MDMA is a psychedelic drug that people use for pleasurable feelings and energy. According to statistics, approximately 2.2 million Americans used MDMA between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, more than 21 million people had used MDMA at some point in their lives. Nearly 600,000 people reported using MDMA within the past month when that research was conducted.
MDMA use is more common among adults. Under 2% of high school students who participated in a survey reported using MDMA. Today, researchers are also exploring the use of MDMA for treating anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Like several other addictive drugs that have therapeutic applications, MDMA comes with risks and dangers. It is important to understand the signs of MDMA addiction and understand the dangers of the substance.
What Is MDMA?
The full name for MDMA is 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. It is a synthetic substance. As a drug that produces feelings of pleasure, warmth, and energy, it is similar to hallucinogens and stimulants. Molly and ecstasy are the two common slang names for the drug today. Some other semi-common names are Lover’s Speed, Eve, Adam, Disco Biscuit, E, XTC, and X. Beans, Clarity, Biscuit, STP, Peace, Hug Drug, and Go are some other street names for MDMA.
Is MDMA Addictive?
Is Molly addictive? It is addictive because of how it affects the brain, and those effects will be discussed more in a later section. As it is with addictions to other substances, professional treatment is necessary to overcome ecstasy addiction.
History of MDMA
Although most Americans first heard about MDMA in the 1970s or 1980s, its history began even earlier. A German pharmaceutical company developed it in 1912. Under a different name, MDMA was originally meant to be a synthesizer for medications that controlled bleeding. A common misconception is that its original purpose was to control appetite.
Despite a lack of FDA approval and extensive testing, some psychiatrists used MDMA during clinical sessions in the 1970s. They claimed that it helped patients reach and communicate insights about their issues. Throughout the early 1980s, MDMA became easier to obtain on the streets. At the time, the substance was commonly used by people attending parties, raves, and nightclubs.
As a response to widespread MDMA misuse, the DEA initiated an emergency ban on it in 1985. Since the drug had a high abuse potential and no accepted medical uses, the agency added it to the Schedule I list of drugs. The drug was removed from the list for a short time during the late 1980s. However, it was placed back on the Schedule I list and is still on it today. MDMA clinical trials for therapeutic purposes started in the 1990s, and they continue today.
What Are the Forms of MDMA?
Common forms of the drug include powder and various styles of pills. Molly is the common name for the gel capsule form. Also, there are crystal and liquid forms. People may swallow or crush and snort MDMA. Although some may choose to smoke it, that form of consumption is less common.
How Does MDMA Affect the Brain?
MDMA mostly affects three of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that occur naturally in the body. It increases the production of them. The affected neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Dopamine increases energy and triggers the brain’s reward system to encourage certain behaviors. Serotonin affects sleep, mood, appetite, sexual arousal, and even trust. The release of serotonin enhances positive feelings and improves mood. It creates feelings of empathy as well. Norepinephrine raises blood pressure and heart rate. For people who have vascular or cardiac issues, those effects can be especially dangerous.
Effects of MDMA Use
Misusing MDMA causes the brain to excessively release the neurotransmitters discussed in the previous section. Although the feelings may be pleasant, the strain on the brain is damaging. When the brain excessively releases neurotransmitters for long periods, it becomes depleted and creates negative outcomes. These are some common effects of using ecstasy:
- Memory impairment
- Information processing impairment
- Difficulty concentrating
- False sense of security in dangerous places
- Difficulty detecting moving objects
- False sense of security when participating in risky behaviors
While the number of MDMA overdose fatalities is smaller in comparison with several other addictive substances, a false sense of security can contribute to fatalities. For instance, a person may feel safe walking along the roof ledge of a seven-story building. People also tend to feel safe mixing alcohol or other drugs with MDMA. Since people also lack the ability to detect moving objects, feeling safe to drive while using MDMA is exceptionally dangerous.
Long-Term Effects of MDMA Use
People do not have to use MDMA for long periods of time to experience long-lasting damage. Research shows that damage to serotonin neurons is possible. However, long-term damage is more common among people who use MDMA heavily or for long periods. These are some possible long-term effects of ecstasy use:
- Reduced motor function
- Impaired memory
- Difficulty with emotional regulation
- Impairment in attention processes
Negative Brain Effects of Heavy and Long-Term MDMA Use
While the previous effects are possible with heavy, temporary, or long-term use, some are more consistent among long-term users who also heavily use the drug. When researchers studied such individuals, these were some effects they noticed:
- Impulse control impairment
- Impaired sexual arousal
- Impairment in global form processing
Effects of MDMA Overdose
High doses of MDMA interfere with natural temperature regulation. In some cases, the result is hyperthermia, which is an increase in body temperature. As a result of hyperthermia, people can experience heart, liver, or kidney failure. Also, some may experience brain swelling and death. If an overdose occurs or is suspected, call 911.
Signs of MDMA Abuse in a Loved One
The effects of MDMA last a few hours or more, and many people take another dose before the first wears off. When a family member or loved one is misusing MDMA, there will be signs. They may be harder to identify if the person does not live in the same home. Most people who misuse MDMA or any other substance work hard to conceal the problem. However, these are some of the common signs that a loved one may be misusing ecstasy:
- Mood swings
- Secretive behavior
- Closely guarding a drawer or other place where MDMA is kept
- Behavior that is unusually friendly or empathetic
- Lack of judgment or impulse control
- Risky behavior
- Financial or legal problems
- Memory problems
- Withdrawal from work and social commitments
Symptoms of MDMA Misuse
Due to altered perception, people who use MDMA may falsely believe that they do not have a problem. Identifying a problem is an important step that can lead to recovery if a person chooses to seek help. These are some common symptoms people can look for in themselves to identify substance misuse:
- Frequent nausea or vomiting
- High blood pressure or heart rate
- Movement perception problems
- Distance from family members and friends
- Spending more time using the drug or obtaining it
- Inability to function properly without the drug
- Taking risks to obtain the substance
- Inability to stop taking the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal when trying to quit
What Is the Treatment for MDMA Addiction?
A person who cannot stop taking a substance despite its negative consequences is addicted to it. Addiction is a relapsing brain disorder, and it requires proper treatment. As discussed earlier, the effects of MDMA on the brain can last a long time. Without professional treatment, people are more likely to relapse. These are some common elements of MDMA treatment after people go through detox.
Substance abuse counseling in Maine is a valuable tool that therapists use in outpatient or inpatient programs. It helps people learn about triggers or the reasons they seek substances. Also, it helps them manage or cope with past trauma, manage triggers, and change behaviors.
There are group and family therapy programs as well. Additionally, various holistic therapies support whole-body healing. For many people, another important element of therapy is dual diagnosis treatment. A significant number of people who suffer from substance use disorders also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. If that disorder remains untreated, it can increase relapse risks. Dual diagnosis treatment provides simultaneous treatment for SUDs and co-occurring disorders.
Once people finish rehab, 12-step therapy programs can help them maintain sobriety. They are peer support groups that focus on healing. People provide and receive valuable support throughout their lives in these groups.
Treatment for MDMA Addiction at Casco Bay in Portland
Casco Bay Recovery offers the treatment structures and therapies discussed in the previous sections. Also, there are special programs for men and women. Casco Bay also provides aftercare, telehealth, and more.
In addition to ecstasy addiction treatment, there are programs for people who are addicted to other substances. We offer a nurturing, supportive environment and teach people how to overcome addiction with comprehensive treatment. To learn more about MDMA addiction treatment in Maine, please contact us.