Ecstasy is a mood and perception altering synthetic drug. Ecstasy may be referred to as MDMA—short for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine—or its street name, Molly.1
Ecstasy can produce feelings of increased energy, pleasure, affection, and altered perception of senses and time.1 However the drug may also have several negative health effects, such as nausea, dangerously high body temperature, muscle cramping, teeth clenching, and headache.1,2
Recreational MDMA use is often characterized by binge or repeated use over a number of days, followed by periods of no drug use.2 This pattern of use can lead to people experiencing certain after-effects or ‘come-down’ symptoms in the days following the last use.2,3 Though these come-down effects should be considered distinct from that of acute withdrawal, using ecstasy often enough that it leads to physical dependence is associated with the development of an actual withdrawal syndrome when use stops.3
This article will cover the details and dangers of ecstasy withdrawal, dependence, and addiction. You will also find information about how to identify MDMA withdrawal symptoms, and whether treatment for ecstasy withdrawal is needed.
Ecstasy is classified as a hallucinogen in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5); however, the diagnosis of a hallucinogen disorder does not include withdrawal criteria because the signs and symptoms of hallucinogen withdrawal have not been unequivocally established across the range of substances in that class.3,4
That said, ecstasy also has properties of stimulants, and stimulant dependence in the DSM-5 is associated with withdrawal syndrome.3,4 Indeed, the symptoms a person experiences in the first several days after MDMA use sometimes resemble a relatively mild stimulant withdrawal or “crash”—with symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, depression, and concentration difficulties.5
Ecstasy affects the brain and several naturally occurring brain signaling molecules, or neurotransmitters. Of these, MDMA can elicit a relatively greater release of serotonin, which is a chemical that plays a critical role in regulating a person’s mood, sleep, pain, appetite, and other behaviors.6
The increased serotonin activity that comes from taking MDMA likely causes the elevated mood experienced by the person using ecstasy.6 However, because of the artificially boosted release of serotonin, the brain becomes considerably depleted of it afterwards, which may contribute to the negative effects that follow ecstasy use several days after taking it.6
Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms
Everyone’s experience with aftereffects or withdrawal from a substance will vary. Different than withdrawal, the effects of molly or ecstasy use are called MDMA come-downs. Over the course of 7 days following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:2,3
- Impulsiveness and aggression.
- Sleep problems.
- Memory and attention problems.
- Decreased appetite.
- Decreased interest in and pleasure from sex.
The come-down from ecstasy can also be characterized by similar physical and psychological symptoms to stimulant withdrawal and has a similar timeframe.3 This similarity makes it difficult to differentiate between withdrawal and come-down. Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal, according to the DSM-5, include:4
- Dysphoric (unhappy or uneasy) mood.
- Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive tiredness).
- Increased appetite.
- Psychomotor retardation (the slowing down of mental and/or physical activities due to major depressive disorder).
How Long Does Ecstasy Withdrawal Last?
There is not a lot of research regarding ecstasy withdrawal timelines. The drug’s intoxicating effects typically start 30–45 minutes after use and can last up to 6 hours.7 Within the next few days, withdrawal symptoms may peak.3 Like with most substances, an individual’s experience with withdrawal and symptoms may vary.
Some individuals may take multiple doses which may alter their withdrawal timeline. The amount, frequency, and duration of the use can impact the withdrawal timeline.3
Treatment for Ecstasy Misuse
Though there is no conclusive evidence of a physically prominent withdrawal syndrome associated with MDMA, nor one that necessitates medical management, behavioral therapy interventions may be beneficial for those who struggle with their ecstasy use.5 However, more research is needed to determine how effective this treatment option is for addiction to MDMA.1
Finding Help for Drug/Alcohol Abuse
Levels of care for any type of addiction treatment will vary depending on each person’s specific needs, and may include inpatient or outpatient treatment.8
If you want to help someone who is misusing drugs or alcohol, help is available. You may want to begin by consulting with your family physician who can help you determine the best course of action and possibly provide referrals to drug treatment centers.
You can search trusted online sources for local rehab centers and see which ones offer the setting you are looking for. Through the online search, you can read reviews to learn about experiences others have had at that facility. You can also instantly check the insurance coverage offered by your health insurance provider.
You can also call .