Its fame, however, does not translate into an equally universal understanding of its effects on the mind and body, and not everyone is aware of them.
Ecstasy: everything you need to know
3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, more easily known as MDMA or Ecstasy, is a hallucinogenic drug which produces a ‘high’ associated with a distorted perception of reality and intense feelings of euphoria.
It can come in the form of a capsule that is swallowed – which carries the risk of containing other substances as well as Ecstasy – or a powder which can be rubbed onto the gums or swallowed.
After being consumed, Ecstasy begins influencing three neurotransmitters in the brain.
The brain usually experiences this within 30 minutes of Ecstasy being consumed. The ‘high’ can last for a number of hours, usually no more than 4, however, a decline in mood known as a ‘comedown’ can last for several days following.
What are the mental effects of taking Ecstasy?
As a result of Ecstasy’s direct influence on the mood regulators of the brain, its effects are primarily mental and emotional.
Some of the most common psychological effects of taking the drug include:
- Extreme feelings of happiness, love, and optimism
- Increased energy and alertness
- Confusion, disorientation, and a detachment from reality
- Psychotic symptoms, particularly paranoia
- Lack of inhibition
- Sensory hallucinations
- Increased libido
- Mood swings and aggression spikes
- Memory lapses
- Poor attention span
What are the physical effects of taking Ecstasy?
These adverse effects commonly include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscle tightening
- Nausea and vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Fever-like symptoms
- Excessive energy levels
- Dilated pupils
- Numbness and tingling
- Involuntary movement of the jaw, commonly referred to as ‘gurning’
Consistent Ecstasy use: what are the long-term risks?
In addition to the effects that Ecstasy has within the immediate few hours after consumption, consistent use of the drug can lead to changes occurring on a much more long-term basis.
Changes in brain functioning
Using Ecstasy regularly means that the serotonin neurotransmitter comes under serious strain. Of the three neurotransmitters that are activated when the drug is taken, serotonin is by far the most affected, and this can impact its performance in future.
When this occurs, use of the drug might become more desperate as the need to feel Ecstasy’s euphoric effects increases. This kind of response can push the brain so far that serotonin syndrome develops, a condition that can be potentially fatal.
Increased risk of mental and emotional conditions
Although research acknowledges the care that must be taken when drawing connections between Ecstasy use and ‘scare stories’, results have found that regular consumption can lead to several cognitive and emotional problems.
Particularly, cognitive disorders have been found to be more prevalent in those who use Ecstasy, as have irregular mood changes.
In addition, cerebrovascular accidents, involving bleeding in the brain, are also linked with Ecstasy use .
Changes in sleep quality and sex life
Thanks to the neurological rollercoaster of regular Ecstasy consumption, individuals can find their personal life impacted in several ways that they might not have expected.
This can result in sleeping problems and long-term insomnia.
Similarly, the hormones responsible for sexual arousal can be affected, reducing libido and sexual functionality.
What influences the effect that Ecstasy has on an individual?
In both the short- and long-term, the ways in which Ecstasy affects an individual can be influenced by a number of factors.
Of course, everyone is unique in how they personally respond to a drug, but common factors that bear an influence include:
- An individual’s age (particularly the age they begin using Ecstasy)
- An individual’s sex
- The dosage being consumed
- The frequency of consumption
- The presence of other substances in Ecstasy pills
Is it possible to form an addiction on Ecstasy?
In fact, research appears to be uncertain as to whether Ecstasy carries an abuse potential. In the sense that an individual becomes physically dependent on the drug, there have been cases of people claiming to be addicted, but not enough conclusive evidence.
However, it is likely much more common for individuals to experience a psychological dependence on Ecstasy, in which they get so used to the euphoric effects of taking the drug so regularly that they struggle to cope without it.
Their brain forms an association between pleasure and Ecstasy, and this becomes reinforced with every consumption. Over time, the role the drug plays in mood regulation becomes relied upon, resulting in emotional and psychological distress when it isn’t available.
The dangers of Ecstasy withdrawal
If we consider psychological dependence on Ecstasy as the primary way an individual can become addicted, it is no surprise that the reported withdrawal symptoms primarily affect mood and mental well-being.
- Fatigue and insomnia
- Bouts of depression
- Cognitive problems, such as poor concentration
- Appetite fluctuations
Although predictable, Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms must not be underestimated. Psychological symptoms can easily lead to the development of serious mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and poor sleep can affect physical health.
Appetite problems must also be recognised for the risk they pose to health. Irregular eating can affect physical development, cognitive functionality, and mood. Those who struggle to eat consistently can also develop disorders such as anorexia.
Treating a dependency on Ecstasy
Engaging with a psychological dependence on Ecstasy requires a therapeutic approach. With physical dependence not being a scientific certainty, those who feel as though they cannot live without Ecstasy will likely benefit most from addiction therapy.
During this treatment, individuals work with addiction specialists to better understand their relationship with Ecstasy. Their attraction to the drug, their ways of thinking about it, and what situations make them want to use it are all discussed and explored.
In many cases, other mental health conditions are identified and their connection with Ecstasy use is explored. This is known in addiction treatment as dual diagnosis.
Working with the products of these discussions, therapy attempts to produce practical means of managing an individual’s addiction.
Thoughts and emotions are used to produce coping mechanisms that help them resist their urge to abuse Ecstasy.
A widely used method is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It helps individuals not only identify how their ways of thinking about Ecstasy facilitate and prompt misuse, but helps them develop new thought processes which spark positive shifts in behaviour.
OK Rehab – how we can help
Developing an unhealthy relationship with Ecstasy can be the cause of a lot of distress and confusion.
You might not believe you have done anything wrong, and yet you notice your usage has become frequent and its effects are beginning to take a toll on your life.
Always remember, however, that OK Rehab are here to help. Our staff are always available to answer your questions and give you the guidance and support you need to better understand Ecstasy and take control of your use of it.
If you need help, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0800 326 5559!