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Ecstasy Use and Addiction

Ecstasy, Molly and MDMA

Ecstasy is a street name for the drug 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, or MDMA. Other popular street names are Molly, X, or E. MDMA has properties of both hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD as well as stimulant drugs like amphetamines, resulting in feelings of increased energy, pleasure, and empathy, while also distorting sensory and time perception.1

MDMA gained popularity amongst psychotherapists in the late 1970s and 1980s. They saw value in its ability to enhance insights into patients during psychotherapy and were legally researching its use to help patients with a variety of mental disorders. despite having not formal undergone clinical trials or being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.2,3

In 1985, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency placed MDMA on the list of Schedule I drugs, defined as substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.2 It was briefly removed for a period in 1987-1988 as advocates for its therapeutic use fought unsuccessfully for its removal.3

There’s since been a resurgence of interest in the drug recently by  researchers, and MDMA is currently under investigation for its utility in the treatment of  post-traumatic stress disorder.3,4,5

Effects of Ecstasy

The intoxicating effects of ecstasy include increased feelings of pleasure, energy, well-being, sexual desire and sensory perception. The drug tends to encourage sociability through enhanced emotional warmth and empathy towards others. Physical effects include restlessness, dilated pupils and increased heart rate and blood pressure.1,6

Adverse Side Effects

Unwanted side effects that may be experienced alongside its intoxicating effects include:1,6

  • Headache and nausea.
  • Muscle cramping and muscle/joint stiffness.
  • Involuntary jaw clenching.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Chills.
  • Sweating.

Come Down and Withdrawal

A single dose of ecstasy typically lasts approximately six hours and is followed by a “come down” period of withdrawal characterized by depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, hallucinations, bizarre and reckless behavior, and difficulty concentrating. Some people also experience panic attacks and brief psychotic episodes.7

Dangers of Ecstasy Use

The primary dangers of ecstasy use are the risk of serious life-threatening hyperthermia and the ingestion of unknown substances often found in illicitly purchased tablets of ecstasy.

Recreational use of ecstasy is often done in restricted, crowded, enclosed areas, such as dance clubs or at raves. Combined with the drug’s stimulant properties, this can lead to a dangerous rise in body temperature (hyperthermia), which may result in dehydration, fainting, and seizures and can lead to kidney, liver and cardiovascular failure.6

Pills, capsules, or powders sold online or on the streets as ecstasy or molly often contain other drugs instead of or in addition to MDMA, including MDA, methamphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine, and the over-the-counter cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM).8

When examining the pharmacological components of a sample of ecstasy tablets submitted anonymously online by people across the country between 1999 and 2004, researchers found that only 39% contained only MDMA, with 46% of the tablets containing no MDMA at all and 15% comprised of a mixture of MDMA and other drugs.9 The New York division of the DEA reported that only 13% of the Molly it analyzed in New York between 2009 and 2013 was MDMA.10

Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction

Research suggests that long-term use of MDMA, particularly when used in escalating doses, can lead to dependency and addiction.11 Although there are no specific medical treatments for ecstasy addiction, those who are ecstasy-dependent can benefit from the general approach to treating substance use disorders.

Greenhouse Treatment Center has the experienced and licensed medical staff to help patients undergo treatment specific to their needs. If you find that you’re struggling with the ecstasy addiction or the misuse of MDMA, options are available. Together we can help you reach long-term sobriety one step at a time.

References

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drug Facts: MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): What is the History of MDMA?
  3. Passie, T. (2018). The early use of MDMA (‘Ecstasy’) in psychotherapy (1977–1985). Drug Science, Policy and Law, 4.
  4. Feduccia, A. A., & Mithoefer, M. C. (2018). MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD: Are memory reconsolidation and fear extinction underlying mechanisms? Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 84, 221–228.
  5. Hysek, C. M., Schmid, Y., Simmler, L. D., Domes, G., Heinrichs, M., Eisenegger, C., … Liechti, M. E. (2013). MDMA enhances emotional empathy and prosocial behavior. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(11), 1645–1652.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): What are the Effects of MDMA?
  7. Miller, S. C., Fiellin, D. A., Rosenthal, R. N., & Saitz, R. (2019). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
  8. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. (2017). Drug Facts: Ecstasy MDMA.
  9. Tanner-Smith, E. E. (2006). Pharmacological content of tablets sold as “ecstasy”: Results from an online testing service. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 83(3), 247–254.
  10. Campo-Flores, A & Elinson Z. (2013). The Wall Street Journal: Club Drug Takes Deadly Toll.
  11. Meyer, J. S. (2013). 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA): Current perspectives. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 4, 83–89.