Ecstasy: Addiction, Detox and Withdrawal

Content Overview

Withdrawal symptoms occur when your brain becomes dependent on the drug to function. When you stop taking using the substance, your brain must relearn how to function optimally without it.

As you go through withdrawal, you are likely to experience anxiety and depression, as well as an intense craving for ecstasy. Attempting to detox alone can have disasterous consequences as risk of relapse is high and frequently addicts will binge relapse taking even higher amounts in order to achieve the same results

Ecstasy is a manmade drug that has both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties. It is often called ‘MDMA’ or ‘Molly’ because of its appearance as a fine powder. The drug produces feelings of temporary happiness, euphoria, warmth, sensory perception and bursts of energy. It is often taken alongside stimulants such as ketamine, cocaine and methenamine. To heighten sexual experiences, many gay men combine it with Viagra and also take it at nightclubs.

Not everyone who takes ecstasy becomes addicted; however, it does have a high potential for physical and psychological addiction. One of the major signs of addiction is withdrawal symptoms that manifest when you stop taking the substance. The intensity of the withdrawal phase will depend on the amount of ecstasy taken, the duration of abuse and any other drugs being taken simultaneously. Most associated withdrawal symptoms are psychological, including both psychosis and hallucinations.

Understanding Ecstasy (MDMA) Addiction and Treatment

Detox is the first step towards quitting ecstasy. The safest way to detox is to enrol at a medically-supervised detox centre, where the overall process is supervised by medical professionals. Withdrawal can prove fatal in some cases – especially if you attempt to detox on your own because you can easily become erratic, aggressive and exhibit dangerous behaviours when doing so.

The chemical 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine creates the euphoric ‘high’ associated with ecstasy. The drug affects many of the same neurotransmitter systems in the brain targeted by other substances. Regular usage produces adaptation in the dopamine and serotonin systems associated with substance abuse. Many people have reported experiencing symptoms of addiction such as tolerance, withdrawal and negative physical/psychological consequences.

Currently, there are no approved medications for treating MDMA abuse, although doctors can provide antidepressants to ease painful withdrawal symptoms. The most effective treatment for patients who are in recovery is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which helps to modify your expectancies, thinking and behaviour, whilst equipping you with the skills to identify triggers and cope with them. Family therapy is also recommended in situations where the family have enabled your drug use in some way.

Signs of Ecstasy Addiction

  • Increased craving for ecstasy, despite the negative effects on your personal and work life
  • Euphoria
  • Increased thirst
  • Teeth clenching
  • Reduced depression and anxiety
  • Increased capacity for empathy
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Heightened sexual arousal
  • Unusual expressions of love
  • Heightened senses of sight and touch

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a phase that comprises the numerous symptoms users experience when they stop taking Ecstasy or reduce their normal intake. Symptoms of drug withdrawal vary, depending on the duration for which you took the substance in question; the dose at which it was consumed; any other legal or illegal drugs are taken alongside Ecstasy; and the presence of any mental health issues.

When you’ve taken drugs for a long time, your brain and body adjust to their presence, before it becomes normal. Consequently, there is an imbalance in your brain caused by the high quantity of Ecstasy. When you attempt to quit, your brain counteracts this by exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. As the levels of norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin leave your bloodstream, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms that are mostly psychological.

Psychological vs. physical withdrawal from ecstasy

Psychological dependence leads to withdrawal symptoms that include: preoccupation with the substance of abuse, frequent cravings, insomnia, psychosis, mental confusion, lack of interest in sex, depression, anxiety, hostility, suicidal ideation, flashbacks, irritability, erratic mood swings, paranoia, memory issues, hallucinations, panic attacks and depersonalisation.

Physical withdrawal symptoms usually manifest after you stop taking the substance of abuse. Their severity depends on the quantity you consumed and the duration of abuse. Symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, body aches, impaired motor functions, inability to sleep, diarrhoea, soreness of the jaw, dizziness and constipation.

Signs of withdrawal

The signs of withdrawal are sometimes less severe, but can also prove to be very dangerous. Most withdrawals experienced have included:

What are the cravings involved?

A craving can be described as a strong desire to have something. As an addict, cravings are probably the biggest temptation you’ll have to deal with during the withdrawal phase. It’s generally accepted that drug abuse includes the state of being preoccupied with acquiring the substance of abuse; the desire to use if the opportunity arises; and the psychological need to feel the euphoric ‘high’ the drug produces.

Many psychologists believe that cravings are actually strong memories linked to the effect of the drug on your brain’s neurochemistry. The immense feeling of pleasure you derived when you took the drug is responsible for these memories. Whilst under the influence of Ecstasy, the brain changes that occurred led to cravings; subsequently, with each repeated use, it linked drug with the highest sense of reward and pleasure. Notably, cravings depend on the physiology of the individual and also vary in intensity and duration.

What Is Detox?

Detox refers to the process of removing Ecstasy or any harmful toxins from your body. It also involves the time taken to clear the influence toxins have on your body. The goal of detox is to ensure you remain safe, manage any acute withdrawal symptoms, all the while encouraging you to seek substance abuse treatment as soon as possible.

Detox is an integral part of recovery. The effects of the drug Ecstasy on your mind can alter your ability to make good choices, so you’ll need to rid your body of any harmful toxins before you can continue treatment. Detox is a precursor for substance abuse treatment; the duration depends on the potency of the substance, the amount in your body, and your tolerance levels.  Types of detox include medically supervised detox and social detox.

Medically-Assisted Detox

This takes place in a medical facility under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Observation ensures that you are comfortable and safe during the detox process. Medical professionals will provide medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, which can include strong cravings for Ecstasy.

In order for this type of detox to be successful, treatment begins with a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose the severity of your addiction, level of usage and your specific detox needs. Doctors factor in any drugs found in your system alongside Ecstasy, as well the appropriate medications to ease symptoms when they manifest.

Withdrawal Medications

There are no approved medications to treat Ecstasy withdrawal. However, some can be prescribed to treat specific symptoms, such as:

Antidepressants

A commonly prescribed antidepressant is Zoloft and other drugs classified as Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI). They improve mood, sleep and emotion, whilst reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with Ecstasy withdrawal.

Benzodiazepines

Prescribed for anxiety, sleep disorder and mood disorders.

Fluids

These will keep you hydrated, which is especially important, as dehydration is a major risk when you take Ecstasy.

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Additional medication will be provided as each symptom manifests.

Home Detox

Home detox is one option available when you want to ‘get clean’ from Ecstasy. Given the potency of Ecstasy as a stimulant, it’s not advisable to detox at home, as this is dangerous and can put your life at risk without medical supervision. You could also risk the lives of those around you whilst in withdrawal.

The risk is especially higher for long-term users, individuals with co-occurring disorders or polydrug users who could suffer a medical emergency without the necessary supervision to hand. Before attempting a home detox, consult an addiction specialist or your doctor.

Timelines of Ecstasy Withdrawal and Detox

Withdrawal symptoms manifest within 12 hours after your last dose and peak on the fourth day. Symptoms can last a while longer for long-term addicts if you took higher doses or combined ecstasy with other drugs. Initial symptoms include depression, anxiety, paranoia and insomnia.

From days to ten, the withdrawal symptoms peak and last about a week thereafter. Symptoms will include depression, sleeping difficulty, cravings, as well as memory and concentration difficulty. From the eleventh day, depression might persist for a while. Lingering symptoms include memory difficulties, cravings and insomnia.

How to Convince a Loved One to Detox

Its’ safe to assume that many people who need professional help with addiction have become cynical on the subject, either refusing to accept they have a problem or thinking that they can quit at any time. The decision ultimately has to come from them.

Recovery can’t be forced or the addict could easily relapse after rehab. Therefore, make them see the benefits of a drug-free life; the hurt they cause to loved ones; the destruction addiction has wrought on their lives, and the risks they face with continued substance abuse.

Don’t constantly nag them to quit or seek professional help, as this only appears to make the drug of choice more attractive. Consider an intervention if they refuse to quit. The group involved should include a few close friends and family. For best results, consider hiring a professional interventionist to ensure a smooth proceeding.

How to create a healthy abstinent environment?

Maintaining abstinence is not easy after you’ve left rehab, but it isn’t impossible either. The best way to create a healthy abstinent environment is to live in a ‘sober home’, which forms the transition between rehab and re-exposure to society. This reduces the risk of relapsing during the early days of abstinence.

The environment is drug-free, while the other residents are also in recovery and have the same recovery goals as you. Part of the experience is also about undertaking new habits to change negative behavioural patterns, building a new abstinent cycle of friends, learning to follow your established routine, and holding down a job.

What Follows Detox?

After you’re ‘clean’ and physically stabilised, the next step to take is either inpatient or outpatient rehab; this is where the real work of rehabilitation occurs. You’ll learn to create and stick to a rigid structure that guides your daily activities.

There is a chef on site who prepares nutritious meals, whilst teaching you about eating balanced food that can replenish lost nutrients. More importantly, you’ll work with a therapist to unearth all the underlying reasons why you initially abused drugs and learn coping skills to deal with potential triggers.

Therapies and Treatment

Behavioural therapies that have shown promise in treating Ecstasy addiction include 12-step therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Anger Management, Family Therapy, as well as Biofeedback and Neurofeedback.

Inpatient treatment has brought the most success – especially where patients stay up to 60 days in treatment. During treatment, your medical team could prescribe antidepressants and sleeping aids to help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Continuous abstinent techniques

  • Firstly, concentrate on making it through each day. Don’t overwhelm yourself with thoughts of making it to six months; eventually, one day becomes a week, then a month and a year.
  • Temptations are everywhere, so flex your willpower by not giving into them. Over time, this strengthens your neural connections, making it easier to resist the urges.
  • Exercise regularly and eat nutritious meals; this will improve your overall mood.
  • Learn to have fun without drugs. Find new hobbies that engage your mind and provide pleasure. This could include cooking, painting, music and sports.
  • Join a recovery group such as Narcotics Anonymous. This is essential to your recovery.
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Co-occurring Conditions Alongside Ecstasy Addiction

Due to the effect of ecstasy on the brain, co-occurring disorders can develop, though in most cases, these mental health issues are an influencing factor that led to drug abuse. Ecstasy causes memory loss, brain damage and many other dysfunctions.

A co-occurring diagnosis identifies and addresses any mental health issues you might be facing alongside addiction. Common co-occurring disorders diagnosed alongside Ecstasy include anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Treatment will address both mental health disorders for a full recovery.

Mental health issues

There is an assumption that MDMA is safe to use outside of medical use because it has gained a reputation as a safe drug on the streets for self-medicating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sadly, the drug has adverse psychiatric reactions, such as severe paranoia, anxiety and depression. Continued usage only worsens these symptoms.

Mental illness and Ecstasy addiction are not uncommon. Your symptoms will be more severe and you could be more resistant to detox and therapy than those who are only struggling with Ecstasy addiction alone.

Physical conditions

  • Physical conditions associated with Ecstasy abuse include:
  • Loss of bodily movement
  • Mild intoxication
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle tension
  • Haemorrhaging
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Hyperactivity
  • Vomiting

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is not uncommon in addiction; it is a situation whereby you suffer from a mental health problem, alongside drug or alcohol addiction. One of the factors that make it hard to treat is the difficulty in determining the mental health problem led to addiction or vice versa.

Many Ecstasy rehab centres in the UK (which treat dual diagnosis cases) say that depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed mental health problems. Therefore, when looking for a rehab facility, ensure you choose one that treats dual diagnosis, as many rehab centres in the UK are not equipped to handle such complex cases.

How to Choose the Right Treatment Facility

A few factors to consider when looking for the right rehab centre include:

  • The location of the rehab centre
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Aftercare planning
  • Reviews of the rehab centre
  • Activities and amenities offered
  • The expertise of the staff
  • Ability to provide support whenever you need it
  • The cost of treatment
  • The number of therapies used in treatment

Ecstasy Withdrawal and Detox: Facts and Statistics

In the UK, Ecstasy is the second most popular drug amongst individuals aged 16-24 years old and the third most popular amongst those aged 16-59.

Most of the Ecstasy tablets on the street are not pure; they usually contain ketamine, amphetamine or a range of adulterants.

Withdrawal symptoms usually last a week and reduce after 10 days.

Some individuals struggle with cravings and insomnia – even months after detox.

Withdrawal symptoms from Ecstasy are unpredictable. The safest way to quit is to seek professional help via a medical detox programme.

The disorientating effects of Ecstasy lead to fatalities – especially when you’re dancing non-stop in a hot, crowded place, such as a nightclub.

There are roughly 10 Ecstasy-related deaths in the UK every year.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a withdrawal from ecstasy last?

Withdrawal symptoms are different for everyone, but usually, peak within one to four days after your last dose and last for seven to ten days. However, post-acute symptoms such as cravings, insomnia and depression might linger for up to a few months after withdrawal.

How can I manage withdrawal at home?

There is no definitive way to manage Ecstasy withdrawal from home. Withdrawal symptoms are unpredictable and could prove fatal if a medical emergency occurs without immediate access to treatment. So, remain safe by enrolling in a medical programme, where you’ll be surrounded by healthcare professionals.

Can I take Xanax whilst withdrawing from ecstasy?

The only medications you should take when withdrawing from Ecstasy are those prescribed by your doctor, psychiatrist or medical professional.

Is there an ecstasy withdrawal kit I can buy?

Specific detox kits for ecstasy are unavailable at present; however, there are some drug detox kits available, whose prices vary. They are ineffective, unsafe and impersonal though. For instance, they don’t consider your personal needs, take into account any co-occurring disorders or provide medical care in case of complications.

What can I eat whilst withdrawing from ecstasy?

At a rehab centre, the nutritional deficiencies from your specific addiction will be taken into consideration. To get back on track, you should eat balanced meals that include Omega-3, fish, eggs, dairy products and canola oil. They each help with depression and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Can I drink alcohol whilst detoxing from ecstasy?

No. Alcohol is an addictive substance. You mustn’t take any mood-altering substances whilst in detox. Such an interaction could lead to a fatal overdose or cause brain damage.

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