Ecstasy is the common term used for a MDMA, a drug that creates euphoria and a heightened sense of connection with others. It comes in pill form, sometimes stamped with bunny or letter insignia. MDMA has several nicknames, such as Molly, X, E, Ex, Adam, and others.
In 1912, MDMA was created through research conducted by Merck, a German drug company. There were subsequent and ongoing experiments conducted on the drug and various uses were ruled out. Because of its ability to stimulate empathy and connectivity in users, the drug has been used in research studies for treatment of mental conditions such as dissociative and stress-related disorders. Testing continued through the 1980s to try and identify therapeutic uses for the drug.
It is no longer manufactured clinically. Therefore, all forms of MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy) available today are created without any regulation and have become dangerous. This is due to the unknown ingredients being used by those who produce illegal "E," or Ecstasy.
Who Takes Ecstasy?
This drug became popular during the onset of “rave” parties or events in various parts of the world, during the early- to mid-1980s. The mild hallucinogenic effects of the drug created in users a sense of “community high”--feelings that were enhanced by the music and dancing at rave events. After the 1980s, ecstasy continued to be one of the four most commonly-used drugs on high school and college campuses. Use has since dropped, according to researchers, among the most common users. These are teens from 12 to 20 years of age, who have steadily decreased use of Ecstasy since 2000, though the large majority of users still falls within this group.
Users begin to experience the high from Ecstasy within 30-60 minutes after taking it. The effects last for approximately 3-4 hours. After the initial high, a peak high is reached by the user within about 45-70 minutes. The general high is sustained for the entire 3-4 hours. Coming down from Ecstasy can produce increased feelings of depression in most users.
Ecstasy users report feeling a strong sense of well-being, peacefulness, and connection with others. Other symptoms include:
- increased heart rate
- dry mouth
- blurry vision
- profuse sweating
- Some users become anxious, confused and paranoid
Repeated use of Ecstasy have been shown to damage cells that produce serotonin, a chemical compound in the brain that helps regulate mood, appetite, pain, memory and learning. Research indicates that some of the slowing down of serotonin receptors is repaired over time. However, because the brains of young users are still in crucial stages of development, not all brain function may return after cessation of drug use. Long-term negative effects are impacted by the frequency of use and the amount used during this time of brain formation.
Some long-term effects of low to moderate Ecstasy use include:
- a decreased sense of reality
- paranoia or anxiety that was not previously recognized
- loss of concentration
Those who use Ecstasy in large amounts or for long periods of time report the same effects, along with jaw clenching or teeth grinding while sleeping, loss of appetite and insomnia. Most of these symptoms are similar to those experienced by methamphetamine users. Ecstasy is classified as an amphetamine drug, as well as a hallucinogen.
The after-effects of Ecstasy can range from mild to severe. Sleep and appetite disturbance can extend for several days or weeks after continued use of Ecstasy.
Is Ecstasy Addictive?
The highs of Ecstasy are pleasant, but the depressed state experienced in coming down from the high may create the desire to continue use. The risk of addiction to Ecstasy is similar to that of other amphetamine-like drugs. Most users develop psychological dependence and may continue to use the drug to keep from experiencing the “coming down” symptoms.
Overdosing on Ecstasy
Risk of overdose on Ecstasy is high. The pleasurable effects may induce users to take more than their bodies can assimilate. Those who use E in rave or club scenes are especially susceptible to dehydration. This is due to the loss of body fluids from dancing and other physical exertion while participating in the rave. Due to the methods of making the drug illegally, there is increased danger of ingesting unknown chemicals. This can severely affect the already high health risks when using Ecstasy.
During the period from the 1980s to the early part of 2000s, there were numerous deaths attributed to Ecstasy overdose. These were primarily seen in young teens and took place in clubs and rave events.
Overdose symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Agitation and paranoia
- Distorted thinking
- Amnesia or loss of memory
- Muscle rigidity
- Over-reactive reflexes
- Heart palpitations
- Heart rate increase
- Chest pain
- Destruction of blood vessels
- Stroke or hemorrhage
- Heart failure or attack
- Hyperthermia, which could result in organ failure
- Kidney failure
- Coma and death
When the drug is gone from the body and brain of the user, they experience some withdrawal (or comedown) symptoms. These result from the efforts of the brain to re-stabilize production of serotonin. The symptoms include depression, loss of interest or apathy, decreased sense of pleasure and body aches. It is as if the body used too many of these things when high and is deprived of them without the presence of the drug. These symptoms last from 2-4 days, in the case of moderate Ecstasy use, and up to a week with long-term, heavy use.
Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction
Addiction to substances can occur with any drug the user is dependent upon. If Ecstasy provides emotional stability and well-being to the user, they may be unable to achieve it without using the substance.
Treatment can give the user skills to achieve some of these same feelings without returning to drug use. Options for treatment of Ecstasy abuse can be found in formal addiction treatment programs, counseling with addictions specialists, and in other therapeutic settings where the user can work through any issues blocking their experience of pleasurable life situations.
Assessment will determine the best course of treatment for Ecstasy users. If you or someone you know is seeking help with addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.