Water when on ecstasy?

Originally Published: June 11, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 7, 2010
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Dear Alice,

I read your response to Ecstasy drain spinal fluid? in the archive, and you advised to drink water and not overheat while on ecstasy... Isn't there a danger in drinking liquid while "high" because of fluid retention that is caused by ecstasy?

Well, that's all...

Dear Well, that's all...,

There is no evidence thus far to suggest that ecstasy causes fluid retention. In fact, the opposite is true. Ecstasy is often used by club and partygoers intent on dancing the night away; as they boogie, they often lose track of time. This high level of physical activity while using ecstasy often leads to dehydration, since users might not drink enough water at regular intervals. In some cases, the dehydration has been severe, causing muscle meltdown, kidney failure, and even death. In addition, doctors have seen cases of hyperthermia, caused when the body overheats. If ecstasy users don't consume enough water, yet continue to exert themselves while dancing, they might not sweat as they need to. Without sweat, the body temperature can steadily increase, sometimes rising dangerously.

The effect you are referring to is something that some users warn their friends against — stating that they followed advice, drank lots of water, and suffered an adverse reaction. There have been cases in which ecstasy users drank too much water while on the drug, causing lower than normal sodium levels in the blood. This condition, called hyponatremia, can cause the brain to swell. Sipping, not gulping, water at least once or twice an hour when on ecstasy and the dance floor can minimize this risk.

Also keep in mind that mixing ecstasy with alcoholic drinks could have a negative impact. One reason is that alcohol causes dehydration, too. Another is that combining the two can produce unpredictable effects, including dangerous changes in heart rate and blood pressure. Ecstasy on its own causes a marked increase in these two vital functions. The data collected so far indicates that serious health problems related to ecstasy use are usually associated with mixing it with alcohol and/or other drugs. As with all drugs, whether they be prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal, combining different substances increases the likelihood of unexpected, unpleasant, and possibly life-threatening effects.