Ecstasy: A Highly Addictive Hallucinogenic Stimulant
Ecstasy is a street name for the chemical MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine). It is a stimulant that combines the properties of methamphetamine (speed) with mind-altering or hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy has a structure similar to stimulants like cocaine, and hallucinogenics such as LSD. The highly addictive nature of ecstasy is similar to that of cocaine and amphetamines.
Ecstasy is synthetic, psychoactive, and neurotoxic. Because of many different recipes used to manufacture ecstasy, deaths have been caused by some other substances inadvertently created during production, such as PMA (paramethamphetamine). Ecstasy may also be manufactured to contain methadone, LSD, opiates such as heroin or fentanyl, or strong anesthetics such as ketamine.
Ecstasy Use by Youth
Ecstasy is commonly used by young people around high school or college age, especially by those who go to nightclubs and all-night rave parties. Many young, first-time ecstasy users encounter ecstasy at a rave, party, bar, or nightclub. Their friends or someone they know may use it, and the first-time user may be drawn in by the intoxicating effects and ready availability of the drug. Many youths are not aware of the dangers of ecstasy.
When students start to use ecstasy regularly, it’s common to lose interest in school and suffer academically. Chronic ecstasy users are in danger of losing interest to the point of dropping out of school, losing a job, or getting in trouble with the law.
Ecstasy goes by names such as Adam, X-TC, clarity, essence, Stacy, lover’s speed, and eve. It is usually sold as a tablet, capsule, or powder and sometimes packaged in capsules or generic tablets to imitate prescription drugs.
An ecstasy dose is normally swallowed, although some users may choose to inject it. The average ecstasy pill costs $7-$30. An ecstasy high can last from 6 to 24 hours, with the average “trip” lasting only about 3 to 4 hours.
Ecstasy is Illegal
Ecstasy is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it is classified as a dangerous narcotic with high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use, the same as heroin, cocaine, and LSD.
Possession, delivery, and manufacturing of ecstasy can lead to penalties such as fines up to $100,000 and up to 99 years or life in prison, depending on the amount of ecstasy involved.
Effects of Ecstasy Use
Ecstasy users crave the pleasurable effects the drug brings: upbeat mood, relaxed feelings, reduced anxiety, increased sensitivity to others, enhanced mental or emotional clarity, sensations of lightness and floating, and a high energy level. The stimulant effect of ecstasy has been compared to the euphoria and increased alertness experienced by cocaine and amphetamine users. Rumors claim that ecstasy is an aphrodisiac, but there is no evidence of this effect.
Despite the good feelings ecstasy seems to bring, ecstasy has very serious negative effects. The negative side of ecstasy occurs during and sometimes weeks after use. Below are some effects of ecstasy that may accompany even the first dose – and intensify with continued, heavier use:
- Sleep problems
- Teeth clenching
- Blurred vision
- Acne-like rash
- Brain damage
- Chills and sweating
- Liver damage
- Muscle tension
- Violent, irrational behavior
Ecstasy Users at High-Risk
Increases in heart rate and blood pressure from ecstasy pose an increased risk for users with circulatory or heart disease. Those who are pregnant, have a heart condition, are epileptic, or have high blood pressure are at high risk of adverse physical reactions from ecstasy.
The stimulant effects of ecstasy enable users to dance for extended periods at raves or dance parties. Heat exhaustion and dehydration from physical exertion have even led to death when ecstasy users don’t drink enough water. The hot, crowded conditions at raves can contribute to dehydration, hyperthermia, and heart or kidney failure.
Long-Terms Effects of Ecstasy Use
Ecstasy users can become isolated from friends and family, perform poorly at work or in school, and suffer from increased financial problems, due to erratic mood swings and depression.
Research also suggests that ecstasy users can develop learning disorders and emotional problems due to disrupted brain activity, causing impaired memory and long-term reduction of serotonin and dopamine.
Long-Term Brain Injury Caused by Ecstasy
Research shows that the designer drug ecstasy causes long-lasting damage to brain serotonin neurons. Serotonin is important for memory functions. One study sponsored by the NIDA provides direct evidence that regular use of MDMA (ecstasy) causes brain damage in people by harming the neurons that release serotonin.
These areas of the brain are thought to play a role in regulating mood, aggression, impulse control, sexual activity, sensitivity to pain, memory, sleep, and appetite.
A number of recent studies show that memory is significantly affected by ecstasy use. It is thought that the brain serotonin neurotoxicity induced by MDMA may account for the persistent memory impairment found in ecstasy users.
One study administered several standardized memory tests to MDMA users and non-users. The MDMA users’ had significantly greater difficulty recalling what they had seen and heard during testing.
In another study, MDMA users were determined to have lower levels of a serotonin metabolite in their spinal fluid than people who had not used the drug. Also, the level of metabolite detected corresponded to the level of ecstasy use – the more ecstasy used, the lower the metabolite. And those who had the lowest metabolite performed the poorest in memory tests.
It has been found that heavy ecstasy users experience memory problems for at least 2 weeks after taking ecstasy. One experiment of note conducted by The Johns Hopkins University using monkeys showed that 4 days of exposure to the drug caused damage that persisted even 6 to 7 years later, although it had lessened over time.
Dr. Joseph Frascella of NIDA’s Division of Treatment Research and Development states that “The message from these studies is that MDMA does change the brain and it looks like there are functional consequences to these changes.”
“At the very least, people who take MDMA, even just a few times, are risking long-term, perhaps permanent, problems with learning and memory,” says Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
According to another Johns Hopkins/NIMH study, ecstasy use may also be the cause of problems with other cognitive functions, such as the ability to reason verbally or sustain attention.
Herbal Ecstasy is Not a Safe, Natural Alternative
Despite the misleading name, herbal ecstasy is not a safe, natural version of ecstasy. The stimulants in herbal ecstasy, ephedrine (ma huang) or pseudoephedrine and caffeine (kola nut), closely simulate the effects of ecstasy.
Although herbal ecstasy is not currently classified as a controlled substance like ecstasy, there is no quality control over the manufacture of herbal ecstasy. The amounts of ephedrine and caffeine in the pills can vary drastically, with dangerous amounts leading to serious effects such as high blood pressure, seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and death. The FDA is considering placing restrictions on the herbal ecstasy.
Herbal ecstasy is sold in tablet form and is also called cloud 9, herbal bliss, ritual spirit, herbal X, GWM, rave energy, ultimate xphoria, or X.
Drug Treatment for Ecstasy
Transitions Recovery drug treatment center offers hope for those suffering from the effects of ecstasy.
Our professional drug treatment center staff is experienced in helping youth and people of all ages recover from drug and alcohol abuse. We provide a compassionate, supportive environment in our North Miami Beach, Florida, drug treatment center.
Admissions can be accepted 7 days a week. Trained addiction professionals conduct individual assessments that address each individual’s treatment needs. You’ll find our drug treatment programs offer access to a continuum of care that provides the intensity of therapy appropriate throughout each stage of recovery, from extended residential care to lifetime aftercare services. The individual program incorporates leading forms of therapy that have proven effective in addressing underlying causes of drug use, dual diagnosis, and issues with family, employers, school and the legal system.
We work individually with patients as well as in group sessions and a Family Program, after detoxification if necessary. Emphasis on recovery from ecstasy and maintained sobriety helps prepare the patient for gradual re-entry into society.
Treatment does not need to be voluntary. Often, a family member, employer, or the court system can be the motivating factor for an individual receiving drug treatment.
If you think that you or a loved one may be addicted to ecstasy, please contact us right away. We’re here to help. Call us at 1 (800) 298-1783 or request more information.