Ecstasy is an illegal, synthetic drug of abuse that usually is consumed in pill, tablet, or capsule form. The drug is somewhat unique amongst the illicit drugs of abuse in that it has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Ecstasy's stimulant properties will provide a boost of energy and alertness while the hallucinogenic effects will trigger sensations of distorted reality.
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Ecstasy Abuse: Key Facts
Ecstasy is known by many names, such as:
Though the drug may be called different names, the chemical 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is what creates the effects of the drug.
Since ecstasy is illegal and has no current medically approved uses, the drug is typically manufactured in laboratories overseas and in Canada before being smuggled into the US. Makers of the drug often make tablets that look like candies in the likeness of cartoon characters to create more interest from users seeking that specific design.
Signs and Symptoms
When it first became popular in the 1990s, ecstasy was mostly used at dance parties and nightclubs. Now, the range of settings has broadened to college campuses and private homes.
Deadly Recipes: The Danger of Mixing Ecstasy with Other Drugs
Dangers associated with ecstasy increase when makers add other drugs to the tablets to modify the results.
Drugs often mixed with ecstasy include:
- Dextromethorphan (DXM).
In some cases, ecstasy is mixed with other drugs without the user's knowledge, increasing the danger. Learn more.
Ecstasy is often abused for its reputation of being able to:
- Diminish inhibitions.
- Improve mood to a state of euphoria.
- Strengthen feelings of connectedness.
- Increase pleasure from physical touch.
- Heighten sexuality and sexual arousal.
- Increase alertness.
- Enhance energy.
- Make the user lose track of time.
The unwanted signs of ecstasy include:
- Higher heart rate.
- Increase blood pressure.
- Muscle tension.
- Tightness in mouth and jaw.
- Feeling faint.
- Hot or cold flashes.
- Organ complications due to increased body temperature.
Risk of negative effects increases because:
- People using ecstasy commonly take multiple doses in one session.
- With uncontrolled drug manufacturing, it is impossible to tell how much of the drug one is consuming.
- Frequently, there are other drugs mixed into the tablets.
- Ecstasy can stimulate physical activity, which can lead to dehydration.
If you or someone you know is experiencing negative results from ecstasy abuse, help is available. Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? and speak confidentially to someone about your situation and hear about treatment options.
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Effects of Ecstasy Abuse
Ecstasy triggers reactions from several brain chemicals to produce its range of effects. The chemicals can influence a number of feelings and emotions, such as pleasure, love, and trust. They also help to regulate body functions like sleep and hunger.
With ecstasy, the brain chemical most involved is the neurotransmitter serotonin. Researchers believe that ecstasy creates a flood of serotonin in the brain that mediates many of the pleasurable effects. When someone ends ecstasy use, they may find it difficult to achieve the same level of happiness because the brain has depleted its serotonin supply. This depletion triggers:
- Poor memory.
- Increased desire for the drug.
In time, many of these symptoms are likely to reverse, but they can be quite long-lasting after taking the drug.
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Ecstasy Abuse Treatment
As mentioned, once someone ends use of ecstasy, they will experience several unwanted symptoms. Treatment is helpful to maintain abstinence from the drug, avoid drug substitution, and improve the user’s mental health as depression and anxiety are likely.
Someone in recovery can utilize the options outlined below.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Available in a variety of settings based on need, an addiction specialist can assist in identifying triggers and developing healthier coping skills. Treatment can work to:
- Modify the environment to aid in success.
- Create a relapse prevention plan to avoid future use.
Treatment can take place on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment is typically the most desirable option for those with severe addictions and/or accompanying mental health issues. It is also desired because it often offers medically supervised detox, through which the patient’s symptoms are managed for maximum comfort during the withdrawal process.
Outpatient treatment will incorporate many features of inpatient treatment but will allow the patient to live at home while working through recovery. This is often a cheaper option but can leave the patient open to the temptation of his or her everyday environment, thus increasing the risk of relapse.
Since ecstasy use can end with disruption of the chemical serotonin, medication management can be helpful. Many medications help by allowing more serotonin to be available in the brain. These groups of medications are called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). A psychiatrist will be able to assess the situation and prescribe the best medication for the situation.
Mental health treatment will be effective in targeting the factors that led to use, as well as the lasting mental health symptoms following withdrawal.
It is theorized that some people seek out drugs initially as a means of self-medication and consequently develop a full-blown addiction that serves to either exacerbate the existing mental health issue or hide it on a temporary basis. Therapy can help ensure that these needs are addressed in healthier ways.
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Ecstasy Abuse Statistics
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that:
- In 2011, 6 million people admitted to using ecstasy in their lifetime.
- In 2011, 4 million people admitted to using ecstasy in the last year.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), almost 36% of high school seniors report that ecstasy is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to obtain. Learn more from our article, Ecstasy History and Statistics.
Teen Ecstasy Abuse
Ecstasy is primarily abused by teens and young adults. The drug appeals to young people because:
- It is inexpensive, usually costing between $3 and $45 per tablet.
- It is easy to obtain.
- It is believed to decrease anxiety and inhibition in social and sexual situations.
The rate of ecstasy use has mostly declined over the last few years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
- 12th grader use has dropped from 5.3% in 2011 to 3.6% in 2014.
- 10th grader use has dropped from 4.5% in 2011 to 3.6% in 2014.
- 8th grader use has dropped from 1.7% in 2011 to 0.9% in 2014.
Ecstasy use by young people is particularly common at music festivals and concerts. Using ecstasy at these events comes with numerous dangers, including that of buying/using drugs that are counterfeit or laced with other drugs.
Prevention is the best form of ecstasy treatment for teens. Becoming informed and educating your child regarding the risks of abuse are great ways to reduce your teen’s risk of drug use.
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- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2013). 3,4-METHYLENEDIOXYMETHAMPHETAMINE.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (n.d.). MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Trends & Statistics.