Ecstasy, which is known by 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a popular drug in the underground rave scenes worldwide. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that at least 17 million people have used the party drug at some point in their lives. It also goes by its nickname, Molly, which is the drug in its purest crystal form.
The term ecstasy refers to MDMA in tablet form, which is pressed with amphetamine or caffeine. The drug produces euphoria and feelings of increased sociability. Studies on ecstasy say this is because of its empathogenic effect.
The drug works by affecting the chemical messenger serotonin in the human brain. Serotonin is a naturally produced chemical that is responsible for regulating sleep, appetite, learning, memory, and mood. The mood-altering response resulting from MDMA is what a user will seek out.
Serotonin is commonly referred to as the “feel-good chemical” because of its ability to elevate our mood and bring out positive emotions. Those with elevated levels of serotonin will experience interpersonal closeness, affection, satisfaction, and a feeling of happiness.
Serotonin is released into the brain when you make a positive personal connection. It is also released when you have romantic feelings. This is why people feel heightened social connections or empathy when using ecstasy.
Ecstasy also causes the brain to release chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. The compounds increase the positive feelings of MDMA. The drug, which may include stimulants like amphetamine or caffeine, may also heighten your feelings of alertness and excitement.
A dangerous side effect of MDMA is its ability to raise body temperature. When this occurs, dehydration can occur from excessive sweating. The drug will start to wear off after three to eight hours, but an unpleasant comedown should be expected.
During a comedown, you will experience a decrease in positivity and will feel depressed. This occurs due to your serotonin being released all at once. Your brain must produce more, but it takes time. You may also experience headaches, insomnia, or fatigue.
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Because of the drug affecting chemicals in your brain that are related to mood, you are likely to experience psychological symptoms during withdrawal. There are some physical symptoms, unfortunately, such as fatigue, lockjaw, or a loss of appetite. You should always pay attention to what your body is telling you.
If you used ecstasy for a prolonged period, you might experience extreme drug cravings that can push you into using it again. Dopamine and serotonin are tied to the reward system, and they may cause the reward center in your brain to mistake ecstasy use with life-sustaining activities that it is meant to encourage, such as drinking or eating.
Other withdrawal symptoms may include:
The effects of the drug will start to fade after three to eight hours after the last pill was consumed. The initial comedown effects will begin, and you will notice your mood has dropped significantly. You may experience exhaustion, which is similar to a caffeine crash.
Withdrawal symptoms will begin to increase in intensity at this point. You will notice cravings for the drug and depression. Any stimulants that may have been added to your ecstasy can make the feelings of fatigue much worse. As the symptoms peak, they will start to get better over time.
Most symptoms will disappear at this stage. Some psychological symptoms may persist, such as depression. The symptoms require treatment to be addressed adequately.
If you are struggling with a severe substance use disorder, the cravings may come and go indefinitely. Other mental health issues may persist until you address them in treatment.
Medical detox is considered the most intensive level of care in addiction treatment. It involves 24-hour medical care for five to 10 days. It is designed to help individuals with high-level needs who are seeking addiction treatment for dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
It can be useful for someone who struggles with a disorder that requires around-the-clock care. MDMA will not cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
However, some users report unpleasant side effects during this period. In some cases, the symptoms may worsen due to co-occurring medical disorders.
The level of care will be determined by the medical professionals who will treat you.
When you enter addiction treatment, you will complete a thorough assessment that designates your required level of treatment.
If the staff determines you do not need medical detox, or if you’ve already completed a detox program, you may move forward in your level of care. Detox, while vital, is not all you need to achieve lasting sobriety. If you have medical needs, you might continue to a residential treatment center where you will receive 24-hour care.
Once you have learned the necessary tools in treatment, you may be moved into an outpatient center or 12-step program. You will work alongside therapists to create relapse prevention plans and to safeguard your sobriety and learn how to live in it full time.
Bergland, C. (2012, November 29). The Neurochemicals of Happiness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201211/the-neurochemicals-happiness
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, February 28). Tetanus | Symptoms and Complications | Lockjaw | CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tetanus/about/symptoms-complications.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017, September). What is the scope of MDMA use in the United States? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-is-the-scope-of-mdma-use-in-the-united-states
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, June). MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly