Ecstasy is one of the more common and popular names for the street drug MDMA, which stands for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. This amphetamine-based stimulant typically leads to sensations of greater energy, emotional warmth, mental and physical pleasure, and changes to the perception of time and the senses. This can include delusions and hallucinations.
MDMA affects neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Surges of these neurotransmitters lead to increased physical energy and happiness, as well as hallucinations, paranoia, and a sense of closeness in relationships. The post-ecstasy crash can lead to exhaustion, depression, dehydration, and withdrawal symptoms. The drug can also induce cravings to keep using it, in order to experience the surge in neurotransmitters that leads to good feelings.
What Is Ecstasy Abuse?
This drug is generally abused by swallowing pills, via sublingual tabs, or by snorting or smoking the drug. It is rarely injected. There are many myths about ecstasy abuse, but the truth is that this drug can lead to addiction, brain damage, and the potential for negative physical side effects, overdose, and death. Mental state changes can lead to feelings of anxiety and paranoia, but physical effects can include dehydration and overheating – both of these can cause long-term damage to physical health or death.
- Ecstasy improves sex or touch. While the drug can change physical sensations, it may not always change these feelings for the better. Changes in perception can be negative.
- It is impossible to have a bad trip on MDMA. Although ecstasy changes neurotransmitter balance, that does not mean it will be for the better. Once the initial effects of the drug pass, neurotransmitters can linger, and they can cause hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, nervous energy, or additional negative symptoms.
- Mixing ecstasy and other drugs improves the sensation. This is a dangerous practice. Mixing drugs will often produce more intense, less pleasurable, and more dangerous side effects. Risks include overdose, hospitalization, long-term mental and physical changes, and even death.
- Ecstasy is an effective antidepressant: Despite a lack of substantial empirical evidence, ecstasy-based therapy is gaining popularity. Like other drugs, such as benzodiazepines, ecstasy can be addictive. Since it is not legal on any state or federal level, acquiring a pure source and properly adjusting the dose, the way that psychiatric medications are prescribed, is nearly impossible.
The Dangers of Ecstasy Therapy
MDMA has been tested in some small clinical trials as a potential antidepressant. In one trial, a reported 83 percent of participants with PTSD improved after only two sessions of ecstasy-assisted psychotherapy – a combination of medication and talk therapy. While these initial tests show some promise, this does not alleviate the potential dangers of ecstasy.
As it is currently available, ecstasy is an illegal street or club drug. It is rarely available in controlled doses, or in a pure form. In fact, an increasing number of people who buy and ingest ecstasy have accidentally taken synthetic cathinones like bath salts, which are dubiously legal and cheaper. There are no guidelines on “therapeutic doses,” and all initial medical trials have involved small groups.
Further medical studies will likely be conducted, but in the meantime, ecstasy is illegal, nonmedical, addictive, and unsafe.
Get Help for Ecstasy Abuse
If a person struggles with substance abuse and addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Detox, followed by rehabilitation therapy, is the best method to overcome addiction to any intoxicating substance, including ecstasy. Therapy can help a person rebuild social support, understand their addiction, and develop coping mechanisms for stress and triggers so they can stand strong in ongoing recovery.