Ecstasy is usually sold in pill or capsule form, although the pills can also be ground up and snorted – which is dangerous as many of the binders used in pills can be harmful if inhaled. Also, many users frequently use ecstasy along with other drugs like alcohol – which can be risky. Ecstasy is a stimulant, allowing users to stay awake longer and drink for longer periods of time, creating a risk of alcohol poisoning.
People abuse ecstasy because it feels good; the drug affects the levels of both dopamine and serotonin in users, creating feelings of euphoria, trust and warmth towards others. It’s also why the drug is playing a role in research on people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intense social anxiety. However, keep in mind taking ecstasy in a monitored clinical environment is very different from the chaos of a rave.
The effects of ecstasy don’t last very long – around six hours for a strong dose. Often, ecstasy users take additional doses when they feel the effects start to wear off. Because ecstasy is often mixed with amphetamines, extended use of ecstasy often leaves users grinding their teeth and jaws. The drug can also increase body temperature; coupled with the physical activity of dancing in a hot club, many users have become dangerously overheated to the point of organ failure.
Symptoms of Ecstasy Addiction
- High energy
- Impulsive behaviors
- Increased body temperature
- Feelings of euphoria and warmth towards others
- Teeth grinding/jaw clenching
- Anxiety, sadness and/or irritability after prolonged ecstasy use
Red Flags of Ecstasy Addiction
- Hyperthermia from increased body temperature
- Additional dangers from hyperthermia, including organ failure, seizures and coma
- High blood pressure
- Increase in high-risk behaviors
Ecstasy Inside the Body
The active ingredient in ecstasy, 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) works by making three brain chemicals more active. By increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, users on ecstasy feel increased energy levels along with euphoric sensations. MDMA also causes increased levels of serotonin, a mood-affecting neurotransmitter. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests the increase in serotonin levels are what give ecstasy users the sensations of warmth and empathy when they’re on the drug.
Finally, ecstasy also effects norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter which affects blood pressure and heart rate. This makes ecstasy use risky for those who have cardiovascular problems.
Research on ecstasy addiction is still ongoing. Tests on animals have suggested MDMA is less addictive than other stimulants such as cocaine. Some steady users of ecstasy have reported experiencing mild ecstasy withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, problems with concentration and appetite loss.
However, it’s important to remember other drugs are often sold as – or combined with MDMA. These drugs, including amphetamines, ketamine and even cocaine are extremely addictive and can sill ruin a person’s life – even if they never intended to take these drugs in the first place.