Last updated: 05/6/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
There is still a lot that isn’t known about ecstasy (or MDMA) dependence and this means that there isn’t a treatment routine that is applicable to all cases of ecstasy abuse. As with other drugs, cognitive behavioral therapy that is designed to adjust the thinking, expectations, and behaviors of the patient, while also increasing their coping skills, works wonderfully. Support groups and behavioral interventions are also quite effective.
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment can be successful for those seeking to stop using ecstasy. The type of treatment that will work best for your or the addict in your life will depend upon:
- Drug of choice
- Degree of dependence
- Presence of other conditions needing treatment
- Personal preferences/needs
Overwhelmingly, treatment should focus on identifying triggers and developing coping mechanisms. Available in a variety of settings based on need, an addiction specialist can assist in identifying triggers and developing healthier coping skills.
Inpatient treatment is generally considered the most desirable option for those with severe ecstasy addiction and/or additional mental health issues. Another attractive feature of inpatient care is medically supervised detoxification. Because ecstasy use puts such pressure on the brain, depriving the body of it can create some severe withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient care can maximize patient comfort during this process.
Outpatient treatment is the less expensive option and that makes it attractive. In many ways, outpatient offers the same features of inpatient care. However, those in treatment remain living at home. For those with a strong support system, this may be ideal. But, for those whose drug use is enabled by their home life, this option will be difficult to make successful.
By the time an addict seeks help, they have likely experienced a decline in both their mental and physical health and have come to depend upon ecstasy to keep them going. That means that the first step in helping an addict gain independence from their drug of choice is to remove the drug from the body.
Ecstasy is known for the euphoria it brings with it, but that euphoria diminishes quickly, especially with prolonged use. Overtime, the body’s serotonin (a chemical “involved in the regulation of several processes within the brain, including mood, emotions, aggression, sleep, appetite, anxiety, memory, and perceptions“) is depleted by the ecstasy use. By the time that an addict is ready to detox, their body endure some terrible withdrawal symptoms, as serotonin levels return to normal. And, this process may take a long time.
Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Muscle rigidity
- Panic attacks
- Poor concentration
People who are using ecstasy to self-medicate emotional or mental disorders (often called co-occurring disorders) will be faced with the full impact of the disorder during detoxification. In order to counter these effects, detox programs will likely prescribe the medications necessary to help deal with symptoms associated with these conditions.
Because ecstasy impacts the brain so heavily, it is important for users to understand the ways in which their brains have been both effected by use and will be effected by detoxification. Understanding neurobiology is incredibly difficult and detox programs should include drug education and counseling services so addicts can go move through the detox process with a clear understanding of how ecstasy addiction effects the body.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse advocates cognitive behavioral interventions as core treatment for ecstasy addiction. Of cognitive behavioral therapy, they write: “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) was developed as a method to prevent relapse when treating problem drinking, and later it was adapted for cocaine-addicted individuals. Cognitive-behavioral strategies are based on the theory that in the development of maladaptive behavioral patterns like substance abuse, learning processes play a critical role. Individuals in CBT learn to identify and correct problematic behaviors by applying a range of different skills that can be used to stop drug abuse and to address a range of other problems that often co-occur with it.”
- Exploring the positive and negative consequences of continued MDMA use
- Self-monitoring to recognize MDMA cravings early
- Identifying situations that might put one at risk for MDMA use
- Developing strategies for coping with MDMA cravings
- Avoiding high-risk situations
In many cases, these techniques are combined with medication to maximize their effectiveness.