Ecstasy Addiction and Abuse Help

Content Overview

The heavier your ecstasy abuse, the longer and more powerful its after-effects will be. Ecstasy use and abuse has been on the rise over recent decades. Each year sees more and more young adults being introduced to the drug for the first time and a significant number of these eventually become abusers. Recognising ecstasy abuse and addiction versus recreational use is not always straightforward but by reading this article and calling us for guidance we can give you the help you need!

Ecstasy addiction, like other types of drug addictions, is a disease that cannot be overcome without help and support. It is important to seek treatment as soon as you recognize the symptoms of addiction in yourself. Once you have made the decision to seek help, your local GP or social worker is a good place to begin. They have information on addiction services and can refer you to the right places to receive treatment.

You can also visit your county office or website, where you will find information on free government services available in your locality. There are also charity organisations that provide addiction recovery and support services for free or for a small fee.

Credible private addiction clinics are often the destination of choice for many addicts, though expenses may prove an obstacle for many. Whether you are ready for treatment or you just need some guidance and counselling, you have many options to choose from in terms of getting all the help and support you need.

What Is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a central nervous system stimulant and psychoactive drug often used recreationally in party scenes such as nightclubs. It is sold illegally as tablets or capsules. When taken orally, its effects begin after 30-45 minutes and last anywhere from three to six hours.

Users often ‘stack’ the drugs, taking more than three pills at a time, or ‘piggy-back’, taking more doses as the previous dose is wearing off. This is done to prolong the sensory effects of the drug for as long as needed.

What’s in ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a synthetic drug and is rarely ever sold as pure MDMA due to the scarcity of some of its raw materials and dealers’ attempt to make a profit. The powder form of the drug is often contaminated with substances such as bath salts, cocaine, and heroin.

What is ecstasy used for?

Ecstasy is most often used by young adults in social situations such as all-night parties and is a stimulant, meaning that it keeps you active. It is popular for the range of physical, emotional and social effects felt by users.

What are the effects of ecstasy?

Ecstasy works by adjusting the levels of neurotransmitters’ serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemical changes lead to the effects felt by ecstasy users. Increased serotonin levels cause effects including euphoria, increased sociability, and emotional empathy.

It may also be responsible for the user’s alertness, increased sexual arousal and appetite. Increased dopamine levels lead to feelings of pleasure, increased energy and hallucinations, while higher norepinephrine levels are responsible for increased heart rates and blood pressure.

Is MDMA Addictive?

While dependence on MDMA is low compared to most other illicit street drugs, MDMA is still very addictive. Addiction is diagnosed when you continue to abuse MDMA despite being aware of the negative physical and mental effects happening as you take the drug. You may not be concerned about these negative effects, prioritising the positive feelings and high energy over everything else in your life.

Can you get high on ecstasy?

Ecstasy produces feelings of euphoria, empathy, and, in some cases, hallucinations, all of which are characteristics of being ‘high’. These mind-altering effects are caused by the release of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. They last for 3-6 hours, and users often take more doses to maintain the high.

Ecstasy dependence vs addiction

Ecstasy dependence occurs when the brain, central nervous system, and body are altered to accommodate the constant presence of the drug. As your drug use continues, your body needs to adapt to achieve balance. Dependence on ecstasy is more psychological than physical, though physical withdrawal symptoms do manifest in some cases. Determining a user’s dependence on ecstasy can be difficult, as ecstasy is often mixed with other drugs such as amphetamines.

In addition, some people only use ecstasy occasionally, making it difficult to become dependent on the drug. It is important to note that consuming more than three tablets a day or taking a number of tablets over a short period of time can have many mental and physical consequences.

Addiction is most often defined as the continued use of a substance regardless of the physical or psychological harm. You do not have to be dependent on ecstasy to become addicted to it. Most ecstasy addicts crave the psychedelic effects, increased energy, and positive emotions associated with the drug, and will continue using despite having knowledge of the negative, sometimes life-threatening, side effects.

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Stages of MDMA addiction

The first stage in becoming addicted to MDMA is the initiation, where the individual is introduced to the drug for the first time. The first time is usually due to curiosity or peer pressure. Because of ecstasy’s reputation as a party drug, many are introduced to the drug in party scenes such as clubs and raves. For some, this leads to the second step, which is experimentation.

Experimentation occurs when the user begins to take the drug in specific situations, including parties or stressful scenarios. The next step, regular use of the drug, develops when the user has established a pattern of drug use, especially in solo situations. This continues on to risky use, where abuse of the drug continues despite obvious ramifications on different aspects of the individual’s life. This is usually a result of dependence on the drug, which could then lead to addiction.

Ecstasy (MDMA) Addiction: Symptom Overview

Signs that you may be addicted to ecstasy include:

Ecstasy and the Brain

In the normal human brain, feel-good hormones are released by the brain and reabsorbed to avoid build-up. Ecstasy alters the brain by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters including dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. It also prevents their reabsorption, leading to a build-up of the chemicals in the brain. Serotonin and norepinephrine are released in larger quantities than the other neurotransmitters.

Serotonin is involved in regulating sleep, pain, mood, appetite and is most likely behind the mood elevation ecstasy abusers often experience. However, the overproduction of serotonin deprives the brain of the hormone, contributing to the crash experienced after a high. Low levels of serotonin are also associated with depression, mood swings and lapses in memory.

Effects on the memory

Studies show that recreational use of ecstasy can result in loss of memory function, though the severity depends on the individual. Users are more likely to develop problems with short and long-term memory than non-users. The build-up of neurotransmitters in the cleft between neurons may lead to nerve damage and the increased levels in the brain may cause brain damage. This may affect not only long and short-term memory loss but could also lead to impaired cognitive function.

Mental health conditions linked to ecstasy abuse

Several studies have associated prolonged ecstasy use with mental disorders such as severe depression, reduced emotional control, memory loss, personality changes and impaired cognitive function. The hormonal imbalance and nerve and brain damage, combined with changes in the body caused by dependence, are thought to contribute to these mental conditions.

Treatment and rehabilitation for dependence and addiction may help to return the body to its pre-abuse state. However, some conditions cannot be reversed, especially those related to brain damage. Those with existing mental health issues are strongly advised not to consume ecstasy in any way.

Effects of Ecstasy Abuse

The negative side effects of ecstasy abuse can be felt while the user is high, or after the psychoactive effects of the drug have waned. Continued abuse of ecstasy can lead to long-term changes in the brain. This is because ecstasy exploits the brain’s reward system, requiring the user to take more to achieve the same high.

The build-up of the affected neurotransmitters may lead to nerve degeneration and long-lasting brain damage. The effects of ecstasy on the body can be divided into physical and psychological effects, ranging from mild to acute.

Psychological effects

Psychological effects of ecstasy abuse include:

Impaired judgement

Confusion

Paranoia

Insomnia

Anxiety

Depression

Psychosis

Memory loss

Physical effects

Physical effects include:

Teeth grinding

Dehydration

Muscle spasms

Blurred vision

Ataxia

Haemorrhaging

Convulsions

Cardiac arrest

Kidney failure

Death

Help for Ecstasy Addiction

Treatment steps

The treatment process for ecstasy addiction begins with medical detoxification. At a medical detoxification clinic, you will be surrounded by doctors and nurses who will monitor your withdrawal symptoms and help you cope with them. These symptoms appear as your body tries to flush out the remaining toxins while attempting to re-adapt to the absence of the drug.

Withdrawal can be a very painful process, which is why round the clock care is provided by medical staff. Withdrawal symptoms are usually managed without the use of medicine. However, in severe cases, this may include the use of substitute prescriptions to help wean you off the drug. Once detox is complete, the next step is rehabilitation, where psychotherapy is used to address the psychological aspect of your addiction.

This also includes family therapies and sessions on maintaining sobriety. Completion of rehab is followed by aftercare, where you will be connected with self-help groups in your community to ensure that you have all the support you need to maintain your sobriety.

How therapies affect ecstasy users

While counselling and therapy can be provided during the detoxification process, the majority of these sessions occur in rehabilitation centres after detoxification. Psychotherapy plays a major role in addiction recovery.

It involves the use of holistic therapies such as CBT and DBT, in addition to other therapeutic activities. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) works by encouraging you to alter negative thoughts and emotions that may have led to, or contributed towards, your drug use and eventual addiction.

Through CBT sessions, you will be able to focus on positive thinking while eliminating destructive behaviours. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy uses a group setting to teach the skills needed to manage negative emotions, repair relationships, and reconnect with society.

Most rehab centres offer 12-step therapy, which contains a major element of spirituality as part of the recovery process. Therapeutic activities such as yoga and meditation are often incorporated into the regimen.

Known Dangerous Interactions

Ecstasy is often abused with other drugs. Most tablets or capsules sold are contaminated with other drugs, most often amphetamines. Regardless, ecstasy cannot be taken with other substances, including alcohol, antidepressants, marijuana, ketamine, heroin and LSD. Alcohol reduces the strength of an ecstasy high, but strains the kidneys, and causes dehydration and a severe crash once the ecstasy wears off.

Marijuana is known to heighten the trip by increasing its psychedelic effect, while heroin is popularly used to bring down the high. Ketamine and LSD both greatly increase the psychedelic effects of ecstasy. The combination of ecstasy and other substances may seem harmless to users, but the effects are powerful and lead to a higher probability of a drug overdose.

It is also important to note that you are strongly advised not to use ecstasy if you have a condition that requires any of the following medications:
MAO Inhibitors – includes drugs such as Marplan and Nardil and are prescribed for those with depression and anxiety. Combining an MAO Inhibitor with ecstasy can be fatal.

Drugs Metabolised through the Liver – these include drugs that are broken down by the same enzyme as MDMA. The combination of drugs causes a slow metabolism of both drugs and can be fatal, especially if the other drug has a low overdose threshold.

It is also advisable to avoid ecstasy if you suffer from any of the following conditions: heart problems, seizures, liver problems, malignant hyperthermia, heatstroke susceptibility and mental disorders.

How to Avoid Ecstasy Addiction?

Ecstasy dependence can be avoided by declining the use of the drug, especially in the party scene where the pressure to join the high may be great. While dependence on ecstasy may not happen quickly, an established regular pattern of frequent abuse will quicken the process.

It is important to recognize the markers of addiction, and ensure that you seek help once you realize that you have been affected. It is also important to be educated on the addictive properties of ecstasy. This may discourage you from using ecstasy and forming a habit with the drug.

Ecstasy Facts & Statistics

In the UK, ecstasy is the second most popular drug among young people (ages 16-24) and the third most popular drug among 16-59-year-olds. The level of ecstasy use by the latter age group is 1.5%, with 4.5% among young people. The number of frequent ecstasy users has declined over the years, from 20.2% in 2003 to 7% in 2016, an encouraging trend.

How to Avoid Ecstasy Addiction?

Ecstasy dependence can be avoided by declining the use of the drug, especially in the party scene where the pressure to join the high may be great. While dependence on ecstasy may not happen quickly, an established regular pattern of frequent abuse will quicken the process.

It is important to recognize the markers of addiction, and ensure that you seek help once you realize that you have been affected. It is also important to be educated on the addictive properties of ecstasy. This may discourage you from using ecstasy and forming a habit with the drug.

Ecstasy Facts & Statistics

In the UK, ecstasy is the second most popular drug among young people (ages 16-24) and the third most popular drug among 16-59-year-olds. The level of ecstasy use by the latter age group is 1.5%, with 4.5% among young people. The number of frequent ecstasy users has declined over the years, from 20.2% in 2003 to 7% in 2016, an encouraging trend.

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+44 2039 496 584

FAQ

How is ecstasy bad for you?

The use of ecstasy carries the risk of various negative side effects, both physical and psychological. These effects range in severity from mild headaches to complications that could result in death. Frequent use of ecstasy can lead you to become dependent on the drug, which leads to withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit. In addition, the build-up of neurotransmitters due to the frequent use of the drug can lead to nerve and brain damage.

How is ecstasy different from molly?

Molly is a term used to describe the unadulterated form of MDMA. Molly is often sold as a powder in capsules, while ecstasy is sold in tablet form. While Molly is still considered cheap to obtain, it is often sold at a higher price. Drug tests have shown that many of the products sold as Molly are actually mixed with other chemicals, with a low estimate of 13% being actual unadulterated MDMA.

Is ecstasy linked to schizophrenia?

Psychosis, one of the symptoms of ecstasy abuse, is often confused with schizophrenia. There are no studies so far that show any links between ecstasy abuse and the development of schizophrenia. Some have reported that ecstasy helps them cope with symptoms of schizophrenia; this has not been proven by scientific research. Thus, those with mental disorders, including schizophrenia, are strongly advised not to consume ecstasy in any form.

Is ecstasy illegal?

Ecstasy is illegal in the UK. It is classified as a Class A drug alongside heroin, cocaine, methadone, meth, mushrooms, and LSD. Class A drugs are considered highly dangerous. If you are caught in possession of ecstasy, you may face up to 7 years in prison plus a fine. A supply charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment plus a fine.

Does ecstasy cause hallucinations?

Ecstasy has been shown to cause hallucinations. Not everyone who abuses the drug will experience hallucinations, and those who do may not experience full hallucinatory trips. Most users report some visual hallucinations. Factors such as dosage, type of ecstasy, impurities, and your own physiology contribute to whether or not you experience hallucinatory effects.

How do antibiotics affect ecstasy?

Antibiotics do not react chemically with ecstasy. However, most of the pills sold as ecstasy are more likely to be laced with other chemicals, such as cocaine, which does react with antibiotics. You are most likely taking antibiotics to cure an illness and as such, it is important for you to focus on recovering completely from your illness and avoid illicit drugs in the process.

A friend is abusing ecstasy. How can i help them?

If your friend has reached out to you for help, it is important that you provide as much support as you can give. You can assist in making appointments with health professionals, researching treatment facilities (for cases of dependence or addiction), accompanying them to their appointments if need be, and providing a positive environment for them. If your friend is resistant to help, you can try to convince them to seek a professional opinion. You can also gather information on ecstasy abuse and leave it for your friend to go through.

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