Ecstasy, a form of 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine or MDMA, is a synthetic substance that was originally created in German labs in the early 1900s to be a parent compound that enabled the creation of other pharmaceutical drugs.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that MDMA came into use in the United States. Some psychiatrists gave the drug to patients during therapy sessions, though it wasn’t officially approved for this purpose by the FDA or effectively researched in human trials until the year 2000, when the FDA approved a small trial to explore use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD.
It was during the 1970s and 1980s that MDMA became available on the street in the form of Ecstasy. By 1985, it was officially banned by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is not legal for any use including medicinal.
Unfortunately, Ecstasy has continued to be popular among certain groups and is still the cause of addiction, overdose, deaths and accidents under the influence. Once commonly used by young adult ravers who took the drug at all-night dance parties, the substance is now used by all ages, from teens through older adults.
If you believe that your loved one is abusing Ecstasy, don’t believe the myths. It is not a harmless substance, it is not therapeutic in the form found on the street, and it is not just a feel-good drug with no consequences. Help is available. Contact us at Black Bear Lodge now and learn more about how we can assist your loved one and your family in the healing process.
What Is Ecstasy?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that Ecstasy is a psychoactive drug that is similar in effect to amphetamines and also has some hallucinogenic properties.
- Euphoria (a high)
- Feelings of empathy toward others
- High energy
- Distorted sense of time
- Increased sensory levels
These effects can last anywhere from three to six hours, when users take one or two pills. The effects may vary in larger doses or when users combine Ecstasy with the use of other illicit substances; additionally, many take a second dose if the first is not strong enough to create the desired effect.
Signs of Ecstasy Abuse
Though the effects of the drug listed above may not sound negative, these are only the effects in small doses before the user develops a tolerance for the drug, and when the purchased Ecstasy dose contains a specific amount of MDMA – and not heavily cut with crystal meth and other stimulant drugs as is often the case. The negative consequences of Ecstasy use can occur while under the influence in the form of medical emergency or overdose and can last long after taking the drug, according to NIDA.
Under the influence:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Jaw clenching
- Teeth grinding
- Blurry vision
- Cramping muscles
- Increased body temperature
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Heart failure
- Inability to respond
- Passing out
- Panic attack
- Lack of impulse control
- Reduced libido
- Reduced cognitive abilities
- Hostility and aggression
What Is Molly?
Molly is a powder form of Ecstasy, a new version of the drug that is marketed as being more pure than the pills that have been in circulation since the 1970s. This has led to an increased use of the drug among adults despite the fact that Molly users experience the same medical problems, risk of overdose, and accidents under the influence as Ecstasy users.
Molly is classified by the DEA as a Schedule I substance. It is not legal for use, and it is not safe. All the same risks of addiction, problems after drug use, and possible death are still issues for users of this form of Ecstasy.
How Ecstasy Affects the User
MDMA increases the activity of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, creating a host of effects in the user. Unfortunately, when the drug is abused regularly, the ability of the brain to self-regulate these chemicals normally can be altered, resulting in too little activity and a number of problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These can include:
- Increased anxiety
- Restlessness and agitation
- Sleep disruption
- Appetite disruption
- Less interest in or ability to enjoy sex
These symptoms can persist for weeks after the cessation of use of Ecstasy, though treatment may be able to reverse or slow them. In all cases, any evidence of ongoing emotional changes caused by chronic Ecstasy abuse will require directed therapeutic intervention from the first stages of rehab in order to aid in stabilization and help avoid relapse.
What Is in Ecstasy?
Like all street drugs, Ecstasy is often heavily cut by the time it gets to the end user. At all stages along its distribution route, pure MDMA is usually mixed with other cheaper substances by the handler to increase profits and increase the longevity of the high. This constant variation in chemical makeup can increase the chances of overdose when users are uncertain how much will be necessary to achieve the desired effect with each new batch.
Health Problems Associated With Ecstasy Abuse
Because Ecstasy is cut with a large amount of stimulant drugs like amphetamines or cocaine, users of Ecstasy often encounter the same chronic health problems experienced by stimulant addicts, like high blood pressure and cardiac issues. For those who are diagnosed with circulatory issues or heart disease, the risk of heart failure increases significantly when the drug is used.
Additionally, because the use of Ecstasy increases the feeling of closeness and connection with others – even strangers – the increased rates of unprotected sex can increase chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
Is Ecstasy Therapeutic?
Very limited and controlled clinical trials are underway to determine whether or not MDMA is therapeutically valuable to patients diagnosed with certain mental health disorders. However, it is important to note that the MDMA utilized in these studies is pharmaceutical grade and completely uncut; it is not the same as the Ecstasy sold on the street.
Ecstasy Treatment Options
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that there are no treatments developed specifically for use in treating abuse of or dependence upon Ecstasy. However, those who are addicted to the drug or who are unable to stop using it regularly can benefit from the traditional and holistic treatments proven to be effective in substance abuse and addiction treatment no matter what the drug of choice.
Addiction treatment interventions that have been shown to be beneficial in helping patients to overcome drug dependence for the long term include:
- One-on-one therapy. A foundation in personal therapy can help the patient to (1) identify issues that may cause or trigger drug abuse, (2) talk through issues and challenges as they arise, (3) troubleshoot how best to avoid relapse, (4) create goals for treatment, and (5) update those goals as they are accomplished.
- Group support. Meeting regularly with peers who are also undergoing addiction treatment can help the patient to remain accountable for their sobriety, learn from the experience of others, and build positive relationships with those who are equally focused on remaining clean and sober.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Addressing the underlying perspectives, thought patterns, and behaviors that may be causing problems in the patient’s life can improve their outlook and experience and decrease their cravings for Ecstasy and other drugs.
- Holistic treatments. A wide range of complementary treatments can augment therapies and directed addiction treatment interventions. These aim to increase the overall health, balance, and wellness of the patient by lowering stress and improving mood, thus making it easier to handle normal stressors as they come – without resorting to substance abuse. These treatments can include acupuncture, meditation, bodywork, massage and more.
- Aftercare support. Continuing the practice or engagement with therapeutic interventions that were effective during rehab can serve to help patients remain actively connected to their recovery and decrease their chances of relapse.
Helping Your Family Member Overcome Substance Abuse
The 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that more than 11 million Americans over the age of 12 have abused Ecstasy at least once in their lives. For many of these people, use of the drug becomes a drug abuse problem, and some develop an addiction to the substance or to the stimulant substances used to cut the MDMA. Life-changing and life-threatening, both chronic drug abuse and addiction are issues that should cause alarm among family members.
Here at Black Bear Lodge, we offer directed treatment to assist patients in overcoming all issues related to drug and alcohol abuse. Addressing underlying trauma, mental health problems, and other issues can help your loved one to not only stop abusing Ecstasy but also to learn new and more healthful coping mechanisms that will sustain them for a lifetime.
To learn more about our evidence-based treatment program here at Black Bear Lodge, reach out to us today. Call the number above now.