All rights reserved
MDMA afterglow
May 11, 2023

MDMA and the “Afterglow Effect”

Disclaimer | In Crisis?

In Crisis?

If you are in crisis or contemplating self-harm or suicide, please call 988 or visit 988Lifeline.org, which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24/7 in the United States. An extensive list of International suicide prevention hotlines can be found there. Remember: You are needed, you deserve to be here, and you are not alone. Reach out, and do not give up.

Having a Challenging Trip?

If you are experiencing a difficult psychedelic event, or still need help processing one, call or text 62-FIRESIDE. The Fireside Project offers free emotional support during or after a psychedelic experience. You can also download their app. Their services are completely confidential, and their staff is rigorously trained, compassionate, and knowledgeable regarding psychedelics. You can also contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 622-HELP (4357). Their confidential helpline is available 24/7 in English and Spanish for individuals and family members experiencing emotional distress or crisis.

Additional support resources can be found in the Zendo Project directory. The Zendo Project was founded in partnership with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. Their extensive list of harm reduction resources, emotional support services, and peer support hotlines offer a vast array of tools to help you move through a challenging experience and come out the other side feeling empowered and secure.

Having a Medical Emergency?

If you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency and require immediate attention, please dial 911 (USA) immediately.

Are You a Veteran Having a Medical Emergency?

If you are a veteran experiencing a difficult trip or crisis, please contact (800) 273-8255 and Press 1. This will connect you to the Veteran Crisis Line. Their hotline is staffed by experienced personnel, many of whom are also veterans. A trained responder will answer your call 24/7 to help you through a crisis, anxiety, or thoughts of self-harm.

Emotional and Crisis Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community may face unique and difficult situations during a challenging psychedelic experience. If you need emotional or crisis support, dial (888) 688-5428 or visit LGBThotline.org. Their hotline is designed for people of all ages and staffed by a dedicated team of highly trained volunteers from all parts of the LGBT+ community. They also offer a dedicated line for LGBT+ seniors that you can reach at (888) 234-7243.

Be Wary of Fentanyl-Contaminated Drugs.

The United States is experiencing a synthetic opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives due to street drugs being adulterated with other drugs, such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is an incredibly powerful and deadly narcotic, with doses as low as two milligrams (a dose so small it could fit on the tip of a pencil) being potentially deadly. While it is never recommended to consume any illicit substances, it is critical that you or the people you know test any drugs you may ingest for fentanyl. Several non-profit harm reduction organizations, such as DanceSafe, offer fentanyl testing strips and at-home drug testing kits.

Medical Disclaimer

The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Some individuals with preexisting mental health conditions should not use psychedelics. Always consult with a trained medical professional about your specific healthcare needs.

Are Psychedelics Legal?

Most classical and non-classical psychedelic drugs are prohibited in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This family of chemical compounds are considered Schedule I drugs, the most tightly controlled and generally illegal class. This includes psilocybin (aka Magic Mushrooms), Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Ayahuasca, Ibogaine, Peyote, 2C-B, Cannabis, and others. Ketamine is also controlled under the same act and listed as a Schedule III drug. Due to the illegal or controlled nature of these drugs, it is not advised that you attempt to purchase, source, or otherwise possess any Scheduled substances, as you may be at risk of civil and criminal penalties.

Legal Disclaimer

The information provided on this website is intended for informational and harm reduction purposes only and does not constitute medical or legal advice. Nor is this information, or any journalistic stories, anecdotes, visual or artistic material intended as a replacement or supplement for medical or legal advice. It is important to understand that using any psychedelic compounds from the streets has significant risks and is unlikely to produce the promising results emerging in some clinical trials which involve particular dosing and purity, along with specific, carefully crafted psychotherapy in a safe, controlled environment. Various psychedelics purchased illegally often are adulterated with other, possibly harmful substances, making it difficult and not advisable to self-medicate for PTSD, anxiety, depression, or for the treatment of other mental health issues.

Have you ever had a wonderful weekend enjoying a little MDMA, and despite all of the warnings, you never got the “blues?” Perhaps, instead of feeling down, you felt wonderful. You had a spring in your step, and a song in your heart, and all was right in the world. Maybe this feeling lasted a few days after you had your Molly? If this is the case, you’ve probably experienced a phenomenon known as the “afterglow effect.” This is when you have a post-comedown feeling of euphoria, joy, happiness, or contentment for one or more days after you’ve finished an MDMA trip.(1, 2)

Theories about why some people experience an afterglow abound, and we don’t have any definitive answers. A few of the most prominent ideas range from the lingering presence of metabolites like 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine (HMMA), or the mood-boosting impact of hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin. There is also some evidence to suggest that the transformative power of the MDMA experience itself may be at the heart of the “afterglow.”(1, 2, 3, 4)

mdma dance party

Some other theories include the prosocial effect of MDMA, lingering joy from the MDMA experience, and positive mood changes from spending time with loved ones. One study even suggests that the afterglow effect really should be more common than the dreaded “Tuesday blues” and that most of the negative effects of the MDMA come down/”hangover” can be attributed to a lack of sleep, excessive physical activity (e.g., dancing too much), combining MDMA with other drugs like alcohol, or contamination from other drugs such as methamphetamine or synthetic opioids. Unfortunately, the afterglow is not well-researched at present, but that is changing.(5)

The Release of Oxytocin and Vasopressin

One possible explanation for the afterglow involves the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, two hormones that play a significant role in social bonding and attachment. MDMA increases the release of both hormones, potentially contributing to the drug’s prosocial effects.(1)

Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone” because of its involvement in social attachment, trust, and empathy. MDMA has been associated with an uptick in oxytocin levels in the brain. This increase is thought to be one of the reasons behind the heightened sense of connectedness and emotional openness that MDMA users often report experiencing.(1)

Vasopressin, another hormone, is also involved in social behavior, memory, and emotional regulation. Similar to oxytocin, MDMA temporarily raises vasopressin levels in humans. However, the direct effects of vasopressin on the MDMA experience are not as well understood as those of oxytocin. What we do know is that vasopressin may help us form long-term bonds. Some studies have also shown that it could assist with the recognition of family or other group members. This, in turn, might help establish trust and bond-building.(1,6)

The afterglow could result from these hormones’ lingering effects on the brain, enhancing social connections and feelings of emotional warmth for an extended period after the drug’s use. This theory may also help explain why individuals with stronger social bonds may experience a more intense afterglow, as they may have higher baseline levels of oxytocin and vasopressin. Again, this needs to be fully understood, and more research is needed.

The Power of Transformative Experiences

Another possibility comes from the lingering and positive impact of transformative experiences. While not directly connected to MDMA, research has shown that psychedelics (MDMA is considered a non-classical psychedelic) can cause a transformative experience. This is where an individual undergoes something powerful and impactful that causes a serious, usually positive, effect on their sense of self, long-term outlooks on life, or well-being.(4)

mdma better me

The after-effects of this transformative experience can last for weeks or months. Some research shows that this coincides with what we think of as the typical “afterglow experience,” meaning that individuals have increased feelings of thankfulness, positivity, elevated moods, and even reduced anxiety. They may also feel that they have stronger relationships with friends and loved ones. Some studies go so far as to indicate that this could last for years. A follow-up study to Pahnke’s famed Good Friday Experiment found that some participants reported positive effects from their psychedelic experience up to 25 years after the original study. Pahnke’s experiment was intended to explore the entheogenic properties of psilocybin and found that it could trigger powerful mystical experiences. This follow-up, conducted in 2008 by Rolland R. Griffiths, showed that individuals who underwent a psilocybin-induced mystical experience reported lasting, positive changes up to 14 months after the event.(7, 8)

mdma afterglow chapel

Unfortunately, a similar study has yet to be conducted with MDMA. However, MAPS recently published their long-term follow-up study results from six pooled Phase II clinical trials examining MDMA as a treatment option for PTSD. This study found that most participants in the original Phase II trials continued to feel positive effects for several months after the clinical trials’ conclusion. Even more impressive, most participants showed a clinically significant reduction in PTSD symptoms.(9)

The MDMA afterglow is one of the most interesting knock-on effects of MDMA usage. While we don’t fully understand it or why some people experience an afterglow, and others do not, it’s certainly a topic that deserves more attention and better research. As we continue to delve into the many secrets still held by psychedelics, we can look forward to a future where we understand how to take advantage of the “afterglow” and what, if any, impact it could have on well-being and the promotion of deeper human connection.

This material is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any legal or medical advice. Always consult a medical professional about your health needs. Psychedelics are widely illegal in the United States, and readers should always be informed about local, state, and federal regulations regarding psychedelics or other drugs.

  1. Freye, E. (1970, January 1). Pharmacological effects of MDMA in man. SpringerLink. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-90-481-2448-0_24 
  2. Majic, T., & Schmidt, T. T. (2015, February). Peak experiences and the afterglow phenomenon: When and how do therapeutic effects of hallucinogens depend on psychedelic experiences? Journal of Psychopharmacology. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Timo-Schmidt/publication/272164172_Peak_experiences_and_the_afterglow_phenomenon_When_and_how_do_therapeutic_effects_of_hallucinogens_depend_on_psychedelic_experiences/links/566b28b808ae1a797e39ceaa/Peak-experiences-and-the-afterglow-phenomenon-When-and-how-do-therapeutic-effects-of-hallucinogens-depend-on-psychedelic-experiences.pdf 
  3. Kuwayama, K., Tsujikawa, K., Miyaguchi, H., Kanamori, T., Iwata, Y. T., & Inoue, H. (2009, June 1). Determination of 4-hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine as a metabolite of methamphetamine in rats and human liver microsomes using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. OUP Academic. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://academic.oup.com/jat/article/33/5/266/753705 
  4. Forstmann, M., Yudkin, D. A., & Crockett, M. J. (2019, December 17). Transformative experience and social connectedness mediate the mood-enhancing effects of psychedelic use in naturalistic settings. Psychological and Cognitive Sciences. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1918477117
  5. Sessa, B., Aday, J. S., & Nutt, D. J. (2021, December 13). Debunking the myth of ‘Blue Mondays’: No evidence of affect drop after taking clinical MDMA. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/02698811211055809?journalCode=jopa 
  6. Cuzzo, B., Padala, S. A., & Lappin, S. L. (2022, April 22). Physiology, vasopressin – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. STATPEARLS. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526069/  
  7. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Substances (MAPS, 2016): Pahnke’s ‘Good Friday Experiment’: A Long-Term Follow-Up and Methodological Critique. https://maps.org/2006/11/13/good-friday-drugs-mysticism/ 
  8. Griffiths, R., Richards, W., Johnson, M., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2008, August). Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050654/ 
  9. Jerome, L., Feduccia, A. A., Wang, J. B., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., Mithoefer, M. C., & Doblin, R. (2020, August). Long-term follow-up outcomes of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD: A longitudinal pooled analysis of six phase 2 trials. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7351848/ 
    • Mattha Busby

    Understanding Shamanism: The Origins of Counterculture’s Most Misused Word

    Shamanism is one of the most common terms used in the psychedelic community. But what does it mean to be a shaman, and who can become one? Mattha Busby explores how the psychedelic community has been misusing “shaman,” and explains the origins of the word.
    • Zoe Cormier
    psychedelic integration with Dr. Rosalind Watts banner

    How Dr. Rosalind Watts is Bringing Integration into The Psychedelic Renaissance

    Follow-up care and integration are essential parts of the psychedelic experience. So why don’t we talk about them more? Dr. Rosalind Watts is on a mission to change that. Read more about how she plans to bring integration to the forefront of the psychedelic field.
    • Dr. Aidan Lyon
    psychedelics, meditation and overstimulation banner

    Modern Tech Giving You the Overstimulation Blues? Why Combining Meditation with Psychedelics May Help

    How can we deal with modern overstimulation? Psychedelics and meditation may be the key. Philosopher Dr. Aidan Lyon details how and why.
    • David Hillier
    psychedelic decriminalization banner

    Down The Rabbit Hole: How a Psychedelic Rabbi Became Lost in The Maze of U.S. Drug Laws

    What happens when a psychedelic Rabbi runs afoul of America’s mind-bogglingly intricate web of psychedelic regulation? David Hillier takes you on an odyssey of discovery to untangle the web of U.S. drug laws, while also helping you learn about the many potential paths to psychedelic legalization and telling an exciting tale of one rabbi’s run-in with the law.
    • Jamie Peck
    fentanyl vs mag mushrooms banner

    Fentanyl vs Magic Mushrooms: 150 vs 0 Dead a Day ― A Tale of Two “Drugs”

    Why has the United States government spent billions on prohibitive measures against psychedelics and cannabis, while opioids killed roughly 80,000 of your neighbors in a year? In her deep-dive article, Jamie Peck shows you the massive discrepancy between the dangers and costs to society of magic mushrooms versus the very real epidemic brought to America by opioids and opiates like Fentanyl.
    • David Hillier
    10 Tips Positive Psychedelic Experience banner

    Set, Setting, and Safety: 10 Tips for a Positive Psychedelic Experience

    Science writer David Hillier interviews key experts on how to have a safe and enjoyable psychedelic experience. They take you through dosing, set and setting, safety measures, and more.
    • Nick Hilden
    DMT and Entities with Rick Strassman

    Does the Spirit Molecule, DMT, Drive Our Sense of Reality? We Talk with Expert Dr. Rick Strassman

    Join psychedelic science writer Nick Hilden and leading DMT researcher Dr. Rick Strassman for a weird, wonderful, and informative conversation about DMT, and the many entities that users claim to meet during the psychedelic experience. Read about Nick’s personal tales of far-out elder gods, DMT creatures, and a surprising encounter with an aspect of femininity.
    • Nick Hilden
    The Rise of Psychedelic Tourism

    The Rise of Psychedelic Tourism: How Psychedelic Companies Can Deliver Exceptional Experiences

    Psychedelic therapy retreats are seemingly everywhere today, from the news to celebrity social media posts. But what do you need to know about the psychedelic tourism industry? Nick Hilden speaks with experts like MycoMeditations CEO Justin Townsend to answer your questions.
    • David Connell
    The Secret History of Psychedelics in the Military

    The Secret History of MK-Ultra and Psychedelics in the Military – Weird Warfare Part 1

    From MK-Ultra to Operation Delirium, take a trip into the weird history of secret CIA mind control experiments utilizing LSD and other psychedelics for warfare, mind control, and interrogation.
    • Kim Taylor-Foster
    Marvel Writers inspired by LSD with Doctor Strange banner

    Strange Origins, How Marvel Was Inspired By LSD―Doctor Strange Writer Steve Englehart Speaks

    Dr. Strange just got stranger. Comic writer Steve Englehart dives into the psychedelic origins of the “Sorcerer Supreme,” how psychedelics inspired Marvel’s heyday and today’s MCU, and the manifold mysteries that psychedelics could hold for humanity.
    • Madison Margolin
    LSD paradox banner

    Heaven or Hell?: The LSD Paradox

    LSD is one of the most mysterious substances ever created – and one of the most feared. Madison Margolin dispels many of the myths and misconceptions surrounding LSD, while making a case for why we should be learning more about the “Grandfather of Psychedelics.”
    • Madison Margolin
    Ego Death

    Tripping Through the Underworld: Could Psychedelics Help Us Understand Death?

    What can the psychedelics teach us about death, the afterlife, and the dissolution of the self? Ride along while Madison Margolin takes you on a psychedelic-fueled journey through the many aspects of death: fear of dying, letting go of the ego, and, perhaps, a glimpse of what comes after we’re gone.
    • Charley Wininger
    MDMA love drug

    The “Love Drug” MDMA Might Just Save Your Relationship

    Could MDMA be the solution to relationship problems? Charley Wininger, LP, LMHC and Author of “Listening to Ecstasy: The Transformative Power of MDMA,” talks about one couple’s successful use of the “Love Drug,” as a bolster to couples therapy. He also details how your relationship may benefit from a MDMA-inspired “chemical vacation.”
    • Nick Hilden
    Alex Grey psychedelic art

    Psychedelic Art Legend Alex Grey Reveals His Favorite Artists and Shares How to Return to a “State of Wonder”

    Legendary psychedelic artist Alex Grey speaks with science writer Nick Hilden about how psychedelics saved his life and inspired him to create stunning works of visual genius.
    • Zoe Cormier
    microdosing and psychedelic microdose banner

    The Two Sides of Microdosing: Medical Marvel or Psychedelic Placebo?

    Explore the science of microdosing psychedelics with Zoe Cormier and a range of experts in the field. Paul Stamets, Dr. David Erritzoe, and Rotem Petranker all weigh in on the how and why microdosing has captured the attention of the scientific and psychedelic communities. Zoe also shares a deeply personal story about her late mother, and how she used psychedelics to cope with end-of-life anxiety.
    • Mattha Busby
    good part of a bad psychedelic trip banner

    The Good Part of a “Bad Psychedelic Trip”

    What, if anything, can you take away from a Bad Trip? Mattha Busby examines what we can gain from “bad” (read: challenging) psychedelic experiences.
    • David Connell
    Psychedelic trip in the media movie

    Top Ten Most Realistic Depictions of a Psychedelic Trip In Movies

    There’s something unique and often indescribable about a psychedelic trip. If you’re looking to share some of what the experience is like with those who have not journeyed, here are some films that may help.
    • David Connell
    Alexander Shulgin and Anne shulgin looking at each other Illustration

    2C-B, the Forgotten Psychedelic: Understanding the “Love Child” of Alexander and Ann Shulgin

    Why isn’t 2C-B more well-known? And what can this fascinating compound teach us about the future of psychedelics?
    • David Connell
    Jaguars, Dolphins, and Elephants enjoy a good high

    Jaguars, Dolphins, and Elephants, Oh My: Animals That Enjoy a Good High

    Did you know that animals enjoy psychedelics as much as humans do? Jaguars eat ayahuasca, dolphins get high on pufferfish venom, and elephants enjoy a little booze from time to time.
    • David Connell
    Psychedelics in military part 2

    History of Psychedelics and the Military Part 2: What You May Not Know About Veterans with PTSD

    Two veterans share their experiences using MDMA and Psilocybin as alternative treatments for PTSD and depression.
    • David Connell
    Tripping Through Time

    Tripping Through Time: Psychedelic Art Throughout the Ages

    How much of human art has been inspired by psychedelics? We explore psychedelic art through the ages, and humanity’s relationship with these mysterious substances.
    • David Connell
    Psychedelics in military part 3

    History of Psychedelics and The Military Part 3: How Israelis and Palestinians Were Brought Together by Ayahuasca

    Could psychedelics be the key to ending conflict? We examine how one study with Israeli and Palestinian ayahuasca groups may help us with “tripping away from war.”
    • David Connell
    Ego Death

    Psychedelic Ego Death: What is Ego Death and How Can It Help Us to Heal?

    What is ego death? We decipher the mysteries of ego dissolution and what benefits the loss of self may have for mental health.