MDMA (chemical name 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) — better known as Ecstasy, X, or Molly — is a synthetic stimulant and hallucinogenic drug used to produce a euphoric and energizing effect, increase enjoyment of experiences, reduce inhibitions, and increase feelings of closeness or sexuality. It also distorts a person’s sense of time and conception of reality. Sometimes called an “empathogen,” it increases a person’s sense of empathy or compassion towards others.
History Of MDMA
During the 70s and 80s, MDMA was used in psychotherapy. It eventually became a street drug used mostly in club settings. The DEA classified it as a Schedule 1 drug and banned it in 1985. MDMA is a crystalline powder, generally sold in capsules and swallowed or snorted. If pressed into pills, it is usually called Ecstasy, and often substances such as caffeine, amphetamines, PCP, cocaine, or synthetic cathinones (bath salts) are added to enhance the effects. Many use MDMA alongside alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs, and the variety of additives makes the effects unpredictable.
Short-Term Effects Of MDMA
MDMA boosts the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are related to mood, energy level, heart rate, blood pressure, and sexual arousal. The drug produces energizing effects and euphoria, increases alertness, distorts one’s senses of time and perception, and enhances desire for intimacy and sensuality, with users feeling unusually “connected” to those around them.
MDMA is felt 30 to 45 minutes after ingestion and may last 3 to 6 hours depending on the purity of the drug. After the “high,” the user will be dehydrated, exhausted, and sleepy.
Some other short-term effects of MDMA use may be increased body temperature, feelings of impulsivity, irritability and anxiety, involuntary jaw clenching/teeth grinding, insomnia, extreme thirst, sweating, electrolyte imbalance, restless limbs, nausea, hot flashes or chills, headache, blurred vision, and lightheadedness.
MDMA use can be fatal, as the stimulant effect can interact with other substances to cause serious physical harm. Typically, MDMA deaths result from hyperthermia, in which the body’s heat-regulation system overloads, leading to intravascular coagulation, muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), cerebral edema (brain swelling), and organ failure. Remember that MDMA is a club drug often used in crowded, warm environments or during periods of vigorous physical activity which may significantly increase body temperature. It can also cause sudden cardiovascular collapse (heart dysfunction because of underlying cardiovascular issues or pulmonary disease) or severe dehydration (MDMA limits the body’s ability to absorb fluids, causing brain damage and death). Abusing MDMA can also cause kidney, liver, or heart failure.
Long-Term Effects Of MDMA Use
There are many proven negative long-term effects of prolonged usage of MDMA.
MDMA has negative effects on the heart, including tachycardia and hypertension. The suppression of thirst, appetite, and sleep indirectly affects the heart, possibly leading to heart failure. Long-term abuse of MDMA may cause kidney failure, nausea, weight loss, muscle aches, blurred vision, and dilated pupils.
MDMA use can cause high blood pressure, panic attacks, faintness, seizures, and unconsciousness. The appetite suppression makes the user feel they do not need rest — which can lead to low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
Snorting MDMA causes chemical burns in the nose and mouth, possibly softening and eroding the cartilage in the nose, leading to nosebleeds. Collapsed lung cases and asthma have been linked to inhalation/snorting of MDMA.
Because of the lowering of inhibitions, users are more likely to have unprotected sex, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or HIV. If injecting MDMA with shared needles, users risk contracting HIV, hepatitis, skin abscesses, or blood poisoning.
Long-term use of MDMA causes serotonin deficiency in the brain, decreased cognitive abilities, as well as other brain damage, including a shrinking of the brain and a change in hippocampus size. Serotonin plays a role in many major processes, such as sleep, appetite, and pain processing.
Women who use MDMA may experience menstrual irregularity, increased menstrual pain, reduced ovarian egg reserves, and dysfunctional ovulation. Using while pregnant allows the drug to pass into the developing fetus’s bloodstream, which may lead to altered brain development in the first trimester, newborn behavior changes, and a host of other developmental issues. In men, use causes low sperm count, reduced libido, and abnormally shaped sperm.
MDMA abuse also causes emotional and psychological damage. Abusers experience strong emotional reactions, extreme anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep interruptions/insomnia, disordered thinking, delusions, and panic attacks.
Research has not proven that MDMA is physically addictive, but many continue to use it after having negative experiences, indicating it may be psychologically addictive. Some studies have reported withdrawal symptoms after stopping, also suggesting that it is addictive.
Beating this addiction, whether physical or psychological, is a must considering how damaging MDMA can be. Not only can it do damage directly, but the actions a user may take while high and “uninhibited” can be life altering or deadly.
Treatment For MDMA Abuse and Addiction
Physically detoxifying is the first step. Once MDMA is out of the system, treatment and support programs need to begin. Behavioral therapy and holistic therapy help recovering addicts productively cope with the stresses of daily life. Residential treatment centers offer programs in a safe environment far from any of the triggers that may nudge someone into relapse. 12-step, faith-based, and group therapy programs are all effective ways to stay clean.
Why Choose Bridges Of Hope?
Bridges of Hope is a Joint Commission accredited dual diagnosis adult substance abuse treatment program. Our program is designed to achieve long-term recovery. We are licensed by the State of Indiana Department of Mental Health & Addiction.
Our treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. We leave nothing to guesswork as we utilize therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices. We place superior patient care as our highest priority and offer them all-inclusive treatment services.
We connect everyone to their own personal journey, bridging the gaps previously unmet.
Let us provide you hope and healing if you or a loved one struggles with MDMA use.