Ecstasy Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Ecstasy is a powerful “club drug” that affects mood, behavior, and pleasure centers in the brain. The psychological effects of an ecstasy addiction can be severe, and effective treatment options may include behavioral therapy and support groups.

What Is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is another name for MDMA, which is short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Also called Molly, ecstasy is an illicit, synthetic drug, meaning it’s illegally manufactured in a lab.

Ecstasy produces similar effects to stimulants and hallucinogens, like cocaine and LSD. These effects create feelings of pleasure, energy, and emotional warmth in an individual. Ecstasy also distorts perception (how people view things around them) and time.

Generally taken in tablet or pill form, ecstasy can also be crushed and snorted. For decades, ecstasy was popular in the nightclub scene, but it has since found its way into various populations, including high school and college students.

Determined as a Schedule I substance by the U.S. Government, ecstasy is defined as having no medicinal benefits and a high potential for abuse and addiction. However, research is being conducted to see if there are any medical benefits of MDMA, especially for those with PTSD and other mental health issues.

MDMA, or ecstasy, addiction is possible because of how the drug interacts with a person’s brain. By affecting three different neurotransmitters (or communication pathways) in the brain, ecstasy affects mood, pleasure, physical movement, and sensory experience. It also increases body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.

The effects of ecstasy last three to six hours and may cause severe hangover-like symptoms after use. It’s common for people on ecstasy to take another pill before the initial effects wear off, so they can continue the feelings of pleasure and high energy and avoid the “crash.”

With prolonged access to the drug, people are likely to develop an ecstasy addiction after continued use. Once a person abuses ecstasy they may show various signs and symptoms of addiction.

Signs And Symptoms Of Ecstasy Addiction

Using ecstasy, and developing an ecstasy addiction, may cause certain observable effects in a person. Some of these effects include:

  • increased euphoria
  • high or unusual energy
  • distorted sensory perception
  • empathy towards others
  • enhanced sense of well-being
  • involuntary clenching or grinding of teeth
  • high body temperature
  • lowered inhibitions (lacking awareness of social boundaries)

These effects will occur while the person is on ecstasy and are likely to last for several hours with each dose.

An ecstasy addiction is also likely to cause symptoms, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, faintness, chills, and sweating.

A person using ecstasy regularly will also show signs of typical drug-seeking behavior. This can include compulsively using the drug, impaired thinking or judgment relating to ecstasy, craving the drug, and continuing to use it despite harm.

Due to how ecstasy interacts with the brain and body, there are several inherent risks that can cause adverse health effects. An ecstasy addiction is likely to increase these risks, making every dosage of MDMA extremely dangerous to a person’s physical and psychological health.

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Dangers Of Ecstasy Addiction

MDMA can cause serious health risks during each use, with increased dangers for people suffering from an ecstasy addiction. Although fatal overdoses are rare, people can die as a result of ecstasy use.

Using ecstasy can cause hypertension or dangerously high blood pressure. What’s more, ecstasy is commonly used in hot environments with increased physical activity, like nightclubs or parties. This can potentially cause a dangerous effect called hyperthermia, which is a severe rise in body temperature.

Due to the euphoric effects of ecstasy, people may not realize their increase in body temperature; failing to seek immediate medical attention may result in brain-swelling, which can be fatal.

Other adverse health issues relating to ecstasy use include inefficient pumping of the heart, lack of appetite, severe jaw clenching, restless legs, hot flashes, and depersonalization, or a detachment or removal from one’s personality.

Studies show people using ecstasy are also likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, increasing the chances of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Another danger of ecstasy addiction includes the effects of the drug after a few hours. Ecstasy produces an extreme disadvantage for predicting motion and movement, making driving unsafe.

A person suffering from an ecstasy addiction is subjected to a host of dangers, including each time they purchase ecstasy off the street. Many of the pills sold as ecstasy may contain other drugs instead of MDMA, or in addition to it. Ecstasy has been known to contain cocaine, methamphetamine, cough medicine, ketamine, and synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”).

This adds risks for a person because they don’t know what they are taking, and many of these drugs can be dangerous when mixed with MDMA.

Ecstasy addiction is likely to cause major changes in the brain and body, and regular use may cause uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal.

Ecstasy Withdrawal And Detox

Like other addictive drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, ecstasy targets the same parts of the brain that trigger dependence, or a physical or psychological need to take the drug. Researchers are currently working hard to figure out the specifics of an ecstasy addiction, but they have already found that regular use of ecstasy will likely lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Once regular use of the drug is stopped, a person is likely to experience the following symptoms of withdrawal:

  • aggression
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • impulsiveness
  • loss of appetite
  • memory problems
  • sleep problems
  • trouble thinking and concentrating

These symptoms may occur hours after the effects wear off and can last for up to a week. People who use ecstasy also report a “crash” when the euphoric effects begin to dissipate, often turning to other substances like marijuana and alcohol to sustain the effects.

The psychological effects of ecstasy withdrawal can severely affect a person’s mood and behavior. Over time, regular use of the drug changes the person’s reward center in the brain, and not having it is likely to cause a lack of motivation, energy, and desire to connect with others.

For extreme cases of ecstasy addiction, a medically-supervised detoxification program, or detox, may help with the psychological symptoms of withdrawal. Medically-supervised detox programs occur in a medical setting, like a hospital or inpatient treatment center, where professionals can carefully monitor symptoms and provide a supportive environment.

A medically-supervised detoxification program is only the first step in treating an ecstasy addiction, and different therapies and treatments should follow to help with the long-term cycle of addiction and abuse.

Treatment Options For Ecstasy Addiction

While there are plenty of treatment options available for ecstasy addiction, there is no one specific method of treatment that will work for everyone. However, different behavioral therapies at inpatient treatment centers are likely the best course of action for healing and recovery.

Behavioral therapies aim to change a person’s thinking and attitudes towards drugs. This is useful for a drug like ecstasy because once addicted, a person may feel like taking ecstasy is the only way to feel good. Behavioral therapy can help a person realize there is more to life, and being happy than taking drugs.

A crucial part of treatment for ecstasy addiction is teaching a person the necessary skills and tools to stay sober after leaving the facility. Behavioral therapies will work with an individual’s specific needs and preferences to provide mechanisms to cope with life stressors and situations that may lead to relapse.

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that requires active treatment and therapy. Inpatient treatment centers are likely to provide the consistent monitoring and care needed to overcome an ecstasy addiction.

Inpatient treatment centers are also likely to provide support groups where a person can share and listen to intimate stories of addiction and abuse. Combined with behavioral therapy, support groups are very effective in promoting long-term recovery.

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Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse — Drug Facts – MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly), MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse: What are the effects of MDMA?
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens — MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

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