Ecstasy Abuse

Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, molly, and ecstasy, is drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that many people abuse while at parties or clubs. Unfortunately, like most other drugs of abuse, ecstasy can be addictive. This is why it is extremely important to seek treatment if you or someone you love has been abusing this substance.

Understanding Ecstasy Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, ecstasy is “a man-made drug that produces energizing effects similar to the stimulant class amphetamines as well as psychedelic effects, similar to the hallucinogen mescaline.” It is often used by those hoping to enhance the experience of partying, clubbing, or going to a concert, as well as by those who want to experience intense psychological and emotional effects.

Because the drug is relatively new and there hasn’t been as much research on its effects as other substances like cocaine and heroin, many people believe it does not cause severe or long-term consequences when abused. However, it can, among them being overdose, death, and addiction, and users often require treatment for the issues the drug causes them.

Signs and Symptoms of Ecstasy Abuse

The effects of ecstasy often come on rather quickly, even though it is usually ingested orally. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, “About 20 to 40 minutes after taking a tablet, the user experiences small rushes of exhilaration, often accompanied by nausea.” Other common signs and symptoms of an ecstasy high include

Hallucinations and euphoria are common side effects of ecstasy abuse.

  • Muscle tension
  • Heightened senses
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • A strengthened sense of empathy for others
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chills and sweating
  • Relaxation
  • An increase in body temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Blurry vision
  • Nystagmus, or a condition where the eyes move very quickly

People on this drug may behave strangely because of its effects. It is also difficult to determine which of these symptoms any given user will experience because of the unpredictability of most hallucinogenic drugs. However, the dangers of ecstasy abuse go far beyond these few effects, and the more a person misuses the drug, the more likely they will be to experience severe consequences.

Dangers of Ecstasy Abuse

Ecstasy can cause a person’s body temperature to spike to dangerous levels, which is why most people on the drug sweat profusely and experience chills. In many cases, taking the drug while in an overcrowded, overheated environment (like a club) can lead to

  • Heat exhaustion
  • Severe dehydration
  • Death

A number of individuals have actually died as a result of ecstasy abuse, especially those who take the drug in crowded places like clubs and bars.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the fact that the drug is likely to cause intense emotionality and empathy makes those who use it vulnerable to unsafe sexual behavior. In many cases as a result, users contract transmittable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis. And, as an added side effect, the drug makes people more suggestible and more likely to participate in a sexual activity, which is why it is often considered one of the drugs that can easily facilitate sexual assault.

Other dangers associated with ecstasy abuse include

  • Long-term issues with confusion and memory impairment
    • According to the NIDA, “Studies have shown that some heavy MDMA users experience… selective impairments of working memory and attention processes.”
  • Depression
    • The withdrawal syndrome associated with ecstasy coupled with the effects created by the drug when in use can significantly worsen existing issues of depression and even create a syndrome of this type.
  • Severe anxiety and paranoia
    • Issues like this often linger the more a person abuses the drug. Full-blown psychosis can also occur, but it is difficult to know who will experience this issue.
  • Sleep problems and long-term insomnia

In addition, individuals who abuse ecstasy do not always know what the drug itself is likely to contain. Because it is man-made and often cut with other substances, a person could take ecstasy laced with something else entirely and without knowing the potential side effects of the other drug.

Ecstasy can be just as dangerous as any other type of club drug, but because the initial effects are so desirable, many people abuse it anyway, putting themselves in real danger of risky behavior, severe psychological and physical effects, and even death.

Who Abuses Ecstasy?

Because ecstasy is so often abused with other substances and by polydrug abusers, it is difficult to know exactly how widespread the issue of its abuse is. However, younger individuals are often more likely to misuse the drug, and places like clubs and concerts are where a disproportionately large amount of ecstasy abuse takes place.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, individuals 18 to 25 were far more likely than any other age group to abuse ecstasy, as 13.1 percent admitted to using the drug in their lifetime compared to the closest other age demographic (26 or older at 6.5 percent) (NIDA).

Ecstasy Addiction

Contrary to popular belief, ecstasy abuse can cause addiction just like most other types of substance abuse. The drug affects the same neurotransmitters in the brain that are affected by other addictive substances, according to the NIDA, and long-term ecstasy users have experienced a number of addictive side effects, including

  • Tolerance, or the need to abuse more and more of the drug each time in order to experience the same effects
  • Dependence, or the syndrome that causes an individual to experience withdrawal effects when unable to obtain more of the drug
    • Ecstasy’s common withdrawal effects are mostly psychological in nature and include
      • Depression
      • Fatigue
      • Trouble concentrating
  • Cravings, or the intense desire to use more of the drug

Those who have been using ecstasy consistently for a long period of time find it very hard to stop, which is what most strongly resembles the issue of addiction when caused by other drugs of abuse.

Am I an Ecstasy Addict?

If you have been using ecstasy consistently and want to find out if you may be suffering from addiction, answer the questions below to the best of your ability.

  • Do I think about using ecstasy even when I’m not?
  • Do I make excuses to use the drug?
  • Do I often lose control of myself when I’m on ecstasy?
  • Have my loved ones voiced concerns over my substance abuse?
  • Do I have to lie regularly to hide my drug use?
  • Have I noticed an increase in my paranoid, anxious, or depressed feelings?
  • Do I experience severe side effects if I am unable to take ecstasy?
  • Have I tried to cut back on my use of the drug and found it difficult or been unable to?
  • Have I experienced severe issues associated with my drug abuse, including
    • Getting fired or reprimanded at work?
    • Getting failing grades in school?
    • Getting arrested?
    • Losing a relationship that was important to me?
    • Experiencing financial distress?
  • Have I ever experienced severe physical issues associated with my ecstasy abuse like heat exhaustion?
  • Despite the issues the drug has caused in my life, do I still feel that I cannot quit?

If you answered yes to these questions, it is time to seek help. Unfortunately, like other drugs, ecstasy can cause addiction, and professional treatment is necessary for a safe and effective recovery.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

According to the NIDA, there are no methods specifically designed for ecstasy addiction treatment, but those with the disorder have often found help in the general treatment options for addiction. These include

  • Detox: Patients are treated with medications so they can slowly withdraw from the drug and avoid experiencing severe withdrawal effects. Antidepressants could be beneficial at this stage of recovery.
  • Behavioral therapy: Therapy programs like cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management can help patients reroute the reward pathway of the brain, slowly learn new coping skills for issues like cravings and stress, and learn to recognize and avoid triggers for ecstasy abuse.
    • Behavioral therapy is the crux of ecstasy addiction treatment. It is important to remember that detox alone is not effective for one’s full recovery from this issue and that every patient must attend therapy of some type.

Rehab centers that cater to a patient’s needs and help them realize the reasons why they began abusing ecstasy in the first place, as well as learn skills that will help them avoid this use in the future, strongly benefit recovery.