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Understanding Ecstasy Addiction

Popularly known as a ‘club’ drug, Ecstasy is commonly sold in nightclubs in pill and powder form. In a powder form, Ecstasy is known as MDNA. Ecstasy pills come in a variety of shapes and can be white or coloured. MDNA is typically white or grey. Common street names for Ecstasy include E, XTC, Love Doves, Brownies, Molly, Edward, Sweeties, and Mandy.

Users take Ecstasy by swallowing pills, although it is common for people to crush the pills up and snort them. MDMA powder is rubbed into the gums or swallowed wrapped in cigarette paper (called ‘bombing’). Both are unpleasantly bitter in taste. Ecstasy pills can also contain elements of other drugs (such as amphetamines) that are more dangerous and take longer to kick in. This is why taking a whole Ecstasy pill in one go can be life-threatening. Drinking too much liquid (alcoholic or otherwise), can also prove dangerous when under the influence of Ecstasy, as the drug can cause the body to release a hormone that stops the creation of urine, affecting the body’s salt balance which can prove deadly. The amount of time Ecstasy stays in a person’s system depends on the amount consumed, the person’s weight and build, whether food has been consumed, and whether any other substances have been taken. The drug can be detected in a urine sample between 1-4 days after consumption.

Ecstasy typically takes around 30 minutes to take effect. Some more dangerous drugs sold as Ecstasy take longer than this. A user generally feels high on Ecstasy for around 2-4 hours. It is also possible to feel some effects of Ecstasy (such as a fast heart rate), long after the high has been experienced. After taking Ecstasy, the ‘comedown’ period lasts for several days. During this time, a user can experience very low moods.

Ecstasy pills are very unpredictable and it is very difficult to know how a person will react to them. A whole pill should be taken in stages (such as half or a quarter), as it is very dangerous to take an entire pill in one go. Likewise, MDMA can be life-threatening if large amounts of powder are consumed in one go. The use of Ecstasy has been linked to kidney, heart, and liver-related health problems. Those with heart conditions can also have very dangerous reactions to the drug. Ecstasy can affect the body’s overall temperature and increases the chances of a person overheating and suffering from dehydration. Those with mental health problems who take Ecstasy may develop long-term problems with memory, depression, and anxiety.

What are the Effects and Abuse of Ecstasy

Ecstasy generally makes people who take it very happy and euphoric for a short period of time – this is known as a ‘high’. It also makes a person feel very affectionate towards total strangers they are with, overwhelmed or in awe of objects and people, and highly energetic. It can make a person feel as though they are more connected to their surroundings, and heightens the senses. Music may seem louder and more intense, and colours more vivid, which is why it is a popular drug in nightclubs. Ecstasy can also have a negative effect on some users, and they can experience panic attacks, confusion, anxiety and paranoia.

People under the influence of Ecstasy typically lose their inhibitions and become very talkative. They may also do or say things that are completely out of character. Other side effects of Ecstasy abuse include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased body temperature
  • Feeling tingles
  • Tightening of the jaw muscles
  • Sickness
  • Extreme bursts of energy
  • Staying awake for long periods
  • Reduced sense of pain
  • Being impulsive
  • Clenching the teeth
  • Dry mouth and thirst
  • Sweating
  • Feeling promiscuous
  • Paranoia
  • A desire to touch and feel things
  • Heightened emotions
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations

What are Warning Signs of Ecstasy Addiction?

Ecstasy is typically taken because it gives a user a short-term high in which they feel happy, excited, alert and energetic. It is a drug that manipulates the brain’s ‘reward’ system, causing an individual to feel a desire to take more of the drug to feel the ‘reward’ of euphoria as the effects wear off. With continued use, Ecstasy can cause damage to the brain’s pleasure centres as well as the nervous system, brain and other organs. Long-term warning signs of Ecstasy addiction include:

Long-term Ecstasy use has been linked to impaired cognitive function, with users struggling to use logic and reason, solve problems, process new information, and demonstrate emotional intelligence. Those who take Ecstasy on a very frequent basis may struggle to function, feel pleasure, or regulate their emotions without the drug. If you or someone you love has a problem with Ecstasy addiction or abuse, it is very important that you seek help straight away.

What Are Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms

Long-term use of Ecstasy can lead to a person neglecting social and work responsibilities as they focus more and more on their addiction. Those who frequently abuse the drug also have a high risk of doing things that are very out of character or considered impulsive and dangerous, or even illegal. Rather than experiencing withdrawal, a person abusing Ecstasy can feel very low as the comedown phase of the drug happens and the substance wears off. This is often the phase when they crave more Ecstasy.

Comedown symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Low mood and depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of libido
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Problems with motor control
  • Tiredness
  • Mental confusion
  • Poor appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to sleep

Support for Ecstasy Addiction

Research has indicated that frequent use of Ecstasy can cause brain damage. This can happen even after a few doses of the drug, and the damage can be either permanent or last for several years. Memory loss and struggles with cognitive function are main ongoing effects of long term use. If you believe that a loved one may be struggling with an ecstasy addiction, the first step is to start a conversation about seeking help and treatment. This doesn’t have to be an intervention and involve the addict’s other family and friends. You need to demonstrate support, love and care for the individual that requires help. If you have been in the user’s social circle and attending nightclubs with them to take Ecstasy, giving them money to buy drugs or making excuses for them (enabling them), it is important to stop these behaviours and recognise that the person affected must undertake treatment.

Recognising that you or someone you love has an addiction is the first step in getting help. It is a common falsehood that Ecstasy is not addictive, and many users therefore deny that they have a drug problem. If you are finding it difficult to get through to someone who is abusing drugs, it may be worthwhile staging an intervention.

Treatment of Ecstasy Addiction

As a person builds up a tolerance to Ecstasy, they require more of the drug to experience a high. Psychological dependence is the most common way a person becomes addicted to Ecstasy. Studies have suggested that Ecstasy is addictive, although there is less information available concerning how addictive the substance is in comparison to other drugs. Recognising an Ecstasy addiction can be tough because there are no withdrawal symptoms, only symptoms displayed during the comedown period. When a person is addicted to Ecstasy, they will continue using it regardless of the consequences, usually without realising they have a problem. The most common sign that a person has an Ecstasy addiction is when they feel they want to stop taking it, but constantly give in to their desires.

Unlike other drugs, having treatment for Ecstasy addiction isn’t as physically uncomfortable or painful as other substances. However, strong psychological symptoms can be experienced, such as hallucinations, anxiety and confusion. Treatment in a rehabilitation centre such as East Coast Recovery offers a controlled environment in which a user can be medically supervised. Receiving treatment in-centre is common. Medical professionals can monitor a person’s heart rate, temperature and hydration levels, as well as any changes in reflex and muscular action. Inpatient rehabilitation programmes, and in particular detox programmes, take 28 days. The length of time it takes for a person to recover depends on the severity of their addiction. Receiving treatment also enables a person to focus on dealing with the reasons behind their addiction. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is highly effective at helping those who are struggling to deal with stress, triggers, cravings and any setbacks they may experience during treatment.