The scientific name of ecstasy is MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine). It is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that has similarities to the stimulant amphetamine. MDMA was initially popular among young adults in the nightclub scene or at “raves” (huge, all night dance parties), but the drug now affects a broader range of users and ethnicities.
Ecstasy could contain just about anything. It is generally manufactured in clandestine labs by criminal drug dealers, not chemists. Ecstasy usually comes in tablets, which have been found to contain anywhere from 0-50% MDMA. The most common non-MDMA ingredients in “Ecstasy” are aspirin, caffeine, and other over-the-counter medications.
One of the most dangerous additives commonly found in “Ecstasy” is DXM (dextromethorphan,) a cough suppressant.
How Ecstasy Works
MDMA acts by increasing the activity of three neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The emotional and social effects of MDMA are likely caused by the release of large amounts of serotonin, which influences mood. Serotonin also triggers the release of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which play important roles in love, trust and sexual arousal and this may account for the feelings of emotional empathy produced by the drug. After Ecstasy leaves the body dopamine levels plummet, causing depression and irritability.
Ecstasy tablets may be any colour, and are generally embossed with a logo or design such as a butterfly, heart, lightning bolt, star, clover, or Zodiac sign. Ecstasy can be found in powder or in capsules.
Other street names are: E, XTC, Rolls, Adam, The Club Drug, Molly, Mandy, Designer Drug, The Party Drug, Hug Drug, Disco Biscuits, White Doves, New Yorkers, Love Drug, Clarity, Lover’s Speed.
Signs of Ecstasy Abuse
- Sweating, due to high body temperature that is caused by the increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Weight loss
- Sore jaws (from excessive teeth grinding)
When abuse of the ecstasy becomes chronic signs include paranoia, depression, confusion and aggression.
Symptoms of Ecstasy/MDMA Overdose
- High Blood Pressure
- Panic attacks
- Loss of consciousness
- High body temperature
Users tend to think Ecstasy is harmless fun, but it does pose serious health risks.
The greatest dangers Ecstasy abusers face in the short-term are super-elevated body temperature and dehydration. These are typical side effects, which can occur with any use, and they can be fatal. On the other hand, drinking too much water suddenly can result in swelling of the brain and, in some circumstances, this can be fatal.
Other physical damage caused by ecstasy includes:
- Muscle tension
- Involuntary jaw clenching and jaw problems
- Cracked tooth enamel, worn teeth, tooth decay
- Blurred vision
- Reduced appetite
- Chills and sweating
- Acne-like rash on the face and neck
- Loss of control over voluntary body movements
- High blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Elevated heart rate
- Heart attack
- Brain cell destruction
- Psychological Damage from Ecstasy Use:
- Sleep problems
- Drug craving
- Psychological addiction
- Poor decision-making ability
- Getting into fights or accidents
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Violent, irrational behavior
- Decreased ability to process serotonin – critical to sleep and well-being
Dangerous Health Effects of Taking MDMA
Taking ecstasy tablets can be risky given that the formula is rarely known. People have been known to die after taking one pill from a ‘bad batch’. Ecstasy excites the nervous system meaning that the user’s body temperature increases. This can lead to the problem of dehydration. However, drinking too much water while on the drug can also be dangerous as it can cause swelling of the brain.
Long term ecstasy use can lead to a number of damaging mental and physical health effects. Psychological issues such as depression and paranoia can result from the drug’s disruptive effects on the neural pathways in the brain. Chronic ecstasy users can also experience memory problems, as well as damage to the kidneys, heart and liver.
Detoxing from Ecstasy
Chronic users of ecstasy may develop a psychological dependence on the drug. If you would like to stop using ecstasy but are unable to, you may be suffering from ecstasy addiction.
The goal of our treatment is to help patients achieve long-term sobriety. On entering our addiction clinic, the patient begins a period of detox where they become clean of all drug use. Some heavy ecstasy users have reported withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety and irritability, in addition to cravings for the drug.
Residential Rehab for Ecstasy/MDMA Addiction
The goal of our treatment programme is to help patients discover a happy and fulfilling life without drug or alcohol use.
Each patient receives a personalised treatment programme based on factors such as their history of drug use, and their current circumstances. Our programme includes some combination of group therapy, personal therapy, family therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and bereavement therapy, if appropriate.
Our holistic approach to care incorporates a range of complementary therapies and activities including art, creative writing, drumming therapy, equine therapy and mindfulness meditation.
Our programme of healthy meals, and regular exercise helps the patient to recuperate from the damaging health effects of prolonged drug use. It provides them with the mental clarity and physical strength needed to combat addiction.
Upon completing treatment, we provide the patient with a two year continuing care plan, as well as the option to access weekly drop in therapy sessions, and a series of teletherapy sessions.
Additionally, we encourage patients to connect with Narcotics Anonymous groups when they return home. All of these measures will help the patient to ensure that they can continue their recovery once they have returned to their daily lives.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | October 7, 2020