Ecstasy, a form of MDMA, is a synthetic substance that was originally created in Germany but came to the US in the 1970s as an unapproved aid in psychiatry sessions. The FDA approved a small trial to explore use of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD in 2000.1
During the 1970s and 1980s, 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. Ecstasy has continued to be popular among certain groups and is still the cause of addiction leading to many overdoses and deaths. Once commonly used by young adult at raves, the substance is now used by all ages. There are common myths that it is harmless; however, Ecstasy is very dangerous and must be dealt with seriously.
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. While on
Ecstasy, people may experience the following symptoms:
- Feelings of empathy toward others
- High energy
- Distorted sense of time
- Increased sensory levels2
These effects can last from three to six hours after taking one or two pills. The effects may vary in larger doses or when combining Ecstasy with 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
Although the effects listed above may sound appealing, people quickly develop a tolerance of the drug leading them to take more of it, which often results in much more troubling symptoms including:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chills and/or sweating
- Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
- Blurry vision
- Cramping muscles
- Increased body temperature and blood pressure
- Kidney and/or heart failure
Ecstasy can also produce ongoing effects long after the high is over. These effects include:
- Lack of impulse control
- Reduced libido
- Reduced cognitive abilities
- Hostility and aggression
How Ecstasy Affects People
MDMA increases the activity of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, creating a host of effects in the person using the drug. Unfortunately, when the drug is abused regularly, the ability of the brain to self-regulate these chemicals normally is altered, resulting in too little activity and a number of problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including:
- Increased anxiety
- Restlessness and agitation
- Sleep and appetite disruption
- Less interest in or ability to enjoy sex
These symptoms can persist for weeks after the last dose of Ecstasy, though treatment may be able to reverse or slow them.
The Chemical Makeup of Ecstasy
Molly is a powder form of Ecstasy, a new version of the drug that is marketed as being purer than traditional pills. This has led to an increased use of the drug among adults despite the fact that those who use Molly experience the same medical problems, risk of overdose and accidents under the influence as those who use Ecstasy. Molly is classified by the DEA as a Schedule I substance. It is not legal for use, and it is not safe.
Like all street drugs, Ecstasy is often heavily cut by the time it gets to the buyer. Pure MDMA is usually mixed with other cheaper substances by the handler to increase profits as well as the longevity of the high. This constant variation in chemical makeup can increase the chances of overdose by not knowing how much MDMA is in the substance.
Ecstasy and Your Health
Because Ecstasy is cut with large amounts of stimulant drugs like amphetamines or cocaine, many people encounter the same chronic health problems experienced by stimulant addicts, like high blood pressure and other 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.
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 Ecstasy abuse. However, those who need help to quick taking it can benefit from the traditional and holistic treatments for substance abuse and addiction treatment.
Addiction treatment interventions that have been successful for long-term recovery, include:
- Individual counseling. A foundation in personal therapy can help the patient to identify issues that may cause or trigger drug abuse, talk through issues and challenges as they arise, troubleshoot how best to avoid relapse, create goals for treatment and 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 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that more that 6.9 percent of Americans over the age of 12 have abused Ecstasy at least once in their lives.3 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.
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 us at our 24-hour, toll-free helpline at 706-914-2327 now.
1 “What is the history of MDMA?” National Institute of Drug Abuse.26 September 2017. Accessed 21 October 2017.
2 “What is MDMA?” National Institute of Drug Abuse. 12 October 2016. Accessed 21 October 2017.
3 ““MDMD (Ecstasy/Molly).” National Institute of Drug Abuse. Accessed 21 October 2017.