About MDMA (Esctasy)

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Sobriety.ca Foundation is a riverside treatment facility found in beautiful rural Godmanchester County. Here, individuals struggling with ecstasy addiction have access to multiple evidence-based treatment options. Our facility provides a comprehensive rehabilitation treatment plan catered towards everyone’s needs and desires. As such, we offer the following treatment services:

  • Detoxification from ecstasy
  • Treatment for ecstasy in residential settings
  • Interventions for ecstasy use
  • Rehabilitation from ecstasy
  • SMART Recovery Meetings

What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy can usually be identified as a little coloured pill or capsule with some sort of logo stamped on it. It is comprised of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and gained popularity among recreational drug users because of its clean reputation and ability to enhance social experiences. This drug produces an altruistic effect on its users which lead to it being the must-have drug of the 80s rave culture.

Despite its popularity, this drug is illegally-made in private laboratories and often cut with other chemicals as a consequence. Because of this, it is impossible to tell the true contents of a pill sold as ecstasy today without specialized testing. Those who use ecstasy are at risk for consuming non-MDMA substances such as bath salts, caffeine, procaine, and methamphetamine.

What is Ecstasy Addiction?

According to the DSM-5, ecstasy is a hallucinogen. This insinuates that there are no symptoms of withdrawal associated with its use. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association suggests that there is no robust evidence that demonstrates withdrawal is associated with hallucinogen use. Despite this, the drug has stimulant-like properties which individuals can experience withdrawal from. As it happens, this is well-documented and can manifest as depression, irritability, or anxiety. Consequently, this may motivate continued drug use and is oftentimes conceptualized as stimulant dependence.

Craving for the feelings of euphoria is another form of dependence documented among ecstasy use. According to the World Health Organization, the initial rush of euphoria after taking the drug can lead to a subsequent psychological craving, perpetuating further use of the drug. Because the duration of action of ecstasy is rather short, this increases the likelihood of those who use the drug to develop a low dependence.

Lastly, it is common that individuals with pre-existing psychological conditions or substance-use disorders are more likely to use the drug repeatedly. For example, some individuals with an anxiety disorder report feeling withdrawal-like symptoms when coming down from the high. This may lead to subsequent use of the drug. More often than not, ecstasy is taken as one of several drugs in a period of time. In other words, it is commonly used in the presence of other drugs (e.g., alcohol) and rarely taken on its own.

Short-Term Effects and Risks

Individuals usually notice the effects of ecstasy within the first 20 minutes of taking the drug and then symptoms can last up to six hours. Symptoms can include:

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of ease
  • Anxiety
  • Increased introspection
  • Sensitivity to sensory stimuli (e.g. lights, music)
  • Increased energy
  • Increased heartrate
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dehydration
  • Jaw clenching
  • Hypernatremia

Intoxication and Overdose

During overdose, some individuals may report acute physical and psychological distress. For example, some people may report anxiety/panic attacks or intense depression a few days after coming down from the high. Furthermore, individuals with a pre-existing psychiatric or psychological diagnosis may experience psychotic or manic episodes with intoxication associated with this drug.

Albeit rare, individuals may also experience clinical toxicity with ecstasy use- especially in the presence of other drugs (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, etc.). As a result, individuals may experience cardiovascular failure. This is a consequence of hyperthermia, dehydration, and too much physical activity (e.g., dancing) which can also lead to fatal rhabdomyolysis followed by subsequent organ failure (e.g., kidneys).

Finally, users may experience hypernatremia caused by an imbalance of sodium and water in the body. This is a result of excess water consumption associated with use of this drug. Consequently, individuals can suffer from acute water intoxication which swells the brain, causing states of confusion, impaired consciousness, seizures, or death. As it happens, this is the leading cause of death associated with ecstasy-use.

Pharmacology – How does it work?

MDMA is the active ingredient of pure ecstasy and is a mild stimulant. Consequently, it promotes excess serotonin (5-HT) levels into the brain by releasing it then blocking it from being recycled back into the neuron. Similar to other drugs, it does not directly interact with any receptors. Instead, it interacts with transporters in the brain by redirecting stored 5-HT back into the synapse. As a result, this creates excess amounts of 5-HT in the synapse, leading to increased activity. As it happens, one dose of MDMA can result in the release of 80% of the readily available 5-HT. Furthermore, MDMA inhibits enzymes that breakdown 5-HT in the brain, again leading to increased amounts of the neurotransmitter in the brain. All of this leads to the euphoric effects of the drug. Lastly, it also increases dopamine, noradrenaline, and acetylcholine levels in the brain which produces the stimulant-like effects of the drug.