Drug Use

What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is the most widely-used street name for MDMA ( short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Other street names are molly, XTC, X, hugs and bean, and love drug. MDMA is a synthetic drug consumed for its stimulant effect. This dangerous and addictive club drug is typically taken as a party drug, commonly shared in nightclubs and at raves, by young adults and alters both mood and perception. XTC, an illegal drug, stimulant, and hallucinogen, increases feelings of pleasure in the person taking it. MDMA is structurally related to amphetamines and also very similar to mescaline, a hallucinogen.

Ecstasy, because it's an illegal drug, and therefore, not standardized, may include a variety of drug components in addition to MDMA including methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA), methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), ephedrine, ketamine or other elements.

Ecstasy is sometimes taken with other drugs. Note that combining drugs increases the danger. One of the more risky MDMA combos is mixing MDMA with LSD. This is known as candy flipping and the habit is to first take LSD, then take the MDMA several hours later, and it increases the combined effects for as long as 12 hours. While these drugs are considered less harmful than other drugs, combining them increases all of the risks of both drugs along with the risk of addiction when MDMA/drug use becomes habitual.

How Does Ecstasy Affect the Body?

The drug often comes in the form of ecstasy tablets or pills but can also be swallowed as a liquid or snorted in powder form. Molly (which is short for molecular) is the purest form of the crystalline powder MDMA. However, today, many times what is supposed to be pure MDMA or Molly, is actually a synthetic cathinone known as bath salts. Bath salts contain dangerous additives making them more dangerous to consume, posing additional risks to the unknowing user.

When ecstasy tablets or capsules are used, the MDMA chemicals reach the brain within about 15 minutes. The user begins to feel the effects after about 45 minutes with the tablet form method. These effects, which might include inhibitions, euphoria, and hyper-sexual activity, usually last from three to six hours.

Ecstasy use impacts three brain chemicals. These are:

  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Serotonin

Ecstasy use increases the activity of these brain chemicals which produces the pleasurable effects of this drug. The increased activity in dopamine produces increased energy and a feeling of well-being; norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure; and serotonin increased activity results in elevated mood, feelings of emotional closeness, sexual arousal, and increased feelings of trust.

Some individuals who take MDMA will feel these pleasurable feelings but for some individuals, they will immediately experience uncomfortable side effects including chills, nausea, muscle tension, and blurred vision. In high doses, the use of ecstasy can impact the body’s ability to regulate body temperature which can lead to serious health consequences including issues with the liver, kidneys, heart, and even death.

Side Effects of Ecstasy

The use of MDMA can impact the nervous system with inhibition-reducing behaviors and immediate feelings of alertness, hyperactivity, and friendliness.

Short-term effects of MDMA can include:

  • Enhanced sensory perceptions particularly sense of touch
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased energy
  • Increased friendliness
  • Increased sense of pleasure

Other short term effects of MDMA can include:

  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Muscle tension
  • Faintness
  • Sweating
  • Hyperthermia
  • Teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision

When an individual consumes ecstasy, they don’t know which of these side effects they will get. In addition, since there are often additives put into this drug as well as many others, one experience with ecstasy may vary from the next.

Long-term effects of ecstasy can include:

  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Attention problems
  • Memory issues
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Sexual interest decreases
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Appetite issues

Often, this club drug is combined with either alcohol or marijuana, or both. The addition of these substances can add to or alter these side effects. It’s also important to note that since this drug decreases inhibitions and heightens sexual arousal there can be an increase in risky and unprotected sexual behaviors. The use of MDMA can then sometimes lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and more.

Signs and Symptoms of Ecstasy Addiction

Most people don’t think of ecstasy as an addictive drug, however, people can and do become chronic abusers of MDMA and can’t stop without professional help. Chronic ecstasy abusers often experience the negative effects of MDMA mentioned above which worsen with continued use.

When it comes to MDMA, the effects of the drug—mostly the negative ones—can be felt for weeks after use. For some, these detrimental impacts can be felt even weeks after the drug has left the body. When a chronic user stops abruptly, they can experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as well.

MDMA can be both physically and psychologically addictive. Here are some signs of substance addiction:

Physical Symptoms of Ecstasy use and Addiction

  • Poor hygiene
  • Messy, unkempt appearance
  • Red or flushed cheeks
  • Memory problems
  • Unusual or changing sleep and eating patterns
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Unusually lethargic or sleepy at unexpected times
  • Frequent or unusual sweating

Behavioral Symptoms of MDMA Addiction

  • Changes in friends and social gatherings
  • Challenges meeting responsibilities
  • Changes in family relationships
  • Decreases in attending family events where they are unable to take ecstasy
  • Increases or start of secretive behaviors or lying
  • Unable or unwilling to quit using despite incurring negative consequences
  • Problems with finances from using
  • Problems with the law

Just as with any other substance, watch for behaviors that are different and unusual as well as physical changes. When these signs are ongoing, it is a good indication that addiction is involved.

Signs and Symptoms of Ecstasy Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms of ecstasy can be longer-lasting than with some other drugs. The timeline for withdrawal, as well as exhibited symptoms, depends largely upon the individual as well as factors regarding drug consumption such as time of the last dose, amount of dose, duration of use, etc.

MDMA withdrawal symptoms can include:

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cardiovascular irregularities
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping problems
  • Motor control issues
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Psychosis

Behavioral Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Aggression and easily agitated
  • Depression
  • Concentration and focusing issues
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion

When it comes to withdrawal from ecstasy, it is thought to be more psychological than physical. Generally, withdrawal symptoms begin about 12 hours after the last dose is consumed, reaches its peak in a few days, and can last for up to several weeks. One reason for this is the interaction MDMA has with the three aforementioned brain chemicals; dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Getting these chemicals back to normal and stabilized can take some time which is why withdrawal symptoms can last for weeks and even in some cases months.

Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction

As with any other drug addiction, quitting on one’s own without professional help can be very difficult to do. When it comes to treatment for ecstasy addiction, there are currently no medications or pharmacological treatments.

However, many individuals with an ecstasy addiction respond well to behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, or psychotherapy including psycho-dynamic therapy, especially if there are co-occurring issues. In addition, inpatient treatment at an addiction treatment center has also been helpful in overcoming MDMA addiction.

If you want to learn more about how Caron can help you or a loved one with ecstasy addiction, contact us today. You can also learn more about our programs and treatment approaches. We’re only one call away. 1-800-854-6023

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