What Is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is both a stimulant and psychedelic. It is a mind-altering drug that reduces inhibitions and promotes feelings of euphoria. Considered a “party drug,” ecstasy is primarily abused by teens and young adults. Its chemical name is 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is where the term “MDMA” comes from. While users generally take ecstasy for its euphoric effects, the drug also produces adverse symptoms that can be detrimental to one’s health.
What Are Common Street Names for Ecstasy?
Popular names include:
- Happy pill
- Love drug
- Hug drug
- Scooby snacks
What Does Ecstasy Look Like?
Ecstasy is available in tablet, capsule, crystal, and powder forms. When in powder form, it is a white or light tan color, like beach sand. Ecstasy tablets can also vary greatly in shape, color, and design. In fact, they are often designed to look like candy. The purity of ecstasy can vary and other substances such as methamphetamine, caffeine, and ketamine are often combined into the same tablet.
How Is Ecstasy Used?
Ecstasy is most commonly sold as a tablet or capsule. Accordingly, it is mostly used by swallowing. However, the pills are sometimes crushed and snorted or swallowed in liquid form. It is rarely smoked or injected. Some users take ecstasy with other drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana.
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Ecstasy?
Ecstasy tends to distort time and space and produce a strong euphoric effect upon use. Individuals who use it tend to do so to escape or relax. It holds appeal for some because it increases sensitivity to physical touch. Users may also use MDMA to temporarily bolster their confidence or boost their energy. However, these short-term effects also make them more prone to risky behaviors that could result in serious injury or death. MDMA use also has a number of adverse health effects in the short term, including:
- Muscle cramping
- Blurred vision
- Chills or sweating
- Poor appetite
- Feelings of detachment
- Disorganized thoughts
- Increased heart rate
- Involuntary teeth clenching
The effects of ecstasy usually begin after 20 minutes and last for about 3 to 6 hours. However, many users will take a second dose when the effects of the first dose begin to subside.
Why Is Ecstasy Harmful?
Ecstasy can pose immediate harm to the body shortly after it is taken. It can lead to blurred vision, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, fever, dizziness, and powerful hallucinations. When combined with antidepressants, ecstasy can be even more damaging. This is because each drug neutralizes the effects of the other, driving users to take ecstasy in larger doses to achieve the desired euphoric sensation. As a result, this mixture can produce high serotonin levels, but the potential risks of combining these drugs are significant, ranging from hypertension and strokes to even death.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Ecstasy Abuse?
Repeated ecstasy misuse can lead to dependency and health problems, including:
- Kidney failure
- Memory loss
- Degenerate nerve damage
While there has not been very much research on the long-term effects of ecstasy abuse, studies suggest that prolonged use may lead to permanent damage to the brain cells that produce serotonin.
What Are the Signs of Ecstasy Addiction?
Habitual ecstasy abuse can lead to a neurological dependence on the drug. As with many other drugs, individuals who regularly use MDMA can develop a tolerance to it. Subsequently, they need to take larger doses to achieve the same effect. Addiction can cause behavioral changes, including:
- Mood swings
- Sexual promiscuity
- Unusual levels of energy
- Teeth clenching
- Change in appetite
- Dulled response to pain
- Over sensitivity to music or lights
What Does an Ecstasy Overdose Look Like?
An overdose occurs when an individual takes a toxic amount of ecstasy. In general, overdoses occur when the drug is mixed with other substances. Because ecstasy is purchased illegally on the streets, it is unlikely that the user will know the purity and potency of the drug. Often, users unknowingly consume ecstasy that has been mixed with cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine. Just one dose could be deadly. Signs of an overdose include:
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme nausea
- High body temperature
- Panic attacks
- Loss of eye control
Individuals who overdose on ecstasy should receive immediate medical attention, as overheating and dehydration caused by the drug can lead to deadly health complications such as kidney and heart failure.
How Is Ecstasy Addiction Treated?
The first step in healing from ecstasy addiction is to rid the body of the drug. While ecstasy tends to exit the body quickly, many users also abuse other illicit drugs, making the detoxification process more complicated. So, to determine if a medically monitored detox is necessary, it is best to consult with an addiction treatment professional. During this detox process, individuals will experience some physical and psychological discomfort as the drug leaves the body. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased irritability
- Muscle tension
- Physical exhaustion
- Inability to sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble concentrating
Once the body is rid of ecstasy, treatment – whether in an inpatient, residential program or an outpatient program – can begin. Drug counseling addresses how the drug has impacted the individual’s life and helps to change bad behaviors and habits caused by their previous substance abuse. Professional counselors in substance abuse programs help individuals to understand the root of their alcohol or drug abuse, recognize triggers, identify any co-occurring disorders, and learn techniques to cope with cravings and stress to prevent relapse. Alternative therapies and wellness practices can complement drug counseling to help individuals regain a stronger sense of self as well as develop a healthier lifestyle.
There are several holistic therapies that can help those in recovery. For example, individuals who used ecstasy to pursue excitement or euphoria can find thrill in new, adventure-oriented activities, such as ropes courses. Moreover, users who relied on the drug to promote self-confidence and reduce their inhibitions may instead find relief through therapies that strengthen self-esteem and self-awareness, like personal empowerment. Finally, those who used ecstasy to avoid negative emotions may benefit from the natural mood-boosting effects of cardio and weightlifting, which produces feel-good endorphins without damaging the body.
Visit our Wellness page to discover other therapeutic activities that can help to improve overall well-being.