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You or someone you care about might be struggling with ecstasy addiction or misuse and thinking about seeking treatment. That means that you have taken the first important step toward recovery. At the same time, you might be feeling anxious about starting the process, which is normal and understandable.
It can be helpful to know what to expect from various kinds of treatment and the steps to take to begin a recovery program. It can also be helpful to know healthier coping strategies that you can begin to use right away.
Psychotherapy Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction
Currently, no medication is available to treat ecstasy addiction.2 This makes psychotherapy even more crucial to the recovery process.
Therapy usually involves individual, co-joint (or couples), family, or group modalities. Co-joint therapy isn’t only for couples in a romantic relationship; it can be for any couple that wants to increase mutual understanding and constructive communication (e.g., friends, a divorced couple wanting help with co-parenting).
Intake and Assessment
When you first meet with a therapist for your intake appointment, they will assess you to better understand your goals, your level of ecstasy use, and any other issues or concerns you might be dealing with. The intake process is usually 1 session that takes 1-1.5 hours but could take up to 2 or 3 sessions.
If you are the parent of a minor for whom you seek help, in most states, you have the authorization to look at all information in your child’s mental health file. However, for your child to get the most out of therapy, you should respect your child’s privacy as much as possible. During the initial intake appointment, you and your child can discuss how best to do this with the therapist.
Recommendations for Ecstasy Addiction Treatment
After the intake, the therapist will go over recommendations for you that can include a combination of individual, co-joint, family, and/or group therapy. The therapist would base this on what your main concerns and goals are. For instance, if your ecstasy use is related to your romantic relationship, couples therapy may be a fit. Or, if you use ecstasy to deal with social anxiety, group therapy might make more sense.
Choosing a Therapist
It is best to seek out a therapist who specializes in substance use issues. It is also important that the therapist be licensed in the state that you reside.
Some credentials you might look for to ensure you work with a licensed professional include:
- Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs)
- Marriage and family therapists (LMFTs)
- Clinical addictions counselors (LCACs)
These are masters level professionals. Psychologists are doctors of philosophy (Ph.D.) who also provide treatment. Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD) who specialize in psychiatric issues. They mostly provide pharmacological or medication treatment.
Types of Psychotherapy Treatment
Though you are ready to seek treatment, you might also be feeling hesitant because of the positive effects of ecstasy. This is a normal part of the recovery process. Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) focuses on helping you sort through your conflicting feelings about your ecstasy use to help you get to the point of being able to take action to stop or reduce it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves adjusting your thought process that leads to ecstasy use and taking actions to reduce or stop use. This can include identifying what triggers you to use, ways to avoid those triggers, finding other coping strategies, and making lifestyle changes such that it becomes easier to avoid ecstasy.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy involves exploring how early life experiences or subconscious thoughts or feelings are linked to your use of ecstasy. Such added insight could give you the ability and motivation to control your use rather than feeling controlled by it.
These days it is more common for therapists to integrate various therapy styles rather than using just one.
Levels of Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction
There are four main levels of treatment for ecstasy users:
- Emergency room (ER) services
- Inpatient psychiatric treatment
- Residential rehabilitation (rehab)
- Outpatient treatment
Emergency medical attention is needed if any of these symptoms are present after use, as they are signs of possible toxicity:1,3
- Tremor or twitching
- Muscle rigidity
- Nausea and vomiting
- Panic attacks
- Hyperthermia (significant rise in body temperature)
- Loss of consciousness
Treatment in the ER can include intravenous fluids, stabilization of vital signs (body temperature, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and pulse rate), and possible medication. You should see improvement within 24 hours after emergency care.3
Once medical professionals provide you the emergency treatment, they will most likely discharge you to inpatient psychiatric treatment. This is usually a hospital stay lasting 5-7 days. Inpatient treatment would also be appropriate if you use a substance(s) in addition to ecstasy and/or have a mental health disorder.
Residential rehab is where you would live at the treatment facility for 1-3 months. Treatment usually includes individual and group therapy. This might be a fit for you if you lack a social support system or have unsuccessfully tried to cut down on your ecstasy use in the past.
Outpatient treatment is where you would visit a therapist about 2-4 times per month. This would be a fit for you if you have a strong social support system or your ecstasy use has had few negative impacts on your life.
Treatment for Ecstasy Withdrawal
Withdrawal occurs if your body is so dependent on a substance that it needs it to function, and you stop taking it abruptly or quit “cold turkey.” If this is the case, your body struggles to function with the sudden loss of the drug, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
Whether or not ecstasy causes a withdrawal period has not been conclusively determined by research. However, some who use the ecstasy drug have reported experiencing withdrawal.1 Withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Muscle aches4
If you think you or someone you love is experiencing withdrawal, it is important to get to the ER as soon as possible as it can be life-threatening without medical care and supervision. Treatment of withdrawal often involves fluids, medication to alleviate the symptoms, and multivitamin supplements.4
Steps for Seeking Treatment
Speak with your primary care doctor about your desire to start a treatment program. Since your doctor knows your medical history, you can work together to determine what type of program might be best for you. Moreover, your doctor can become a central part of the team of professionals you work with during the recovery process.
Contact your health insurance company for information. Some questions to be prepared to ask include:
- What types of therapy does my plan cover? Inpatient, outpatient, residential?
- How do you decide what is covered under my plan?
- Can you give me the names and contact information of some providers covered under my plan?
- What is my copay? Are there any other costs?
After considering the cost and location of a few providers or treatment centers, contact them and ask questions such as:
- What forms of treatment do you offer? Individual, family, group therapy?
- What is your therapy style?
- Do you have providers who specialize in substance use?
- What are the credentials of your providers?
Healthy Strategies for Coping with Stress
You may be struggling with depression or anxiety or another mental health concern that ecstasy helps you escape.5 Or perhaps you are a student who is stressed about schoolwork, and you are using ecstasy to avoid that stress. Some alternative ways to cope that you can start doing now are:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Reach out to a loved one or someone you trust to talk things out and get support.
- Seek treatment from a mental health professional.
When you have a busy schedule, it might be easy to make these self-care activities a low priority. However, you need to foster physical and emotional health to perform your best.
If your body doesn’t get adequate nourishment and a chance to rejuvenate, you probably won’t get as much mileage out of the time you take away from self-care and put toward work. For instance, staying up all night to do last-minute studying probably won’t be as helpful if your mind is not alert during the exam the next morning.
Here are some other strategies that you can employ instead:
- Start working early rather than procrastinating.
- Join study groups.
- Utilize professor office hours.
- Take active steps to tackle a project or problem. (Avoidance can exacerbate depression and/or anxiety.) Examples are:
- Break the project down into smaller tasks/goals and establish a deadline for each.
- Reach out for help from teachers or peers.
- Set a daily routine for yourself and schedule to work during the times that you are most alert. Exercise during times that you are not as mentally alert.
How Can I Help My Child Avoid Ecstasy Use?
You can do certain things to reduce the likelihood of your child using ecstasy:
- Seek help from a mental health professional if your child is struggling with emotional or behavioral concerns. Early intervention can help to avoid unhealthy coping strategies such as drug use in the future.
- Work to strengthen your bond with your child. (In one study, adolescents with strong bonds to family and school were less likely to use ecstasy than their peers with weaker bonds.6) Some ways to do this are:
- Eat dinner together.
- Spend one-on-one quality time with your child each week during which you can interact (e.g., going to the park, reading together)
- Spend time as a family once per week in a way that encourages interaction (e.g., board games).
- Take an active role in your child’s academic success. Set aside time each evening for your child to do homework at the dinner table so that you can be available for help. Allow playtime only after homework is completed.
- Be someone your child can come to with questions, help, or support. Listen to your child’s concerns calmly and have open and honest conversations.
- Make sure your child or teenager always has the supervision of an adult.
If you are concerned about your level of ecstasy use or that of a loved one, please call 800-405-1685 (Who Answers?) for 24/7 help.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017). MDMA (Ecstasy) abuse research report.
- Bhatia, S.C. & Hassan, A. (2017). Ecstasy substance use disorder. In S.C. Bhatia, F. Petty, & T. Gabel (Eds.), Substance and non substance related addiction disorders (pp. 121-127).
- Wang, R.Z., Vashistha, V., Kaur, S., & Houchens, N.W. (2016). Serotonin syndrome: preventing, recognizing and treating it. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 83(11), 810-817.
- World Health Organization. (2009). Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Close Settings.
- Meikle, S., Carter, O., & Bedi, G. (2020). Individual differences in distress, impulsivity, and coping motives for use as predictors of problematic ecstasy use. Addictive Behaviors, 108.
- Norman, L.B. & Ford, J.A. (2015). Adolescent ecstasy use: A test of social bonds and social learning theory. Deviant Behavior, 36(7).