroin, a highly addictive and dangerous opioid drug derived from the opium poppy, has been illegally used recreationally since the late 19th century. When taken, it creates a euphoric high and sedation as well as provides relief from pain. 

It is important to note that there is no recommended dosage for heroin use, as it is an illegal and highly addictive substance with severe negative effects. Any use of heroin is considered abuse and can lead to serious health consequences.

When individuals use heroin, the effects can vary depending on the dosage and method of use. Small doses (about 2-5 mg) can cause feelings of euphoria, warmth, and dry mouth. Moderate doses (about 10-20 mg) can cause drowsiness, slowed breathing and decreased pain. Large doses (above 20 mg) can cause unconsciousness, slowed breathing to the point of stopping (respiratory arrest), and death.

Prolonged use often results in dangerous health complications such as collapsed veins, punctured tissue due to improper injection methods, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS infection risk, and death from overdose. Furthermore, the drug has far-reaching effects on our society, as regular users of heroin often engage in criminal activities.

MDMA vs. Heroin: Can You Withdrawal for Either? 

Yes, withdrawal from both MDMA and Heroin is possible, as both drugs can cause physical dependence. While getting off MDMA one can experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and irritability. These symptoms can last for several days to a few weeks, and in some cases, they can be severe and difficult to manage. 

Withdrawal from Heroin, on the other hand, can cause symptoms such as muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps, and involuntary leg movements. The symptoms are relatively extreme and can last for over a month.  In some cases, these symptoms can also prove to be life-threatening.

It’s important to note that the severity of the withdrawal symptoms will depend on several factors, including the individual’s level of physical dependence, the duration of use, and the dosage. It’s important to seek professional help to manage withdrawal symptoms, as they are not easy to manage on your own. 

Heroin vs MDMA: Prevalence in the United States

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in 2018, about 15,000 people died from a heroin overdose in the United States. This number has been estimated to increase to 75,653 by April 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Although the number of deaths caused by the use of MDMA is significantly lower than heroin, the widespread use of the drug among teens is alarmingly high. In 2019, about 467,000 people aged 12 or older had an MDMA use disorder in the past year, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Moreover, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the number of emergency department (ED) visits involving MDMA has been increasing in recent years. According to NIDA, there were 22,498 ED visits related to MDMA in 2011, and the number increased to 33,115 in 2018.

One of the main reasons for such a high number of ER visits caused by an MDMA overdose is a result of mixing the substance with other drugs like alcohol, opioids, meth, etc.

Bottom Line: Heroin versus MDMA

In conclusion, Heroin and MDMA are two very different drugs with vastly different chemical makeup, effects, and risks. Heroin is an opioid that is highly addictive and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, while MDMA is a stimulant that causes more mild withdrawal symptoms. 

Both drugs can have serious negative effects on physical and mental health, and both have the potential to cause addiction. It’s important for individuals to understand the risks associated with these drugs, and to seek professional help if they are struggling with substance use disorder. With the right support and resources, it is possible to quit and overcome addiction to both Heroin and MDMA. 

FAQs on MDMA and Heroin 

Heroin vs MDMA: which is more addicting?

Heroin is more addictive than MDMA.

Can you get addicted to MDMA?

Yes, you can get addicted to MDMA, due to the euphoric and psychedelic effects caused by the drug. Although the tendency of MDMA to cause addiction is relatively less than other drugs like alcohol, cocaine, opioids, etc.

Heroin vs MDMA: Which has more severe withdrawal symptoms?

Heroin 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.