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What Is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy and molly are common names for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a psychoactive drug that alters moods and perceptions by increasing serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels. Many people take it to have feelings of euphoria and increase their confidence.
Ecstasy is a cross between a hallucinogen and a stimulant, so its effects cause people to have much lower inhibitions. As a result, they participate in much riskier behavior—such as dancing all night without drinking water or engaging in sexual behaviors with strangers.
Classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, ecstasy carries a high risk for abuse. This drug is outlawed in the United States and other countries. Abuse of this synthetic drug can have serious side effects, especially in combination with other substances.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), there is debate about whether ecstasy is truly addictive. However, its negative side effects and potentially life-threatening consequences still make it a dangerous illicit substance.
One thing worth noting is that ecstasy impacts serotonin and norepinephrine much more than it affects dopamine. This makes ecstasy different than most other drugs of abuse.
Side Effects of Ecstasy Use
The effects of ecstasy may vary depending on several factors, including:
- The amount of the drug taken
- If you are a first-time user
- If you have developed a tolerance for the drug
- If it is being used in combination with other drugs
As there is no recognized medical use for ecstasy, any form of use falls under substance abuse and can have potentially dangerous side effects.
Short-Term Effects of Ecstasy
Short-term use of ecstasy can have the following side effects:
- Renewed energy
- Increased confidence
- Fast breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Increases feelings of empathy
- High blood pressure
- Teeth clenching
- Reduced appetite
- Blurred vision
- Heightened sensory perception
- Increased sex drive
Long-Term Effects of Ecstasy
Using ecstasy over a long period of time (several hours) or repeatedly in the long term can produce the following effects:
- Damage to brain cells
- Liver damage
- Lack of concentration
- Risk of contracting hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections due to unprotected sex
- The need to use other drugs (including benzodiazepines or alcohol) to minimize the side effects of ecstasy
Ecstasy Abuse and Addiction
Ecstasy is available in pill form, while “molly” is a powder mixed with a liquid before it is consumed. Due to the illegal status of these drugs, using them qualifies as abuse.
Ecstasy abuse is most common in the club or rave scene because the drug heightens one’s senses. However, this also creates a particularly dangerous scenario.
Ecstasy causes dehydration, raised body temperatures, and even electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to brain swelling. People taking this drug at raves and clubs are usually there dancing, contributing to increased body temperature, dehydration, and lost electrolytes. Ecstasy users are often unaware of these bodily changes and not likely to make sure they are drinking enough water. This usually leads to collapse and other dangers.
Abusing ecstasy over a long period of time has its own complications. Prolonged use negatively affects areas of the brain involved with emotion formation and processing, behavioral learning, and sensory and motor function.
Am I Addicted to Ecstasy?
Signs that you may be addicted to ecstasy may include:
- Challenge performing daily tasks
- Isolating yourself from friends or family so you can use the drug
- Dishonesty (about the use of ecstasy or similar)
- Financial struggles
- Being unable to stop using the drug
- Cravings for the drug
- Legal issues you did not have before
- Mood changes
After years of regular use, if you suddenly stop taking ecstasy, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Many of these symptoms are similar to those who use alcohol and other addictive drugs. In many cases, these symptoms will occur within three to four days of abstinence from the drug but can persist for a week or more.
Withdrawal symptoms of ecstasy may include:
- Muscle spasms
- Drug cravings
- Poor concentration
- Loss of appetite
Ecstasy is extremely dangerous, particularly if taken in large amounts, as it can lead to an overdose. With a combination of the drug’s powerful stimulants and a high risk of user error, ecstasy can be potentially fatal.
How Do You Know When Someone Has Overdosed on Ecstasy?
Someone that is experiencing an ecstasy overdose will likely display some of the following signs:
- High body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasm
- Increased heart rate
What Should I Do if Someone Has Overdosed On Ecstasy?
- Immediately call 911
- Confirm if the victim is responsive
- Stay with the victim until help arrives
- Provide all relevant information to the emergency services, including other drugs the victim may have taken.
Ecstasy Addiction Treatment
Making the switch from ecstasy to sobriety can be challenging, but it is a move that will ultimately help you to begin a new phase of your life.
There are various treatment options to choose from, and each individual has different needs that will determine what type of program might be best for them. Within your own support network, you can make it through this difficult time and enter a life free from addiction.
Detoxification from ecstasy is an effective process to help facilitate the withdrawal from the drug. These programs are usually run by medical professionals in carefully controlled environments and offer several resources to help you remain healthy. At the same time, your body eliminates the remaining ecstasy from your system.
While several treatment facilities help facilitate detoxification, it is important that you choose a medical-based program to have the safest experience possible.
Ecstasy Treatment Programs
Several Ecstasy addiction treatment programs are available, each with its own features and benefits. Knowing what each of these programs can do for you and your options is important when deciding on an ideal Ecstasy addiction treatment center.
Inpatient Rehab Program
Because Ecstasy is such a powerful drug, many individuals need inpatient treatment to combat this addiction. Inpatient rehab programs combine counseling and psychological treatments with medications and behavior therapy. Many inpatient programs also offer family counseling and 24-hour monitoring.
Partial Hospitalization Program
Partial hospitalization programs are outpatient programs that provide therapy and medical care (when needed) at a rehab facility but allow the patient to return home at the end of each day. In some ways, partial hospitalization programs bridge inpatient and residential programs and less-intensive outpatient rehab.
Patients enrolled in partial hospitalization programs for ecstasy addiction receive the same quality of care that they can expect from a residential program but without the same time commitment. Partial hospitalization generally lasts about three months and can work well for individuals with a stable home life.
Intensive Outpatient Program
The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is designed to provide flexible and individualized treatment at a much lower intensity than the aforementioned programs. IOP can be great for individuals with minor ecstasy addiction or for recovering addicts that are transitioning out of an inpatient or partial hospitalization program.
In an IOP, you will receive individual and group therapy sessions. Some IOPs will also provide family therapy sessions as well.
An IOP typically lasts 2 months to a year, depending on your treatment plan.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports the following statistics on MDMA use:
- Almost 32 million Americans aged 12 years and above are current illegal drug users.
- The rate of MDMA use is highest among people aged between 18 and 25, with 12.8% reporting having tried it at least once in their lifetime.
- More than 17 million Americans admitted to having used ecstasy in 2013.
Support for You and Your Loved One
Understanding or coping with a loved one’s addiction can be difficult. You want them to stop, but they don’t see the problem. Knowing how to manage their behavior is challenging as well as stressful.
Support groups are available to help you process your loved one’s addiction.
We provide information and resources for family members and friends struggling with a loved one’s addiction.
Ecstasy Addiction FAQs
Is Ecstasy Illegal?
Yes. The drug MDMA (better known as “ecstasy”) is illegal. Since 1985 it has been listed in the Schedule I category of the Controlled Substances Act, along with heroin and LSD. Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse.
How Is Ecstasy Taken?
People usually take MDMA as a tablet or capsule (Molly), but it can also be taken as a liquid or snorted as powder.
What is the Difference Between Ecstasy, Molly, and MDMA?
MDMA is the only scientifically-approved common name for this drug, though it is better known by its slang terms “ecstasy” and “molly.” However, because MDMA is illegal, the risk of purchasing this drug is higher as it could be cut with other drugs or not contain any MDMA at all.