They call ecstasy the ‘love drug’ because it ramps up your sensations and people using it feel things at a heightened level; colours, sound and touch. It’s great if you’re clubbing or at a manic music concert because you lose all your inhibitions and can dance and rave all night long. And sex on ecstasy is mind-blowing.
But what they don’t tell you is ecstasy also causes deep depression, confusion, severe anxiety, paranoia and other very scary psychotic episodes. It’s a synthetic drug and the short burst of exhilaration on ecstasy doesn’t last anywhere as long as the depressed slump you go into after your crazy night out.
What is ecstasy?
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) goes by a few names; ecstasy, Molly, Adam, beans, clarity, E, hug, love drug, roll, Scooby snacks or snowball. It’s a synthetic drug that acts as a powerful stimulant and a hallucinogen.
People mainly use it for parties, clubbing or music festivals because within an hour of taking Ecstasy your inhibitions or anxiety disappears and you experience an overload of mental and sensory stimulation. That’s if you’re lucky.
It’s a chemical street drug with hectic side effects, the worse being vivid and often frightening hallucination. You see and feel things that aren’t there and if they’re bad things, they’re amplified to a terrifying level.
The problem with ecstasy is it can cause severe emotional damage; either over the long term or even after one-time use. This ranges from chronic depression and confusion to severe anxiety, paranoia and psychotic behaviour.
“Did you know?
MDMA is highly addictive; not so much the chemical dependence but the psychological dependence. They say when you start liking ecstasy, it’s too late; you’re sunk!”
Where does ecstasy come from?
Merck, a German pharmaceutical company, first developed MDMA in 1912 as a pharmaceutical compound that could be used to develop other medications to control bleeding. They soon realised that it had hallucinogenic properties and patented it in 1914, although the drug wasn’t developed further for a few decades.
MDMA was used in the 1950s and 1960s during the Cold War for use in psychological warfare. In the 1960s and 1970s, a few psychiatrists prescribed MDMA to patients to lower their inhibitions during psychotherapy, despite the fact that the drug was not FDA-approved.“Did you know? 92% of those who begin using ecstasy when they’re underage move onto harder drugs including amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.”
By the 1980s, MDMA was on the street being used by the party people at music festivals, raves, concerts and clubs. It’s listed as a Schedule III drug meaning it has a high potential for abuse.
More recently, studies have been conducted to see if it’s effective for treating anxiety in people with a terminal illness as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How does ecstasy work?
Ecstasy works by boosting the activity of three ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain; dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemicals control a variety of functions including your mood, energy levels, appetite, trust, sexual desire, emotions and sleep.
Positive effects of ecstasy include:
- mental stimulation
- increased sense of physical and emotional well-being
- increased empathy
- loss of inhibitions
- decreased anxiety
- increased energy
- enhanced sensory perception
Negative effects of ecstasy include:
- chills or hot flashes
- teeth clenching
- muscle cramping or stiffness
- loss of appetite
- cluttered thinking
- restless legs
The problem with ecstasy is the feeling of complete freedom and heightened sensations you get when you take Ecstasy is soon replaced by very unpleasant feelings. These range from feeling tired and irritable to having panic attacks and nightmares. These side-effects can last up to 3-4 days which is a lot longer than the amount of time you feel good on the drug.
People with an ecstasy addiction may lose weight and start feeling weak. They become moody and aggressive and in serious cases, develop long-lasting psychotic issues such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder.
How harmful is ecstasy?
Ecstasy is not a harmless party drug. It’s a potentially fatal drug if you have a bad reaction on it and with regular use, can cause serious brain and heart problems. At the very least, you risk hyperthermia, a heart attack, impaired mental clarity, risky and dangerous behaviour and an overdose.
The big risk is that the majority of MDMA produced today is laced with extremely dangerous compounds found in bath salts, cocaine, LSD and PCP aswell as steroids and pain killers. In fact, what you take probably includes almost no MDMA. It may also be cut with soap or detergents.
This is dangerous because you don’t know what you’re ingesting and how your body will react. Whatever is in that ecstasy pill might also react with other substances in your system such as alcohol, caffeine and other medication.
How does ecstasy cause hyperthermia?
Hyperthermia is one of the most dangerous side-effects of taking ecstasy at clubs and raves. How it works is MDMA limits your body’s ability to regulate your temperature so you can overheat when your temperature becomes sky-high.
Hyperthermia needs to be treated immediately because it very quickly leads to muscle breakdown which causes kidney, liver or heart failure.
Other dangerous side-effects of ecstasy
Ecstasy is dangerous for people who suffer with irregular heartbeats, asthma, epilepsy, kidney disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue or any psychological disorders.
People who regularly use ecstasy are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems because the drug causes your heart to stop working efficiently. This is big problem if you participate in strenuous activity, which includes wild dancing at clubs and music concerts.
Poor memory and concentration
Within an hour of taking ecstasy, you can suffer from memory loss, impaired concentration and your capacity to judge motion. This is very dangerous if you’re driving but worse, you could make a bad decision because you’re not thinking clearly which could cost you your life.
It’s important to drink water and/or non-alcoholic liquid if you have taken ecstasy because of the risk of dehydration. MDMA raises your body temperature and if you’re dancing at a club or music concert, you need to keep hydrated and replace lost minerals from sweating.
On ecstasy, you lose your inhibitions and your feelings of trust and emotional warmth increase. You’re likely to drop your guard and have unsafe sex with a stranger or someone you don’t know well. The result could be a sexually transmitted disease or worse, HIV.
Your body quickly absorbs MDMA but it battles to metabolise the chemical in your system. The risk is you take more ecstasy because you’re not feeling the desired effect. Coupled with alcohol and marijuana, this is a life-threatening scenario.
Symptoms of an overdose of ecstasy include:
- high blood pressure
- passing out
- panic attacks
Long-term side-effects of ecstasy
You may feel anxious, restless, irritable and depressed for up to a week after taking ecstasy. You may experience gaps in your memory and have problems concentrating and your interest in sex might disappear for a while.
If you regularly take ecstasy, you might suffer from heart palpitations, insomnia, aggression and severe anxiety. MDMA can cause brain damage, which may only be noticeable several years after you first take ecstasy.
Studies show that ecstasy damages the neurotransmitters that secrete dopamine and serotonin. The neurotoxicity of MDMA is irreversible.
“Did you know?
Ecstasy comes in tablet form in all shapes and colours, with designs stamped on them such as hearts, stars, butterflies and cloverleaves. This creates the impression they’re innocent and pure, but that’s a big fat scam!”
Can you get addicted to ecstasy?
Yes, you can! Well actually, it’s not so much addiction but a high tolerance for ecstasy that develops rapidly with repeated use. It becomes almost impossible to experience the same stuff you felt when you first took it so you take more ecstasy and that puts you at risk of overdosing.
You’re more likely to develop a psychological dependence on ecstasy rather than a chemical dependency. Like alcohol, you feel more confident and festive on ecstasy and you come to depend on this feeling of euphoria when you’re out at clubs or raves.
Ecstasy is what is known as a ‘designer drug’. The making of ecstasy has gone underground and who knows what they’re putting into it these days; definitely other drugs that are highly addictive. So the chances are it may not be ecstasy that you become addicted to but the other nasty stuff they put in the tablets.
Do I need help for my ecstasy habit?
Your brain releases a flood of ‘feel good’ hormones when you use ecstasy. This depletes your body of these hormones which is why you might feel extremely anxious, sad or restless afterwards. You’ll experience this slump in ‘feel good’ hormones as unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
You might feel confused, dejected and extremely tired as well as battle to sleep, concentrate and think clearly. The temptation is to use more of the drug to deal with the negative symptoms or substitute it with other drugs such as marijuana or cocaine.
If you’ve got to this point, you need help to stop using ecstasy and treatment to restore your body’s natural physical and emotional well-being.
Where to get help for your ecstasy habit?
When the party or love pill starts destroying you or someone you love, it’s time to get help. You’re not on your own.
White River Manor works closely with medical practitioners such as psychologists and psychiatrists who have years of experience in dealing with alcohol and drug addiction as well as a team of highly experienced counsellors who understand the intervention process and are strong counsellors.