Ecstasy Symptoms and Warning Signs
Commonly referred to as “ecstasy” or “molly,” MDMA has become popular drug of abuse in recent years due to its pleasure-inducing effects. However, many people are unaware of the dangerous effects of MDMA use, which can even lead to potentially fatal overdose.
Signs of Ecstasy Abuse
Knowing the signs of ecstasy abuse can help you recognize what’s happening to someone you love.
Most people who use ecstasy or molly experience increased energy and enhanced self-confidence, believing that everyone around them is their friend.
Some of the common signs of ecstasy use include:
- Heightened sensory perception
- Increased positive sensations
- Increased capacity for empathy
- Dilated pupils
- Unnatural, long-lasting energy
- Inability to feel, or reduced sense of, pain
- Desire to touch or be touched
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Staying awake for days at a time
- Teeth clenching
- Muscle tension
- Dry mouth
- Mild confusion
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling in love with person they are with, even if there is no personal history
- A sense of euphoria
- Heightened emotions
- Reduced anxiety and depression
The Dangers of Ecstasy
Ecstasy is responsible for many deaths and thousands of hospital visits each year, proving it is not as harmless as dealers would like users to believe.
The leading cause of ecstasy-related deaths is hyperthermia, or overheating.
Many negative side effects, both short- and long-term, can come about as a result of using ecstasy. In today’s world, few people have access to pure MDMA. Many dealers sell pills that are cut with other ingredients, ranging from cocaine or heroin to caffeine and rat poison. For this reason, the effects of an “ecstasy” pill can be hard to predict.
After the peak effects of Ecstasy begin to dissipate, users will often “double-stack” or “re-up” and take more Ecstasy to increase and return the peak euphoric effects of the drug. Many users do this to avoid what is often called “The Crash,” resulting in feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue, exhaustion, irritability, agitation, and impulsivity. In some individuals, users become aggressive and struggle with insomnia, significant decrease in appetite, memory loss and difficulty concentrating. Repeated use of Ecstasy interferes with the normal brain chemistry, resulting in severe mood-swings as well.
Immediate Side Effects of Ecstasy Abuse
Negative side effects of ecstasy use can come about while the user is still under the influence or after they have come down from their high. Some of these common side effects also include:
- Impaired judgment
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Blurred vision
- Teeth clenching or grinding
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Long-term Effects of Ecstasy Abuse
Long-term use of MDMA may lead to compulsive behaviors and neglect of important responsibilities such as work, school, commitments, and relationships. This large shift in priorities can mark the beginning of an addiction or substance use disorder developing. Individuals who use ecstasy long-term have much higher rates of engaging in impulsive, dangerous behaviors or illegal activity to obtain more of the drug in spite of possible repercussions.
Continued use of ecstasy can confuse the brain’s reward and pleasure centers as well as cause long-term damage to nerves, the brain and other vital organs. These long-term side effects also include:
- Nerve degeneration
- Depression, anxiety and memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Long-lasting brain damage
- Cardiovascular collapse
The journal Clinical Correlations reports that long-term ecstasy use can lead to significant cognitive issues, including difficulties with executive processing, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and emotional intelligence, as well as overall mental dysfunction. Individuals who use ecstasy regularly may have trouble regulating their emotions or feeling any kind of pleasure whatsoever without ecstasy. Suicidal thoughts, behaviors, and actions may be the unfortunate result of ecstasy withdrawal. It is recommended to seek medical supervised detox when coming off of Ecstasy.
Ecstasy and Brain Damage
Recent research has shown that brain damage can occur due to the use of ecstasy, even after only brief exposure. This damage can last for many years. A few symptoms caused by this damage include increased anxiety, depression, and confusion. Furthermore, it can also cause memory issues, issues with cognitive ability, and poor performance on tests. Long term effects can amplify these symptoms resulting in severe brain damage.
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Recognizing an Ecstasy Addiction
Ecstasy abuse usually begins out of curiosity or experimentation, but continued abuse can devolve into addiction. Signs of addiction include using the drug frequently and being unable to have fun or feel normal without it. Addiction is characterized by an unnatural compulsion to use the drug without regard to negative consequences.
Signs of an ecstasy addiction include:
- Changes in social circle
- Sudden difficulty meeting daily responsibilities
- Reluctance to attend social or family events where ecstasy will be unavailable
- Lying or secretive behavior
- Financial difficulties
- Legal problems
- Inability or unwillingness to quit when ecstasy abuse causes problems
- Hiding the drug around the home
- Mood swings
- Depression and over sleeping when not using
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders rates ecstasy addiction from mild to severe and outlines 11 criteria for diagnosing an addiction. Learn more about the symptoms of addiction.
Intervention for an Ecstasy Problem
Recognizing an ecstasy addiction is only the first step in helping someone overcome their problem. The next step is to talk to them about it and make a plan for them to get help.
Because of the common myth that ecstasy is not addictive, many users deny they have a problem. If someone you care about is prioritizing their ecstasy use over responsibilities, relationships and their health, it’s important to bring it up to them in a loving way. Learn more about how to stage an intervention.
Ecstasy Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps
A person addicted to ecstasy may exhibit physical and/or psychological signs of withdrawal when quitting use. Withdrawal symptoms arise because the body and mind are chemically dependent on ecstasy to achieve feelings of normalcy.
Quitting ecstasy without medical involvement is unlikely to cause any major health problems, but a medical detox may help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms.
Symptoms can include insomnia, depression and hallucinations.
There are various levels of care ecstasy users can enter for treatment, although inpatient rehab is generally recommended. After completing inpatient treatment, intensive outpatient treatment is highly recommended. It is still important to meet with an individual therapist while attending outpatient treatment. Therapy is very important, especially when coming off of ecstasy, as depression and anxiety are common post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches recovering addicts to find connections between their thoughts, feelings, and actions and increase awareness of how these things impact recovery. Lifestyle changes are also very important in regards to next steps as it is important to make drastic changes to reduce the chance of relapse.
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