MDMA, most commonly referred to as ecstasy (other street names include X, XTC, E, beenies), is a drug very similar to amphetamine or cocaine in the user’s propensity for dependence and addiction. With the same euphoric responses to the pleasure centers of the brain, ecstasy can also trigger responses similar to mescaline, producing psychedelic effects.
The addictive properties of MDMA are those that stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain, damaging the neurons key to serotonin transmission. Research has proven that the damage done to these transmitters is permanent and can be measured after as little as two weeks of use of ecstasy. This damage, reported on research performed on red monkeys, was still present six or seven years after the drug was administered. Damage to the brain included two areas, both impacting memory–one visual, the other long-term.
Why Is Ecstasy Addictive?
Dependence on MDMA occurs as the use of the drug elicits a pleasurable response in the brain, a release of chemical compounds triggering a desire for more once the drug when it begins to wear off. Craving the pleasurable effects of the ecstasy begins a cycle of use that becomes increasingly stronger as the dependency goes more deeply into the user’s system. Users begin to crave the sensations produced by E and to experience a stronger and longer-lasting need to avoid the depression that sets in when the drug is gone from their bodies.
Some “positive” effects produced by the drug include euphoria, alertness, surges of energy, along with hallucinogenic properties, as well as loss of appetite, well-being, empowerment, and increased pleasure in sensations. Long-term use begins to create problems with respiration, heart rate, and dehydration. However, negative side effects can included blood pressure, anxiety, increased heart rate, dry mouth, jaw clenching, grinding one’s teeth, agitation and restlessness and delusions.
Getting off of Ecstacy
Withdrawal from MDMA can be unpleasant, but overdosing from ecstasy is rare. Most dangerous to users are the side effects of MDMA when it is used as it was popularized in the social setting known as a rave. During a rave, users engage in hours of dancing and frenetic activity, which increases the side effects of ecstasy to the point where dehydration and rising blood pressure and heart rate can death by either hyperthermia or heart/kidney failure.
Symptoms of withdrawal from MDMA are depression, loss of appetite, muscle pain, irritability and angry outbursts, loss of sleep or increased need for sleep and cravings for the pleasurable effects brought on by the drug. As with most drugs, dependency is noted by the continued use of the drug, despite adverse consequences for use. In the face of circumstances that would signal stopping the drug, users who have become dependent will continue to crave and use the drug. Such consequences can be social, financial, and/or physical and emotional. Most often, they will be all of those and more. Loss of family, social standing, jobs, financial gains, and emotional and physical wellness are strong indicators that what might have started out as casual usage has become a full-blown MDMA addiction which requires treatment.