What Are Tesla Pills?

Tesla Pills have recently attracted attention as a potent form of ecstasy pills, stamped with the Tesla logo. These pills come with notable risk and short and long term impacts. This blog post examines what these pills are, what their risks are, both short and long term, focusing on recent research. We also examine the recent use of ecstasy in medicine and its applications
Natasha Puttick

Natasha Puttick

Graduate medical student at Barts and London.

A blue image with text saying "Tesla Pills?"

What are Tesla Pills?

Tesla Pills are a potent form of ecstasy pill also known as MDMA, short for 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. This is an amphetamine analogue that is often used for its psychological effects such as an enhanced mood due to a rapid increase in the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline [1]. Its use is commonly associated with parties, night clubs and festivals due to its mood altering effects. The name ‘Tesla Pills’ derives from their appearance. Producers of these drugs, as a form of marketing or recognition, will often put well-known or popular brand logos on the pill to increase their use. For example, ‘Mitsubishi’ was one of the most common ecstasy pills found in the eighties or nineties [2]. However, as we will go on to discuss, this branding in now way is an indication of the drugs safety or testing, and anyone who chooses to use illegal drugs should be extremely careful of the risks involved.

What are the risks of Tesla Pills?

Tesla pills have been associated with multiple risks including hospitalisation and death. In recent years numerous sites promoting safe drug use have published advisories warning users about hospitalisations and death caused by taking similar ‘branded’ pills. For example, drug safety testing non-profit the Loop, warned that orange Tesla pills contained almost twice the standard amount of active MDMA [2]. Similarly pink ‘mastercard’ pills were linked to the death of a 17-year old girl due to an adverse reaction [3], and ‘snapchat’ pills to a number of hospitalisations in Australia [4].

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Short term risks of taking ecstasy

In addition to these effects because use of ecstasy can promote feelings of empathy, closeness and increase sexual desire it may lead to unsafe sexual practices possibly increasing the risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Short term health risks associated with taking ecstasy include nausea, blurred vision, chills, muscle cramping, hyperthermia and sweating and involuntary clenching of your teeth [1]. Further possible side effects include a rash that looks like acne developing after taking it. This side effect has been linked to severe negative health impacts such as liver damage if it is continued to be taken. Possible damage to your serotonin neurons may also occur, though studies are conflicting in their conclusions of use of MDMA and its impacts on memory and cognition.

Long term risks of taking ecstasy

The long term risks of taking ecstasy include an affected serotonergic system and other physiological changes. However,, there are fewer studies on the long term effects of taking ecstasy. A study published in 2000 examined the literature on the long term effects of recreationally using ecstasy [5]. This review found in both human and animal studies that taking MDMA negatively impacts the serotonergic systems such as changes in verbal, visual, memory and recognition abilities. Chronic use has even been suggested to cause psychosis. Since then, only a few studies have explored the effects the chronic long-term use of MDMA and many of these have been animal rather than human studies, limiting their value without doing further study.

Use of ecstasy in Medicine

Ecstasy has been discussed recently for its use in medicine as a possible treatment option for depression, severe PTSD and anxiety. There is conflicting evidence about whether it could be a treatment for depression and anxiety or whether it could be a cause. However, the answer often isn't that clear, particularly as when MDMA is purchased illegally it is often mixed with other drugs or substances. In a 2015 study, the authors noted that MDMA is being considered as a possible treatment option for depression due to its rapid action compared to current medication options. Other studies examined the potential for treating anxiety, for example in social situations for autistic adults [1]. Nonetheless this was a very small study and much more data is needed to fully understand the possible impacts of its use. One important point to note is that the illegal version of this drug will be very different to the one used in research studies. Don’t take MDMA or any other illegal drugs to self-treat any condition as these drugs aren’t regulated and could have severe unintended complications. Please talk to your doctor about treatment options that could work for you.

Natasha Puttick

Natasha Puttick

Natasha is a medical student at Barts and the London school of Medicine and Dentistry, with an interest in the social determinants of health. She graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in Human Sciences and has obtained two publications. Her most recent work investigating clinical vaccine trials has been published in BMJ Public Health.