What is MDMA (Ecstasy)?

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine ) also known as Ecstasy or, more recently, Molly, is similar to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.

MDMA is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception.

MDMA was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties (“raves”), but the drug now affects a broader range of people who more commonly call the drug Ecstasy or Molly.

 

How commonly is MDMA (Ecstasy) being used?

SAMHSA (2014) found that 609,000 people aged 12 or older reported using Ecstasy in the past month.

According to SAMHSA, the estimated number of emergency department (ED) visits involving Ecstasy in patients younger than 21 increased 128%, from 4,460 visits in 2005 to 10,176 visits in 2011.

In each year from 2005 to 2011, an average of 33% of ED visits by those younger than 21 that involved Ecstasy also involved alcohol.

What are the health effects of MDMA (Ecstasy)?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals:

  • Dopamine—produces increased energy/activity and acts in the reward system to reinforce behaviors
  • Norepinephrine—increases heart rate and blood pressure, which are particularly risky for people with heart and blood vessel problems
  • Serotonin—affects mood, appetite, sleep, and other functions. It also triggers hormones that affect sexual arousal and trust. The release of large amounts of serotonin likely causes the emotional closeness, elevated mood, and empathy felt by those who use MDMA.

Other health effects include:

  • nausea
  • muscle cramping
  • involuntary teeth clenching
  • blurred vision
  • chills
  • sweating

MDMA’s effects last about 3 to 6 hours, although many users take a second dose as the effects of the first dose begin to fade. Over the course of the week following moderate use of the drug, a person may experience:

  • irritability
  • impulsiveness and aggression
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • memory and attention problems
  • decreased appetite
  • decreased interest in and pleasure from sex

Is MDMA addictive?

Regular use of MDMA could cause development of physical dependence (the development of both tolerance and withdrawal syndromes). Although, there is no specific withdrawal syndrome associated with chronic use of Ecstasy, however the following symptoms have been reported commonly by patients:

  1. fatigue
  2. feeling depressed
  3. difficulty concentrating
  4. sleeping problems
  5. irritability
  6. social withdrawal

How is ecstasy dependence treated?

Treatment of ecstasy dependence should be tailored to individual patients. Usually it starts with in-patient treatment with a focus on managing the physical and psychological symptoms followed by identification and treatment of underling mental health conditions. the following is some of the potential therapeutic approaches that might be used for such purposes:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Management of anxiety and irritability
  • Management of low energy
  • Treatment of sleeping problems

References

  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly

Important note:

This document is prepared by the “Mental Health for All” team. The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes only and is not professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or care, nor is it intended to be a substitute therefore. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider properly licensed to practise medicine or general healthcare in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. Always consult with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet, or fitness program. Information obtained on the Website is not exhaustive and does not cover all diseases, ailments, physical conditions, or their treatment.

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