Ecstasy Addiction and Abuse

Ecstasy is a gateway party drug widely used among young adults. Its adverse long term psychological damage makes this drug highly precarious.

Ecstasy addiction | Table of Contents

Understanding Ecstasy, MDMA, and Molly

Ecstasy and molly are street names of a MDMA variant, also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a synthetic, illicit drug that is classed as a stimulant with a capacity for hallucinogenic effects. Although both molly and ecstasy are made from MDMA, ecstasy is a designer version in the form of a pill or tablet, while molly resembles a white powder or crystal-like substance.

Even though molly is sold in pure MDMA form, there is no way for a user to know what it truly contains. Both molly and ecstasy are known to be cut with other substances, such as:

MDMA is classed as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, with a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical use.


What is ecstasy?

Also known as Molly or MDMA, is a psychoactive drug that is typically used for recreational purposes.

How is ecstasy consumed?

People who use MDMA usually take it as a capsule or tablet, though some swallow it in liquid form or snort the powder.

Ecstasy Effects, Abuse, and Addiction

Since ecstasy is illegal, any use of it is regarded as abuse. Molly and ecstasy function by increasing the activity of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain and promote a feeling of friendliness, well-being, and happiness. These substances greatly improve the user’s sense of sight, touch, sound, and smell. Ecstasy and molly are widespread in night clubs and raves, enabling users to take advantage of their enhanced sensory experiences.

The effects of ecstasy include:

  • Heightened senses
  • Long-lasting energy
  • Empathy for others
  • Calmness and relaxation
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Euphoria

The high that ecstasy generates can last between 3 to 5 hours. Although the rest of its effects generally last around 8 hours, the crash usually lasts for days.

Several factors influence the duration of its effects, including:

  • Users body weight
  • The amount consumed
  • The gender of the user
  • The method of administration

Sometimes certain versions of molly and ecstasy may not even contain any traces of MDMA, and the content of the drug is usually replaced with PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine). PMA may generate similar effects of MDMA, but with a lengthier onset and a much lower lethal dose. Therefore, when users consume more of the drug to achieve the same sensation they received from MDMA, an overdose is a significant possibility.

Overdosing on ecstasy involves taking more than a recreational dose. An overdose of ecstasy can lead to a spike in body temperature, seizures, and foaming in the mouth. They may also cause heat stroke or worsen any underlying heart conditions, both of which may result in death.

Research and clinical perspectives vary on how addictive MDMA is, or if it is even addictive. Although many users report being addicted to it, clinical studies on the matter are less broad compared to many other addictive drugs. Numerous studies have shown that MDMA is, in fact, addictive, albeit to a lesser degree than many other addictive drugs. Addiction to this drug is still a significant issue.


How does ecstasy affect the brain?

MDMA stimulates the brain by enhancing the activity of three neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It boosts the release of these neurotransmitters and/or blocks their reuptake, leading to higher levels of neurotransmitters within the synaptic cleft.

What are other health effects of ecstasy?

Although fatal overdoses of MDMA are uncommon, they still hold the capacity to cause life-threatening complications such as high blood pressure (hypertension), dizziness, severe anxiety, lack of consciousness, and seizures.

Is ecstasy addictive?

Data from both human and animal studies suggest that regular MDMA use produces adaptations in the serotonin and dopamine systems that are associated with substance use disorder and related behaviors, such as increased impulsivity.

The Dangers of Ecstasy

Molly and ecstasy are responsible for thousands of hospital visits and many deaths across the globe every year. These facts prove how dangerous the drug is, but many college students and young adults overlook the dangers and still misuse it. Although many adverse effects, both short-term and long-term, may arise from ecstasy use, hyperthermia, and overheating, is the primary cause of ecstasy-related deaths. Many recent studies have shown that brain damage can occur even with short-term exposure to ecstasy. Brain damage caused by this drug can last for many years.

Immediate side effects of ecstasy use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Muscle tension
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Blurred vision
  • Depression
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • Impaired judgment

Long-term side effects may include:

  • Nerve degeneration
  • Kidney failure
  • Long-lasting brain damage
  • Depression, anxiety, and memory loss
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Convulsions
  • Hemorrhage
  • Death
  • Psychosis

The Clinical Correlations reports that continued ecstasy use can cause cognitive issues, including problem-solving, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, and overall mental function impairments. Users who take this drug regularly may experience difficulties controlling their state of pleasure and emotions without it. For example, a person who has a severe addiction to ecstasy may even get suicidal thoughts and feelings of depression without the drug.

Ecstasy Abuse Statistics

  • 92 Percent: 92% of individuals who initially tried ecstasy then moved on to other potent stimulants, such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and amphetamines.
  • 9 Million: The number of ecstasy users worldwide can be as high as 9 million (comprised of mostly teens and young adults,) according to The UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
  • 1,200 Percent: ER visits due to ecstasy complications have increased by 1200% as it became the drug of choice for party-goers.

Ecstasy and Other Drugs

Ecstasy is commonly abused as a party drug among young adults. Studies suggest that about 1 in 10 college students have experimented with ecstasy and that the rates of polydrug abuse are far greater among these users. One study estimated that 98% of college students who have used ecstasy also used marijuana. Ecstasy users are far more likely to abuse LSD, inhalants, cocaine, and heroin.

Signs of Ecstasy Abuse

Some typical symptoms of ecstasy use include:

  • Increased positive sensations
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inability to feel or reduced sense of pain
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Staying awake for days at a time
  • Paranoia
  • Teeth clenching
  • Increased capacity for empathy
  • A sense of euphoria
  • Desire to touch or be touched
  • Muscle tension
  • Unnatural, long-lasting energy
  • Impulsivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Mild confusion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Promiscuity
  • A feeling of love for those around them
  • Heightened emotions
  • Thirst
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Heightened sensory perception

Recognizing an Ecstasy Addiction

Abuse of ecstasy usually begins with curiosity or experimentation, but ongoing abuse can result in an addiction. Signs of addiction include frequent use of the drug and the inability to have fun or function normally without it. The clearest indicator of ecstasy addiction is the formation of tolerance and dependence.

Other signs of an ecstasy addiction include:

  • Sudden difficulty meeting daily responsibilities
  • Lying or being secretive of ecstasy use
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems
  • Reluctance to attend family or social events where ecstasy will be unavailable
  • Storing and hiding the drug around the home
  • Mood swings
  • Inability or unwillingness to quit when ecstasy misuse causes issues
  • Depression and oversleeping when not using
  • Changes in social circle

What is Ecstasy Withdrawal?

Withdrawal occurs when the user’s brain becomes reliant on ecstasy to function normally. Taking ecstasy modifies the activity of neurotransmitters, specifically those that affect a sense of pleasure and love in the brain. This causes increased euphoric and positive emotions that come with the use of ecstasy. Unfortunately, this unnatural increase in activity also rapidly reduces the production of the brain’s supply of its own natural chemicals required to feel the same way.

When someone stops taking the drug, they will go through withdrawal as their brain is trying to re-learn how to operate properly without the drug. Usually, users experience the exact reverse of what they felt when high.

The majority of withdrawal symptoms caused by this drug are psychological, but some may also experience physical distress. The severity and the duration of withdrawal symptoms, notably vary, depending on the user. A few known factors that affect withdrawal include:

  • Metabolism and general health
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Tolerance
  • The frequency and period of drug use
  • Gender

User’s with polydrug abuse and co-occurring disorders may experience a more severe withdrawal than others.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Physical withdrawal is relatively mild in comparison to psychological withdrawal symptoms caused by the cessation of ecstasy.

Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Cravings
  • Memory problems
  • Changes in self-perception
  • Depression

Relapse during the withdrawal period is particularly dangerous due to the decrease of one’s tolerance. If the user resumes his/her consumption with the same dosage as before, they are at a greater risk of fatal overdose.

Managing ecstasy withdrawal symptoms on one’s own can be difficult. It is highly recommended that patients complete their withdrawal in an inpatient rehab or medically assisted detox facility.

Ecstasy Withdrawal Timeline

Days 1-3

Withdrawal symptoms begin within a few days of cessation of ecstasy. Insomnia, anxiety, depression, irritability, lack of concentration, and paranoia can occur intensely and quickly. Users may also end up losing their appetite and feel mentally and physically exhausted.

Days 4-10

Intense withdrawal symptoms last about a week, then begin to fade away. Psychological symptoms, such as depression, cravings, insomnia, and concentration/memory difficulties, may persist.

Days 11+

Depression and other mental health conditions may worsen during this period as the patient’s brain struggles to produce its own natural dopamine without the drug. Cravings, concentration issues, impaired memory, and insomnia may trouble the recovering patient during this stage. It can take weeks or months for these long-term symptoms to fade away.

Ecstasy Detox

Medical detox is available in many inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities. Health professionals within these treatment centers monitor their patients all through detox to help them get through withdrawal safely. The doctors may also prescribe medications like antidepressants to help alleviate many of the severe psychological withdrawal symptoms experienced during ecstasy detox.

Since ecstasy is often cut with other substances, withdrawal symptoms tend to be inconsistent. During medical detox, doctors constantly track the user’s progress and take necessary action if symptoms become too severe or life-threatening. Hence, medical detox is the safest process to help a patient through the initial stage of recovery.

Treatment Centers for Ecstasy Addiction

Inpatient rehab is an ideal choice for those suffering from prolonged and severe ecstasy addiction. Inpatient rehab centers provide a safe and secure residential facility void of all temptations and distractions. This key feature can be attributed to its high success rate in addiction treatment. Inpatient treatment centers are an ideal choice for ecstasy addiction due to their comprehensive treatment plans.

Since a majority of ecstasy users usually take other stimulants to enhance their effects (polydrug abuse), treatment plans require to be adaptable to treat each and every substance separately. The treatment specialist will also pay close attention to any underlying mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety.

Inpatient rehabilitation for ecstasy addiction ranges from 30 days to six months or longer. The length of treatment needed to recover depends on the extent of the addiction and the underlying problems that have contributed to it.

After the completion of medical detox and inpatient rehab, a patient can continue their treatment at an outpatient treatment program. Outpatient rehabs provide an ideal setting for those who wish to continue with their treatment while also being able to take care of obligations and responsibilities at home and work. This program provides a patient with a variety of programs such as support groups and therapy essential for preventing relapses and maintaining long-term sobriety.

A common modality found in all inpatient and outpatient treatment centers is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is an ideal choice for ecstasy addiction treatment due to its distinct and extensive psychological effects caused by ecstasy consumption. This treatment plan, combined with therapy, helps the patient manage stress, emotional distress, and cravings.

It is vital that all patients exploring treatment options first undergo a substance abuse evaluation performed by an addiction specialist to help determine the right treatment plan.


What is the treatment process for ecstasy addiction?

There is no specific treatment for ecstasy addiction. Given the fact that withdrawal effects are indeed due to a deficiency of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, drugs that boost the amount of these chemicals in the brain will assist quite a bit with the detoxification process. For instance, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used to relieve depression, anxiety, and panic attacks that are prevalent with ecstasy withdrawal.

Ongoing Recovery

Addiction to any substance is a life long battle, and establishing a long-term treatment plan is crucial in maintaining long-lasting sobriety. Creating or building a social reinforcement is an effective form of treatment as it provides the patient with positive support and reinforcements to help them maintain their recovery. Attending support groups and therapy are key to ongoing recovery.

Attending 12-step programs like Narcotic Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery results in higher success rates among individuals recovering from ecstasy addiction. Continuing therapy is also equally crucial, especially for patients with co-occurring mental health disorders. The ongoing treatment provides emotional support and accountability and helps prevent relapse to a greater extent.

Recovery Partner Network

We aim to educate and empower. If you feel our library of resources does not cover your specific need, reach out to us, and we would be happy to help.