Life changed forever when Sydney returned home from a party and went to bed. When her father went to check on her next morning, his 18-year-old daughter was dead. Sydney overdosed on the ecstasy she had bought the night before.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, more commonly known as ecstasy, is a synthetic mood-altering drug that was popularized during the 1980s in nightclubs because the psycho-stimulant made people want to dance the night away. Sadly, for far too many, the party ends without saying goodbye.
Almost 8,000 fatalities were attributed in one year, in part, to party drugs including substances, such as ecstasy, a modified version of methamphetamine. While public officials have concentrated their resources toward stopping the spread of opioid abuse, ecstasy continues to rear its ugly head behind the scenes in emergency rooms and rehabs where teenagers and young adults have made visits frequent and routine.
Because ecstasy is manufactured illicitly and has no legally permitted application, determining the potency of an MDNA tablet beforehand is next to impossible. Although it’s possible to take too much ecstasy and feel severely sick, what is certain is that the threat to health is compounded when MDNA shows up in other drugs including methamphetamines, or in opioids, such as fentanyl. Substance abuse experts claim that makes buying drugs on the street riskier than ever.
Ecstasy can be taken orally, as a tablet or in a liquid form, or snorted as a powder. Structurally, MDMA is similar to a combination of methamphetamine and mescaline, producing both stimulant and mildly hallucinogenic effects.
When ecstasy reaches the brain, it attaches to three neurotransmitters — serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine — and raises their levels to enhance physical and mental activities. For example, dopamine boosts energy and heart rates are elevated when norepinephrine is influenced. Serotonin, on the other hand, regulates mood, social behavior, sexual desire and appetite, which is why ecstasy generates increased happiness and excitement when taken.
While ecstasy produces feel-good behaviors, the stimulant also interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature. That’s why people who are under the influence of ecstasy are prone to profuse sweating and dehydration. Most ecstasy-related deaths are reported at this time, usually the result of heatstroke from dancing for long hours without replenishing lost body fluids.
Although research has not conclusively deemed ecstasy to be addictive, one of the more overlooked effects is the cravings for more energy and stimulation that the drug entices.
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Once the brain is accustomed to ecstasy consumption levels, an individual will begin to experience psychological symptoms of withdrawal, such as depression and anxiety, after they stop using the drug. Physical effects are similar to other stimulants, such as cocaine, amphetamines and even coffee, depending on tolerance levels, frequency, and duration of use, metabolism and general conditions of health.
The effects of ecstasy come and go rather quickly, usually in the span of three to six hours or throughout an evening of partying. When the heightened energy and emotions peak and begin to subside after about 15-30 minutes from ingestion, a person who has taken a moderate dose of ecstasy can be expected to crave more of the drug. But, that’s not all.
Because ecstasy is illegal, the drug is either purchased on the street, passed from one individual to another or shared among friends. This not only makes pinpointing the drug’s potency difficult but identifying stages in the withdrawal process as well. In addition to purity levels, other factors affecting the withdrawal timeline may include an individual’s genetic makeup including metabolism, and frequency and length of use. A general guide of what to expect during ecstasy withdrawal somewhat mimics the cocaine timeline.
After about three hours — if a second dose is not ingested – an individual will become anxious, irritable and exhausted and develop an increased desire to sleep
For the next 10 weeks, an individual who has used ecstasy extensively over a long time will crave more of the drug and show some signs of irritability and fatigue
Few if any cravings after prolonged cessation
While alcohol and opioid withdrawal can be treated aggressively with medications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any drugs to deal with ecstasy addiction. Although some medications can help to restore serotonin levels, cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on the modification of an individual’s thinking, expectancies, and coping skills remains the most effective form of treatment to prevent a relapse.
Individuals who abuse party drugs like ecstasy are prone to “binge” or indulge to excess. Although ecstasy withdrawal does not typically present a medical threat, the very nature of this type of behavior – a loss of control – calls for supervision aimed at compromising the dangers associated with a return to using. The best chance at recovery and preventing relapse begins with some level of detoxification, typically under the care of medical professionals at a hospital or residential treatment facility.
As ecstasy withdrawal symptoms continue to wane, the next step in the recovery process involves an active rehabilitative approach that combines substance abuse treatment with the support, education, and lifestyle changes needed to sustain sobriety. An extended stay at a residential treatment center can provide a peaceful environment needed to address an individual’s issues and unique circumstances surrounding abusive behavior. Here, as part of your comprehensive and personal recovery plan, you will be introduced to relapse prevention techniques and other forms of substance abuse education through group therapy, one-on-one counseling, lectures, and workshops.
The party has ended and now it is time to stop abusing ecstasy and deal with the issues that have made you turn to dangerous stimulants to feel other than your natural self. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to ecstasy and you recognize the need for help, you are in the right place. You will find the assistance that you have been searching for at California Highlands. Beginning with detox and on through our post-treatment alumni program, our highly trained medical professionals and substance abuse counselors are ready to help you gain independence from ecstasy and regain your life.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from https://www.naabt.org/documents/TIP45.pdf
Congressional Research Service. from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43749.pdf
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets
U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8895996