This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Ecstasy is a lot stronger than it used to be. This means two things. One: Your uncle with the earring and the vinyl collection is wrong about pills being "better" in his day; two: The drug is now more dangerous than ever. Ecstasy researchers say an "acceptable" dose for an average-sized adult during one session is around 70 to 75mg of MDMA. These days, drugs testing organization The Loop regularly finds pills containing up to 250mg of the drug.
Putting something in your body that's going to make your heart beat double-time is never going to be 100 percent safe, but there are ways to mitigate the risks: if you can, test your drugs to find out the purity, and always start with half—or, even better, a quarter—of a pill and wait until you come up before re-dosing. You can find more practical and honest advice on that here.
Of course, this all makes ecstasy sound like a total drag, which it's not; people take it because it makes them feel good. But it's also important to recognize that you don't always get what you're hoping for.
Despite it being a good seven years since I first did MDMA, my worst experience with it came recently. Sure, I'd had the grim "do too much, get a great high that you try and fail to sustain and end up projectile vomiting all day long" a few times. I'm also someone who comes down very hard, and that almost always involves vomit anyway. But the worst time was at the Glastonbury music festival this year, mainly because it felt so fucking unjust.
I'd picked up a couple of grams of "MDMA" from a dealer I'd never used before. One night, doing pills and gumming it, I was getting ridiculously wired but not coming up at all. Because I'm an impatient toddler I kept going into the scummy portable toilets to snort it (I know, I know—terrible idea which you absolutely shouldn't do.) Soon, I'd done nearly all of it. On the way back to the tent I came down like my soul was being sucked out of my asshole. I got my friend to blow cigarette smoke in my mouth, because it was making me heave, and then finally it all came out—tons and tons and tons of sick outside The Other Stage, while [my friends] kept their backs turned to me, saying encouraging things like, "Aww, you alright babes."
Either (and all of these are plausible, to be fair): a) what I was doing was just speed; b) it was MDMA but cut with a huge amount of crap; c) I am so depleted of serotonin in my normal state that no high was to be had. I do feel like if it had been normal MDMA, though, I'd know what I was doing—so the moral of the story is: How can one know how to dose when you have no idea what you're jamming up your horrible bleeding nose while knee-deep in pissy toilet roll?
When I was 19 I went to a house party and double dropped a couple of pink pills like a fucking idiot. Luckily, this was around 2009, when ecstasy in the UK was incredibly weak, and in some cases, didn't contain any MDMA at all. But it still didn't stop me from puking up instantly and then constantly for about two hours. In fact, thinking about it, it might have been something else in there entirely, because I wasn't throwing up from coming up; I was just puking because I uncontrollably needed to puke.
Again, like a fucking idiot, I went off into a bush to throw up because there was a girl at the party I liked and I was embarrassed. Luckily, one of my friends came and found me, gave me water and called an ambulance, because otherwise, I would have just stayed there, and who knows what would have happened.
A friend of mine shit himself in Manchester, England after taking a pill. His friends undressed him in the bathroom, washed his jeans in the sink, then put them in the bathroom hand dryer. Of course, the wet pants then whipped around in the slipstream and flicked fecal water over everyone. Then they put all their coats on him and put him outside in the freezing cold, and stayed inside for four more hours. He was fine afterwards, just embarrassed and still covered in shit.
WATCH: The Truth About Ecstasy
Is there anything worse on this good earth than doing drugs with friends who are doing drugs for the first time? No. There is not. In this particular instance, the drug of choice was MDMA and the friends, bless them, were not the sort of people with constitutions that naturally lent themselves to taking a shit load of uppers in a warehouse which had girls positioned by the bathroom doors offering to spray your wrists with "perfume."
To say I felt "responsible" for them would be inaccurate, because if I had any grasp at all of "responsibility" I would not have been taking MDMA—which I bought off someone who had graduated from the same college course as me three years prior and was then enjoying a lucrative alumni career as the campus drug dealer—at a disgusting rave in the first place. You know those ones where there are a lot of bright baggy pants involved, people on acid congregating outside around a trash can on fire and someone doing face painting in exchange for drugs? It was one of those parties.
Anyway, I suppose my awareness of my friends' certain discomfort made it almost impossible for me to let myself "go" properly, which I was annoyed myself about but chose to blame it on weak MDMA. So I did a shit ton more, also started drinking, and the next thing I remember is it being daytime and I am shivering in the fetal position outside of a train station with 911 on speed dial while a girl I'd never met before is sitting beside me snorting ketamine off a mirror.
That terminated my relationship with MDMA, but I'm pleased to confirm the friendships remain in tact.
Wouldn't say this was a bad experience, but a friend and I decided to stay in and take MDMA with very little else planned. We both took pills, and afterward I complained how long it would take me to come-up, as it normally takes me hours longer than the people I'm with. About 12 seconds later, I had to run to the toilet, where I proceeded to vomit everywhere. I was extremely high straight afterward, jaw rolling around like a tumble dryer. My friend laughed at me for my hubris until, 12 seconds later, she had to make a similar dash to the toilet where she almost vomited profusely. It was great after that.
A few years ago, my friend and I drove down to Brighton from London to meet up with some old friends for a night out. We didn't get there until super late, by which time everyone had already been getting high in preparation of going out, so they plied us with drugs as soon as we arrived because they were so keen to leave. Anyway, I did a line of MDMA and, stupidly, took a pill, and we left right after to walk the whole way down. We paced it the entire way, and literally as we arrived at the back of the line I felt this terrible lurching in my guts, and vomit came up stronger than I ever had or have since.
The next hour is a bit of a blur, but my friends tell me I was keeled over in the mud, next a big line of people, absolutely chewing my own face off and just dry-heaving and being a horrible mess. Moral of the story: If you're going to take ecstasy, be responsible.