Ecstasy Addiction / MDMA Addiction

Ecstasy works as a stimulant-type drug that carries strong addictive properties. Prior to 1985, ecstasy appeared on drugstore shelves as a popular diet aid, according to Brown University Health Education. Over time, ecstasy’s damaging effects on brain and bodily functions become glaringly apparent to the point where the drug was soon re-categorized as an illegal substance.

Young people and college students make up the bulk of regular users, with ecstasy being a popular drug of choice within the “party scene.” An ecstasy “high” brings on a surge in energy, with users experiencing a loss of inhibitions and increased sexual arousal. Ecstasy also produces hallucinogen-like effects that add an “other-worldly-type” experience to the drug’s effects.

By the time ecstasy addiction sets in, users devote most, if not all of their time, to drug-seeking and drug-using activities. Without needed, ongoing treatment help, the addict’s condition grows progressively worse with continued drug use.

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What is Ecstasy?

Ecstasy comes in tablet form, which users often crush into a powder so the drug can be smoked, snorted or injected. While already addictive in tablet form, powdered ecstasy can deliver an even more enhanced effect and so increase the drug’s overall addictive effect.

Ecstasy’s technical name is MDMA or 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine. MDMA acts as the drug’s main ingredient, though ecstasy purchased on the streets will likely have other additive materials that can be just as harmful as MDMA. Additive materials commonly found in ecstasy include:

  • Heroin
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Ketamine
  • LSD

According to Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, ecstasy produces both stimulant and hallucinogen effects, each of which interferes with key chemical processes in the brain. With the types of additives used ranging from opiates (heroin) to hallucinogens (Ketamine, Dextromethorphan and LSD), ecstasy’s overall effect can wreak widespread dysfunction throughout the brain and central nervous system.

Ecstasy directly stimulates the production of essential neurotransmitter chemicals, some of which include:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • GABA

These chemical effects account for the drug’s addictive potential as well as for the physical damage it leaves in its wake.

Effects of Ecstasy on the Brain

Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy addiction negatively affects your brain’s ability to regulate serotonin.

Brain neurotransmitter chemicals enable the brain to regulate bodily functions and act as a means of communication between the brain’s various regions. To work effectively, chemical levels must remain relatively stable as any fluctuations can have widespread repercussions in terms of a person’s physical and psychological functioning.

Not surprisingly, brain chemical imbalances tend to worsen in severity with continued ecstasy use. Ecstasy not only stimulates neurotransmitter production, but also blocks the brain’s ability to recycle excess chemical amounts, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine.

Ecstasy has a particularly targeted effect on the brain’s serotonin production levels. Serotonin plays a pivotal role in regulating a person’s memory, emotions and learning functions. The toll ecstasy takes on serotonin production processes plays a big part in the drug’s high addictive potential.

In effect, ecstasy abuse leaves brain cells and regions saturated in neurotransmitter chemicals. Before long, needed chemical supplies become depleted, which only to compromise the brain’s overall functional capacity over time.

Symptoms of Ecstasy Addiction

Ecstasy’s effects on a person’s health work in much the same way as a progressive disease where ongoing deterioration of bodily structures helps to strengthen the drug’s hold over a person’s health and quality of life. With each successive dose, brain tolerance levels play a pivotal role in perpetuating physical dependency and ongoing drug use.

Symptoms of ecstasy addiction first appear as withdrawal effects, which reflect the body’s declining condition and state of health. With ongoing use, ecstasy addiction symptoms start to interfere with a person’s daily habits and routines, driving users to neglect the most important areas of their lives.

Lifestyle Symptoms of Ecstasy Addiction

Lifestyle symptoms of ecstasy addiction have more to do with changes in a person’s behaviors and daily routines. Lifestyle symptoms may take the form of:

  • Declining health
  • Decline in appearance/personal hygiene
  • Financial difficulties
  • Relationship problems
  • Change in social circle (abandoning old friends to spend time with other drug users)
  • Isolative behavior
  • Decline in work performance
  • Job loss
  • Legal problems
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Withdrawal Symptoms from Ecstasy

As brain tolerance levels continue to rise, a growing physical dependency on ecstasy starts to take root. When physically dependent, the brain cannot carry out normal bodily functions without needed supplies of ecstasy. Bodily functions most affected include:

  • Heart function
  • Respiratory function
  • Digestion
  • Emotional stasis
  • Body temperature regulation
  • Movement and coordination

Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms start to develop when needed amounts of the drug are lacking. In effect, withdrawal symptoms indicate a breakdown in one or more of the above bodily functions.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for most people, ecstasy withdrawal symptoms may take the form of:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Depression symptoms
  • Bouts of anxiety
  • Loss of sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to experience joy and/or contentment
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of rage
  • Confused thought processes
  • Intense drug cravings

Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms become most pronounced when detoxing off the drug. For chronic and long-term users, withdrawal symptoms continue to increase in intensity and frequency as brain chemical levels skew further and further out of sync.

Tolerance Effects

Drugs capable of interfering with the brain’s chemical system pose a considerable risk in terms of altering chemical processes in fundamental ways. As ecstasy can exert considerable influence over chemical activity, the brain naturally develops a tolerance for ecstasy’s effects over time.

Tolerance level increases develop out of two conditions –

  • Overworked brain cell receptor sites
  • Loss of sensitivity to ecstasy’s effects

Considering how ecstasy all but forces brain cells sites to secrete large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, individual cell receptor sites start to undergo structural deterioration with repeated drug use. Deterioration works to weaken overall cell site functioning making it that much harder to secrete needed chemical supplies.

In the process, brain cell sites become less sensitive to ecstasy’s effects. When this happens, cells require larger quantities of ecstasy to secrete the amount of chemicals needed to produce the same desired “high” effect.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment Options

Ecstasy addiction treatment entails addressing the physical and psychological damage caused by long-term drug use. As breaking the body’s physical dependency on the drug becomes an essential first step towards recovery, detox treatment marks the starting point for anyone wanting to break free of an ecstasy addiction.

From there, recovering addicts require ongoing guidance and support to overcome the drug’s hold over their psychological well-being. Unlike the many medication therapies used in opiate addiction treatment, no known medications exist to support the type of brain deterioration brought on by chronic ecstasy use. For this reason, most all ecstasy addiction treatment options work to help addicts overcome the psychological effects of the drug.

Ecstasy Addiction Treatment Goals

By the time a person enters ecstasy addiction treatment, his or her physical and psychological state has undergone considerable decline. It’s not uncommon for addicts to have made multiple attempts to stop drug use before finally entering addiction treatment.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ecstasy addiction treatment goals center on helping recovering addicts undo the addiction mindset that drives ongoing drug-using behaviors. As long-term ecstasy abuse essentially alters the mind’s belief systems and motivations, addiction treatment interventions help a person develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with daily life.

More oftentimes than not, the brain chemical imbalances brought on by ecstasy addiction make addicts more susceptible to developing psychological problems, such as anxiety and depression-based disorders. When this is the case, ecstasy addiction treatment interventions must address any resulting co-occurring conditions brought on by long-term drug use.

Detox Treatment Options

Ecstasy Addiction

Detox treatment can help alleviate ecstasy withdrawal symptoms.

The withdrawal effects that come with ecstasy detox account for why it’s so hard for addicts to stop using the drug. While there’s no preventing withdrawal symptoms from occurring, ecstasy detox programs can administer medications that help to reduce the degree of discomfort a person experiences.

Likewise, people struggling with co-occurring disorders on top of addiction will also experience the full effects of these conditions during detox. To help counter these effects, detox programs will likely administer antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medications to help relieve symptoms associated with these conditions.

Gaining an understanding of how ecstasy disrupts brain function and breeds addiction can go a long way towards helping addicts tough out the worst of the detox stage. For this reason, detox programs provide drug education and counseling services so addicts can go move through the recovery process with a clear understanding of how addiction works.

Levels of Addiction Treatment

While a person can choose between residential or outpatient treatment, anyone battling an ecstasy addiction will likely require residential care after completing a detox program. By far, residential programs are the most restrictive, requiring participants to live at the facility for the duration of the program.

In actuality, the only difference between residential and outpatient care has to do with treatment level intensity and the degree of “freedom” available through any one program. Ultimately, deciding on the right level of treatment has to do with addiction severity. Failing to receive the needed level of treatment care only sets a person up for relapse in the near future.

Psychosocial Supports

Addiction develops out of a person’s inability to cope with everyday life stressors in a healthy manner. Factors that influence the likelihood of addiction include:

  • An inability to communicate one’s thoughts and emotions in a constructive way
  • Environmental influences, such as family upbringing and peer pressures
  • Past traumas, such as sexual and/or physical abuse

Even after a person completes drug treatment, these underlying issues can still steer a person back to drug use when left unresolved. Ecstasy aftercare treatment helps recovering addicts work through the roots of their addiction problem by providing needed psychosocial supports.

Psychosocial support interventions may take the form of:

The need for ongoing psychosocial supports becomes especially important in cases where a person struggles with a depression, bipolar or anxiety disorder on top of an addiction problem.

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The Importance of Ecstasy Aftercare Treatment

The widespread structural brain damage brought on by ecstasy addiction leaves addicts craving the drug for years into the recovery process. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ecstasy addicts can remain at high risk for relapse long after they’ve taken their last dose of the drug. Without ongoing aftercare treatment, a person will likely re-enter detox and residential or outpatient care within the first year of recovery.

Ecstasy aftercare treatment enables addicts to stay engaged in the recovery process and eventually develop the type of mindset and behaviors needed to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Ongoing psychosocial supports play a critical role in helping recovering addicts refrain from future drug use.

Ecstasy Addiction Aftereffects

Even after a person completes detox, residential and/or outpatient treatment, ecstasy’s aftereffects on a person’s overall emotional state can place recovering addicts at risk of relapse for years to come. Depleted neurotransmitter chemical processes in the brain leave a person in a perpetual state of depression and apathy with little to no ability to experience any type of emotions. Of all the challenges those in recovery face, the inability to “feel” anything can quickly drive a person back to using again.

This condition coupled with the drug cravings that so often persist becomes an ongoing threat to a person’s continued efforts at abstinence. Drug cravings, in particular, result from the ingrained habit of turning to ecstasy when life pressures seem too much to bear. Without ongoing ecstasy aftercare treatment, recovering addicts have little chance at overcoming the daily urge to escape via the effects of the drug.

Developing Relapse Prevention Strategies

For people coming off ecstasy addictions, the risk of relapse never really goes away. The structural damage done to the brain can be permanent in many cases, which only works to make the recovery process that much harder.

For this reason, recovering addicts must continue to fine-tune their relapse prevention strategy so they remain prepared for anything life brings. Ecstasy aftercare treatment focuses on helping addicts employ learned prevention strategies on a daily basis. In the process, regular support group meeting attendance and ongoing psychotherapy work to keep a person plugged into the principles and practices that make a drug-free existence possible.