MDMA is the acronym for 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, which is best known as ecstasy. MDMA is a synthetic drug that produces an effect similar to the stimulant methamphetamine. Ecstasy and MDMA can be dangerous due to the drug’s hallucinogenic properties and effects on the brain, and repeated use of ecstasy can increase these dangers.
What are the Reasons for Using?
Ecstasy is not available by prescription. It is an illegal drug that is banned in many countries, including the United States. MDMA works by affecting a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate mood, sexual activity, sleep and sensitivity to pain. By affecting serotonin levels, ecstasy causes euphoric feelings in the user. Though not approved to treat medical conditions, psychiatrists have expressed an interest in using the drug to treat anxiety, fear and stress disorders.
Many MDMA users are teenagers and young adults. As the drug is used recreationally to enhance pleasurable feelings, MDMA is commonly taken at raves, clubs and parties. Some individuals take the substance to increase sexual pleasure. The drug acts rapidly, and users can experience the euphoric feeling for hours after ingestion. The effects of ecstasy and MDMA are more harmful than most users realize.
Alternate names for ecstasy include:
- Scooby snacks
- Love drug
Did You Know?
In 1912, MDMA was developed in Germany for use as an appetite suppressant.
One short-term effect of ecstasy and MDMA use is an increased heart rate. The drug may also raise blood pressure in some individuals. This can lead to a thickening of the heart and may cause kidney failure. Short-term effects last from four to six hours and can include:
- Impaired memory
More severe short-term effects include:
- Muscle tension
- Teeth clenching
- Blurred visions
- Involuntary rapid eye movement
The effects of ecstasy and MDMA can lead to serious medical conditions, so it’s important to get prompt help.
Consequences of Long-Term Abuse
Long-term effects of ecstasy and MDMA abuse can be both physical and psychological. Psychological effects include:
- Inability to concentrate
- Thoughts of suicide
Physical effects include:
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Brain damage
- Heart failure
- Overactive reflexes
Brain damage caused by MDMA abuse may be reversible. Feelings of depression and memory loss may last long after use of the drug has stopped. Ecstasy affects chemicals in the brain, and long-term use can damage the brain’s ability to regulate and produce these chemicals. Regular MDMA use can cause depressed feelings that last for long periods of time.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, 10 percent of high school seniors admitted trying MDMA at least once.
Developing an Addiction
Heavy MDMA users can develop a dependency on the drug. Some individuals do not know that an addiction has developed. A person often begins using the drug recreationally since MDMA is commonly available at parties and raves, and it can initially seem harmless. After repeated use, the drug loses its effectiveness on the user, and a larger dose is required to produce the desired feeling. Over time, this leads to tolerance. A regular ecstasy user may experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
Did You Know?
MDMA use has been reported by children in the 8th grade.
Treatment for MDMA and Ecstasy Addicts
Both the short-term and long-term effects of ecstasy and MDMA abuse are often reversible. Those who have formed an addiction to this drug can indeed be helped. Treatment begins with a detoxification process, through which the substance is slowly flushed from the patient’s system. Once the recovering individual is free from the drug, a comprehensive treatment program is the next step.
Treatment programs vary in approach and include the following methods:
- Holistic treatment is a more natural approach to curing MDMA addiction. Acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, massage, counseling, yoga, meditation, diet and exercise are all used to treat the recovering individual.
- Behavior therapy is aimed at changing the patient’s attitudes and actions. Positive thoughts and behaviors replace unproductive mental conditioning that can lead to substance abuse. The patient learns new ways of managing stress and coping with problems that can lead to drug use.
- Some treatment programs take a religious approach. Faith-based programs teach the patient to rely on God to help with the recovery process. Twelve-step programs are popular faith-based programs.
- Many recovering addicts choose a residential treatment center. Inpatient treatment offers a structured approach to recovery. Individuals receive education, counseling and group therapy. The addict receives structured treatment in a supportive and caring environment.
- An alternative approach to treating addiction is wilderness therapy. Patients spend time outdoors hiking, camping and learning survival skills. The recovering addict builds confidence and self-respect. The group setting adds a supportive element that aids in the healing process.
The effects of ecstasy and MDMA can be pleasurable in the short-term, but chronic users often suffer from emotional and physical problems. Treatment facilities get to the root causes of the addiction and treat the patient’s body, mind and soul.