The drug known as “ecstasy” has spread throughout the party and rave circuit to affect tens of thousands of people worldwide. But what exactly is the drug? What can it do to a human’s body and mind? Finally, and most importantly: Is ecstasy addictive?
Here are eight things you need to know about ecstasy:
Ecstasy is only one of the names that the drug is known by. Ecstasy is actually the slang term for the drug known as MDMA, an abbreviation of “Methyl enedioxy methamphetamine.” Party culture throughout the United States and the rest of the world gave MDMA its ecstasy nickname, along with several other slang terms. Colloquially, ecstasy is known to have several street names you should be aware of. Some of these names (there may be more added) include Molly, X, E, Adam, Essence, and Clarity. A note on these terms: molly is often considered to be “pure” MDMA, while ecstasy is usually cut with other substances. The terms, however, are very often used interchangeably.
The power of ecstasy — and its appeal as a club or dancing drug — comes from the release of three elements in the brain: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Together, those elements produce a heightened, emotional mood in the user.
Everything gets sped up while a user is under the influence of ecstasy. That means heightened blood pressure and heart rate. The body may start overheating and start to sweat compulsively. A user may also begin grinding their jaw or teeth, leading to head and mouth pain.
The combined impact on the brain and the body can lead to severe negative consequences for users. The typical ecstasy dose will produce a high for the user that may last anywhere from three to six hours; in its wake, the user will frequently experience a psychological comedown. In that drop-off period, users may experience feelings of anxiety, anger, depression, and sadness. They may also suffer from sleeplessness and struggle to remember common, important things. Long-term users of ecstasy could suffer from even worse cases of memory loss, along with the psychological effects described above.
Physically, the effects can be just as harmful, if not moreso. The increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature that ecstasy prompts can have severe consequences. The overheated boost ecstasy provides can lead to organ damage or failure, or even heart attack or heart failure. Dehydration is a common result of ecstasy usage, especially within the overheated dance and rave scenes in which the drug is commonly taken. Ecstasy can also cause muscles to cramp and damage to the teeth and jaw thanks to grinding, alongside a common risk of heatstroke.
Another complication? Ecstasy is often “cut,” or mixed, with other drugs to produce differing effects. When it’s mixed with other drugs (everything from cocaine to caffeine), users have the added danger of the effects of those add-on substances to the dangers that ecstasy already produces.
The most common form of ecstasy will be in pill form, though variations of the drug can come in powders. Tablets will often be “branded” with decorations from different dealers.
The science isn’t entirely clear on whether ecstasy is fully addictive. Some of the studies have shown animals craving the drug and “self-administering” after usage, for example, but there isn’t any true scientific consensus yet. There is proof, however, that long-term usage of ecstasy can have severe effects on a user. In addition to the threat of internal damage to vital organs or even death, there are also the psychological affects — depression, anxiety, anger problems, memory loss, sleep disorders, etc. — associated with the drug.
The team at Transformations has the knowledge and experience to help anyone struggling with usage of the drug. The Transformations Treatment Center team works one-on-one with the patient to determine the effects of ecstasy on their life and provides a specialized, individualized treatment plan that addresses the root cause of the usage — along with any parallel addiction and mental health problems — and provides a foot forward. The behavioral therapy programs at Transformations Treatment Center can also have a positive impact on ecstasy users, and Transformations offers partial hospitalization and outpatient programs to match the needs of any client.
Visit the Transformations Treatment Center page on Ecstasy (MDMA) Use: Effects, Signs, and Symptoms to find out more about the drug’s effects and our treatment offerings.
Drugs.com, “MDMA,” https://www.drugs.com/illicit/mdma.html
WebMD, “Ecstasy Pills Cause Memory Problems,” https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20120727/ecstasy-pills-cause-memory-problems
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “What are MDMA’s Effects on the Brain?”, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-are-mdmas-effects-on-brain
VeryWellMind, “What Does the Drug Ecstasy Look Like”?, https://www.verywellmind.com/ecstasy-pictures-4020394
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Is MDMA Addictive?” https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/mdma-addictive