MDMA is short for a synthetic substance called 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Better known by its street names — ecstasy, X, E or molly — MDMA was synthesized by pharmaceutical company Merck in the 1970s as a psychiatric medication to be used in conjunction with therapy. However, in the 1980s, it made its way into the club scene and cemented its status as a party drug. To this day, it’s popular in environments that feature music and dancing.
Ecstasy is unusual in that it combines properties of a stimulant and a hallucinogen. It’s known for generating a “body high” that makes the sense of touch especially pleasurable, and produces visual distortions. It also produces feelings of connection and empathy.
Ecstasy is typically available on the street in tablet form, although it can also be found as a powder or liquid. As a comparatively expensive drug, it’s regularly adulterated with cheap impurities like cornstarch or baking soda. In fact, what is sold as ecstasy often contains cheaper drugs, such as meth or bath salts. Consequently, a purchased dose of ecstasy may also contain a variety of other substances, and it’s impossible to know how potent any of them actually are. Overdose is always a risk.
In addition to the various adulterants already in most street doses of MDMA, some people also choose to combine it with alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medications. Other people pair ecstasy with stimulants, such as cocaine and meth, or enhance the drug’s hallucinogenic properties with LSD or mushrooms. Whatever the combination, it’s dangerous to stack other substances because doing so can mask the effects of ecstasy, and increase the risk of an accidental overdose on any of them.
Because ecstasy causes the brain to release large amounts of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, the high is very pleasurable. The side effects are decidedly less so. They often include nausea and vomiting, uncontrollable teeth clenching and teeth grinding, muscle cramps, chills and blurred vision.
Ecstasy is fully metabolized in a matter of a few hours, so people often take more than one dose in order to maintain the high. Eventually, though, the high does wear off — and the side effects often include:
Ecstasy eventually limits the body’s ability to produce dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine on its own. Used frequently, it can cause permanent damage to brain pathways that deal with mood and other behaviors.
Researchers are still debating about whether or not ecstasy leads to physical addiction. There’s no question, however, that the drug causes psychological dependence, and can lead to behavioral health issues. Regular use of ecstasy can permanently damage neurotransmitters and worsen existing anxiety disorders. Over time, it can also cause a wide variety of problems, including mood disorders, memory loss, confusion, panic attacks, chronic insomnia, depression, severe anxiety and acute paranoia.
Ecstasy may have a reputation for not being addictive, but it can have profound effects on mood — especially when abused long-term. At Hope Canyon, we begin by developing an individualized recovery plan that seeks to uncover the roots of your substance use disorder. Using evidence-based therapy, medication and holistic treatments, Hope Canyon will help you heal from your dependence on ecstasy — and help you connect with others along the way.