Ecstasy (also known as MDMA, X, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a popular synthetic “club drug” that creates a hallucinogenic effect similar to the “high” that results from mescaline.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the effects of Ecstasy include “energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences.”
On the negative side, Ecstasy use has been associated with depression, confusion, panic/anxiety, and sleep problems. Additional negative repercussions of Ecstasy use include convulsions, paranoia, psychosis, and possible long-term cognitive impairments (including memory problems).
Though Ecstasy use can lead to hallucinogenic experiences, the drug is classified as a stimulant.
Ecstasy is also classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the U.S. Department of Justice. Schedule I substances are those that the U.S. government has determined meet the following criteria:
- High potential for abuse.
- No currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
- Lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision
Ecstasy’s effects are due to the way that the drug interacts with the brain’s ability to create and process serotonin, the chemical that is associated with happiness, pleasure, mood regulation, aggression, and sensitivity to pain. Serotonin deficiencies have been associated with a range of negative effects, including depression.
Because of its ability to lower inhibitions, enhance a sense of interconnectedness, and create psychedelic effects, Ecstasy is popular among teenagers and young adults, especially those who visit dance clubs or attend all-night dance parties (known as “raves”).
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 760,000 individuals age 12 and older reported using Ecstasy in the 30 days prior to the survey, while 1.1 million respondents said they had tried Ecstasy for the first time within the previous 12 months. A survey of young adult and adolescent users found that 43 percent of those who reported ecstasy use met the criteria for dependence, and 34 percent met the criteria for drug abuse. Almost 60 percent of people who use MDMA report withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating.
Ecstasy and Addiction
Though there is an unfortunately common misconception that Ecstasy does not lead to addiction or dependence, research indicates that users can (and do) become addicted to Ecstasy.
MDMA affects many of the same systems in the brain that are targeted by other addictive drugs. Experiments have shown that animals prefer MDMA, much like they do cocaine, over other pleasurable stimuli, another sign of most addictive drugs.
MDMA has become a popular drug, in part because of the effects that a person experiences within an hour or so after taking a single dose. Those include feelings of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, a general sense of well being, and decreased anxiety. In addition, users report enhanced sensory perception. Because of the drug’s stimulant properties, when used in club or dance settings MDMA can also enable users to dance for extended periods of time.
However, there are some users who report undesirable effects immediately, including anxiety, agitation, and recklessness.
MDMA is not a benign drug. MDMA can produce a variety of adverse health effects, including nausea, chills, sweating, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. MDMA overdose can also occur – the symptoms can include high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness, and seizures.
MDMA is rapidly absorbed into the human blood stream, but once in the body MDMA interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize, or break down, the drug. As a result, additional doses of MDMA can produce unexpectedly high blood levels, which could worsen the cardiovascular and other toxic effects of this drug. MDMA also interferes with the metabolism of other drugs, including some of the adulterants that may be found in MDMA tablets.
Long-term users of Ecstasy may develop tolerance (which means that they need to ingest increasingly larger amounts of the drug in order to receive the same high that previously resulted from lesser dosages).
Among those who have developed a tolerance and become addicted to Ecstasy, ceasing to use the drug may result in physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction
Depending upon a number of factors, including the individual’s age, the nature and severity of the Ecstasy abuse or addiction, and the presence of any co-occurring conditions, the optimal treatment for Ecstasy abuse or addiction may include outpatient therapy, participation in a 12-Step support group, partial hospitalization, or residential treatment.
Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction may include the following therapies and techniques:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- 12-Step education
- Relapse-prevention instruction
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Biofeedback & Neurofeedback
- Medication management
- Anger management
- Recreation therapy
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior – The Science of Addiction
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
- National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
Adapted from: CRC Health – Addiction Treatment Centers, http://www.crchealth.com/
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence https://www.ncadd.org/
American Psychiactric Association,https://www.psychiatry.org
American Psychological Association, https://www.APA.org
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) https://www.drugabuse.gov/