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Article Summary

A Guide To Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy, also referred to as MDMA (its chemical name) is often regarded as the original designer drug on account of its links to the dance music culture of the 80s and 90s. At the time, club goers would use the drug to feel happy and energized, as well as stay awake dancing for hours.

Today, ecstasy is considered one of the most dangerous drugs available on the street. This is because users tend to experience effects similar to those arising from cocaine and amphetamine abuse - chief among which is addiction.

Apart from its supposed rewarding effects, for instance, the drug's psychological effects might include paranoia, anxiety, sleep problems, depression, and confusion both during and several weeks after abusing ecstasy.

Physical effects, on the other hand, include sweating, chills, faintness, blurred vision, nausea, involuntary teeth clenching, and muscle tension - among many others.

Read on to learn more about ecstasy, its potential for addiction, and the risks that come with taking this drug:

Understanding Ecstasy

MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), popularly known as ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that might alter your perception and mood. This drug is chemically similar to hallucinogens and stimulants in the sense that it causes distorted time and sensory perception, emotional warmth, pleasure, and feelings of increased energy.

As mentioned above, the drug was initially popular in the club scene and at dance parties. However, it now affects more people who refer to it as Molly or ecstasy, among the following names:

  • Beans
  • E
  • Roll
  • Scooby snacks
  • X
  • XTC

More specifically, it came under scrutiny once the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) banned its use because it comes with a high potential for brain damage and addiction. Today, ecstasy is among other drugs prohibited by the government from use or sale. Further, the DEA has categorized it as a Schedule I under the Controlled Substances since 1985 because there are no medical benefits or legal purposes from abusing the substance.

On account of this classification, ecstasy is commonly manufactured overseas before getting smuggled into the country. Manufacturers typically create it in the form of tablets resembling candies to generate greater interests from users and addicts looking for that specific design.

Ecstasy Uses

First patented in 1914 in Germany as an experimental compound, ecstasy was later rediscovered in the 70s by therapists and psychiatrists looking for a drug to use in psychotherapy.

In the 80s, the substance was widely applied as an adjunct to couples, group, and individual therapy sessions. Additionally, more than a million patients suffering depression, trauma, and similar mental health conditions received prescriptions for the drug.

Today, ecstasy is no longer used medicinally. However, this has not stopped the incidence of use with some taking it for recreational purposes because of the psychedelic effects it generates. This is in spite of the adverse long term effects the drug causes to changes in psychology, personality, and behavior.

Ecstasy, to this end, is commonly taken in the form of a tablet or capsule, although some users swallow the drug as a liquid or snort the powder from the crushed capsules/tablets. Others use MDMA in combination with alcohol and other drugs, including marijuana.

Irrespective of the mode of use, ecstasy is popular because of its reputation for:

  • Allowing users to lose the track of time
  • Diminishing inhibitions
  • Enhancing energy
  • Heightening sexual arousal and sexuality
  • Improving the user's mood to a state of deep euphoria
  • Increasing alertness
  • Strengthening the feelings of increased connectedness
  • Increasing the pleasure derived from physical touch

Ecstasy Effects

Irrespective of the mode of use, ecstasy often comes with a variety of undesirable effects, including but not limited to thermoregulation problems (resulting in high body temperatures) and transient hypertension.

Shortly after you use the drug, you can experience different effects because of the combination of the hallucinogenic and stimulant properties of ecstasy. The desired effects of abusing the drug kick in 30 minutes after use and may last for close to 6 hours. They include:

  • Distorted time perceptions
  • Elevated alertness
  • Euphoria
  • Higher desire for and pleasure from physical touch
  • Increased focus and energy
  • Increased levels of sexual arousal and sexuality
  • Perceived rise in energy levels

Among those who abuse the drug, feelings of empathy and emotional peace are also common. Similarly, abusers report experiencing changes in their sense of touch and in space and time.

The drug might, however, suppress such basic physical needs as sleeping, drinking, and eating because it is stimulant. As a result, users might attend rave parties and music/dance festivals longer than 24 to 48 hours while still being able to bare the flashing lights and loud electronic music.

Other adverse health effects arising from ecstasy abuse include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

A week following the moderate use of MDMA, you may also experience the following effects:

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased pleasure from (and interest in) sex
  • Depression
  • Impulsiveness
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems

It is also possible that these effects might be as a result of combining MDMA with such substances as alcohol and marijuana. Long term users, on the other hand, may experience irreparable damage to the brain's serotonin neurotransmitters. Serotonin levels affect emotional processes, sleep, and learning. Consequently, such damage can end up leaving you severely impaired.

Ecstasy Side Effects

Like other drugs and illicit substances, ecstasy is also likely to produce dangerously unexpected side effects. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Blurred vision
  • Chills
  • Feeling faint
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Higher heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Tension in the jaw, face, and mouth
  • Tremors

Ecstasy Addictive Qualities

MDMA is addictive because it affects similar neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin) that are affected by other highly addictive substances. More particularly, the drug will alter the chemical responses from these neurotransmitters. In the process, it will alter the effects the neurotransmitters have on the brain.

The 3 brain chemicals whose activity ecstasy increases include:

  1. Dopamine: The production of dopamine in the brain causes surges in increased activity/energy, as well as euphoria.
  2. Norepinephrine: When you take MDMA, your brain will produce norepinephrine, a chemical that increases blood pressure and heart rate and blood pressure. This production is risky if you have blood vessel and heart problems.
  3. Serotonin: This chemical affects such functions as sleep, appetite, and mood. It also triggers the hormones responsible for trust and sexual arousal. When you use ecstasy, your brain will release serotonin in excess amounts, which may cause empathy, elevated mood, and emotional closeness.

However, in comparison to many other narcotics, ecstasy may be less habit forming. In most cases, it might not even cause physical dependence. Rather, continued use in the long term is likely to put you at risk of psychological dependence.

More specifically, ecstasy heightens the sensations of increased empathy, intimacy, and stimulation. After regular, persistent, of binge use, therefore, you may end up increasing your dosage to experience these effects.

However, acute use is likely to lead to withdrawal symptoms if you decide to stop using the drug (or run out of it). At this point, you would be said to be addicted to ecstasy and require treatment to quit.

Therefore, although research results are varied on whether ecstasy is addictive, experiments show that even test animals start self-administering the drugs. This leads to the conclusion that the drug comes with a high potential for abuse and addiction.

Ecstasy Overdose

Even more extreme are the health effects arising from ecstasy abuse. These effects come about when you take doses of the drug larger than your body can comfortably handle, such as a series of the pills over a given period of time to maintain MDMA's effects, or more than a single dose at a time. This practice is often referred to as piggybacking.

The symptoms of ecstasy overdose often require immediate medical attention. They might include:

  • Complications arising from increased body temperature
  • Extreme rise in body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Organ damage
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures

At the most extreme, such an overdose can lead to death due to heart failure and heat stroke. The drug often masks the need for water, rest, and food while increasing body temperatures and the levels of physical activity. As a result, the drug might lead to death arising from exhaustion and dehydration.

Similarly, other effects are likely to occur - effects that might be difficult to attribute solely to ecstasy because the drug is often mixed with ketamine, caffeine, or methamphetamine.

If you suspect an overdose, seek immediate medical attention to prevent the drug from turning fatal.

Ecstasy Withdrawal

Those who try to quit using ecstasy are likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms, which is another sign of addiction to the drug. When your supplies run out, for instance, you may display these symptoms, most of which are psychological rather than physical:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to differentiate fantasy from reality
  • Increased desire and cravings for more of the drug
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Out-of-body perceptions
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Trouble concentrating

There's nothing easy about trying to quit addictive substances like ecstasy. However, detoxification may play a vital role in helping you overcome most of the withdrawal symptoms listed above.

However, you should also keep in mind that these withdrawal symptoms are a major deterrent to MDMA users looking to stop abusing the drug. This is because they tend to be unpleasant and easy to relieve by continuing your ecstasy regimen.

Ecstasy Dangers

Among those who use ecstasy, the increase in blood pressure and heart rate the drug causes may be a special risk, especially if you also have heart or circulatory disease. It is for this reason that so many MDMA-linked fatalities are reported during all-night raves and parties.

The drug comes with stimulant effects. Although these effects might enable you to dance and party for long periods, the hot and crowded and hot conditions at many raves may cause kidney or heart failure, hyperthermia, and dehydration.

Additionally, using ecstasy tends to damage the brain's serotonin neurons. Serotonin plays a vital role in regulating sleep, appetite, memory, and mood. As a result, when ecstasy damages its neurons, you may experience persistent memory problems.

The dangers associated with this drug compound when manufacturers add other substances to the tablets to alter the results of use. The drugs commonly mixed with MDMA may include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Ketamine
  • PCP

Such mixing, especially when it is done without your knowledge, will increase the drug's dangerous effects. Similarly, if you use ecstasy in combination with other substances like alcohol or marijuana, you may also raise your risk of suffering the dangers arising from such drug-mixing.

Signs And Symptoms Of Ecstasy Abuse

In many causes, it might be difficult to spot the signs and symptoms of ecstasy abuse. This is because the drug is often mixed with other intoxicants leading to an alteration of its symptoms.

However, there are certain key effects that MDMA causes that will effectively give it away. These signs and symptoms include:

1. Physical Symptoms
  • Alterations in sleeping habits
  • Desire to be touched or to touch
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inability to feel pain
  • Increased capacity for empathy
  • Increased pleasure in such senses as touch and sight
  • Increased thirst
  • Reduced sense of pain
  • Staying awake for hours/days at a time
  • Teeth clenching, that may reduce from the use of a pacifier
  • Unnatural and long-lasting energy
  • Unusual expressions and feelings of love
2. Psychological Symptoms
  • Euphoria
  • Impulsiveness
  • Paranoia
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced depression
3. Behavioral Symptoms
  • Changes in social and hangout circles
  • Hiding the drug in and around the home
  • Legal and/or financial related to the abuse of the drug
  • Lying
  • Reluctance to attend family or social events especially where ecstasy might not be unavailable
  • Secretive behavior
  • Uncharacteristic difficulty in meeting responsibilities at work, home, or school
  • Unwillingness or inability to quit even when the ecstasy abuse gets out of hand and causes serious problems

Treatment For Ecstasy Addiction

At the moment, MDMA addiction has no specific medical treatment. However, you might find behavioral therapy useful in helping you quit abusing the drug. In many cases, you are likely to undergo detox to deal with the severe withdrawal symptoms that may arise when you decide to quit.

Other treatment and rehab centers administer medications to offset these uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. After that, you may undergo therapy in the form of psycho-social and behavioral interventions to help you overcome ecstasy addiction.

Overall, the earlier you seek treatment, the sooner you will be able to overcome ecstasy and eventually get your life back on track.

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