Many people don’t realize that prolonged use of MDMA can result in significant and potentially lasting side effects. The drug also has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Fortunately, professional recovery programs like Meta Addiction Treatment can help you overcome MDMA addiction and regain control of your life.
MDMA is a lab-made drug that people consume for its euphoric effects. MDMA can also alter an individual’s mood and time and sensory perception, which can make people feel disassociated from the events happening around them.
Even though MDMA produces feelings of increased energy, pleasurable feelings, warmth, and emotional closeness, the drug can cause significant — and potentially lasting — changes to the brain. The psychotropic effects of the drug are temporary. After the effects wear off, individuals tend to experience adverse side effects such as anxiety, muscle spasms, cramps, insomnia, teeth clenching, disorganized thinking, and agitation for several days or longer.
Developing an addiction to MDMA can lead to depression, heart disease, and liver and kidney failure. Prolonged MDMA use can also increase an individual’s risk of contracting and transmitting diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. Ongoing use of MDMA can also damage the brain and nervous system and cause permanent memory damage. Excessive consumption of MDMA can also lead to heatstroke which can be fatal. The good news is professional addiction recovery programs can help treat MDMA addiction.
What Is MDMA?
MDMA, which is short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a laboratory-made drug that produces a “high” that has stimulating and hallucinogenic effects. Many people say MDMA’s effects mimic amphetamines, mescaline, and LSD. Even though the drug, also known as “Ecstasy” or “Molly,” was initially used to help treat PTSD due to its calming effects and ability to change sensory perception, MDMA became a popular club drug in the late 1980s to early 2000s. During that time, the drug was mostly used at all-night dance parties called raves, as well as music festivals and concerts. Today, people use MDMA inside and outside of nightclubs.
Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies MDMA as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that MDMA isn’t approved for medical use and has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Other Schedule I controlled substances include heroin, LSD, marijuana, and peyote.
Even though MDMA has a high potential for abuse and addiction, the drug has become one of the most common illegal drugs sold on the streets. Most people consume MDMA, also known as “XTC,” “X,” “Adam,” “E,” “Molly,” and “007,” by swallowing a pill or tablet, but people can also snort the powder up their nose. Although popular, the drug’s adverse side effects have caused many people to end up in the emergency room.
What Does MDMA Do?
Since MDMA is both a stimulant and a hallucinogenic drug, the substance affects the body in two different ways. As a stimulant, MDMA affects dopamine levels in the brain, causing sensations such as increased alertness, attention, and energy. Once these stimulating effects go away, however, dopamine levels drop, causing people to experience a crash that’s known as a drug “comedown.”
As a hallucinogenic drug, MDMA activates certain serotonin receptors in the brain involved in emotions and sensory perception. When consumed, the substance primarily affects the cerebral cortex which helps regulate mood, cognition, and perception, as well as the locus coeruleus, which receives sensory signals. MDMA’s stimulating and hallucinogenic effects typically last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours.
These stimulating and hallucinogenic effects can also cause:
- Dry mouth
- Clenched teeth
- Blurred vision
- Excessive sweating
- An elevated heart rate
MDMA can also cause the body to overheat, which can lead to muscle breakdown, kidney, liver, and heart damage, and sometimes, death.
How Does MDMA Affect The Brain?
MDMA primarily affects the brain by increasing the activity of the body’s chemical messengers, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. At first, this reaction signals the brain to produce euphoric feelings. But ultimately, this interaction causes the brain to identify MDMA as a primary source of these essential brain chemicals. When this happens, the brain stops producing serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This shutdown can cause neurotransmitter deficiencies. Even though the brain is arguably the body’s most complex organ, it relies on neurotransmitters and other chemicals to function properly.
Serotonin is a key player in regulating mood and behavior, but it also has an effect on many other bodily functions such as sleep, digestion, blood clotting, bone health, and sexual function. Low levels of serotonin can cause:
- Cognitive decline
- Impulsive behavior
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCD)
- Cardiovascular problems
Dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical, helps regulate body movement, learning, memory, concentration, and mood. Dopamine also helps shape motivation. Low levels of the chemical messenger can cause:
- Muscle cramps, tremors, and spasms
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Low energy
- An inability to focus
- Mood swings
- Anxious feelings
- Disturbed sleep
- Suicidal thoughts and self-harm
Norepinephrine provides the body with energy and helps enhance focus levels. When the brain doesn’t produce enough norepinephrine, individuals can experience:
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of motivation
In addition to that, MDMA can:
- Weaken parts of the brain that regulate cognitive thinking and self-control. Certain parts of the brain determine how well people control their impulses. MDMA affects these regions in a negative way and weakens them. People who use MDMA have high neuron activation in the prefrontal cortex, which manages cognitive functioning and impulse control. This high activation means that the MDMA users’ brains have to work harder than non-MDMA users’ brains to exhibit self-control and cognitive functioning.
- Increase the risk of memory problems. MDMA also negatively affects the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for creating and storing memories. A landmark study showed that individuals who took 10 or more MDMA pills in a year had substantial memory problems. The study also showed that consuming MDMA recreationally for a short period of time can also cause memory impairments and short-term memory loss.
- Change how the brain responds to emotions and processes information. Individuals who consistently use MDMA have decreased activity in brain areas that regulate emotions and process information. These areas, which include the amygdala, cingulate, and hippocampus, can affect how individuals perceive emotional situations. Since MDMA lessens activity in these brain regions, prolonged MDMA use can lead to anxiety, depression, or paranoia.
How Is MDMA Commonly Used?
A large number of people who use MDMA take the substance as a pill, tablet, or capsule. Usually, the pills are different colors and have cartoon-like images on them. Most people take one tablet at a time, but some people consume more than one pill at a time, a behavior that’s known as “bumping.”
Typically, most individuals who take two MDMA tablets or capsules take the second dose of the drug as the effects of the first dose begin to fade, increasing the risk of adverse side effects. People also consume “Molly,” the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA, as a capsule. Usually, the effects of MDMA can be felt around 30-45 minutes after consumption.
Snorting the substance causes MDMA’s effects to occur more quickly and intensely. Additionally, snorting MDMA can cause damage to individuals’ nasal passages, sinuses, airways, mouth, and throat. On average, MDMA’s effects last about three hours, but individuals can experience the side effects days later.
Short-Term Effects of MDMA
At first, using MDMA can cause seemingly positive effects, including:
- Enhanced sense of well-being
- Increased extroversion
- Emotional warmth
- Empathy toward others
- Enhanced sensory perception
- Increased energy
- Willingness to discuss emotionally-charged memories
Unfortunately, these effects are temporary and not indicative of MDMA’s adverse short-term effects. Shortly after MDMA’s peak effects dissipate, individuals may start to experience some of the drug’s negative effects. Although these effects can vary from person to person, some of the most common include:
- A false sense of affection
- Trouble sleeping
- Severe anxiety
- Dry mouth
- Drug cravings
- Muscle tension
- Blurred vision
- Excessive sweating
- Increased blood pressure
- Faintness and chills or swelling
- Involuntary teeth clenching
- Inability to regulate temperature
- A sharp increase in body temperature called hyperthermia
- A distorted sense of time and perception
Other adverse health effects associated with MDMA can include:
- Hot flashes
- Involuntary jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- Decreased appetite
- Restless legs
- Muscle or joint stiffness
- Illogical or disorganized thoughts
- Detachment from oneself
- Electrolyte imbalance
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Loss of consciousness
Using MDMA can also cause long-term effects.
Long-Term Effects of MDMA
These effects can be different for everyone, but some of the most common long-term effects of MDMA include:
- Impaired memory
- Aggressive behavior
- Impaired ability to pay attention
- Increased impulsiveness
- Never degeneration
- Long-lasting brain damage
- Decreased interest in sex
- Depression, anxiety, and memory loss
- Severe dehydration that can lead to kidney and liver failure
- An increased heart rate that can lead to heart palpitations and severe cardiovascular complications
- Cravings for MDMA
- Cardiovascular collapse
Prolonged MDMA use also decreases the amount of serotonin in the brain, which plays an important role in pain, mood, sexual desire, and sleep. Disrupted serotonin levels can also cause severe psychological effects, increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety disorders.
Signs of MDMA Use and Addiction
Even though MDMA impacts everyone differently, some of the most common signs of MDMA use include:
- Dilated pupils
- Heightened sensory perception
- Increased capacity for empathy
- Unnatural, long-last energy
- Reduced or inability to feel pain
- An increased desire to touch or be touched
- Staying awake for days at a time
- Impulsive or paranoid behavior
- Promiscuous behavior
- Excessive sweating
- Mild confusion
- Heightened emotions
- Increased thirst
- An overwhelming sense of euphoria
Signs and symptoms of MDMA addiction include:
- Unusual chills and sweating
- Heightened sensitivity
- Unnatural bursts of energy
- Staying awake for days at a time
- Unexplained, sudden impulsive behavior
- Paranoia immediately following a sense of euphoria
- Dry mouth and constant, unusual, but intense thirst
- Problems sleeping or sudden insomnia
- Fatigue after large bouts of energy
- Loss of interest in anything other than MDMA
People exhibiting these signs may have an addiction to MDMA. If left untreated, an addiction to MDMA can cause:
- Kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Brain damage
- Depression and an increased risk of other mental health challenges
All of these signs and symptoms point to an addiction to MDMA.
What Is MDMA Addiction?
Addiction is a complex brain disease that’s characterized by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. This compulsive substance use interferes with normal life responsibilities such as work, school, and relationships. And often, no matter how much an individual wants or needs to stop, they continue to use their substance of choice despite negative physical, emotional, legal, financial, psychological, or social consequences.
An individual with an addiction to MDMA compulsively uses 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. They have an irresistible urge to use that substance that goes against their own consciousness and logical thinking. The urge, which oftentimes feels uncontrollable, overpowering, and obsessive, causes them to prioritize MDMA over everything else in their lives. This can create a great deal of chaos and havoc in their personal and professional lives. Their addiction can cause them to neglect important responsibilities, skip work or school, and engage in risky behaviors. An addiction to MDMA can also negatively impact an individual’s relationships with their friends and family members.
Addiction also changes the way a person behaves. People who are addicted to MDMA may become extremely agitated and paranoid when they try to stop taking the drug. They may also experience depression, fatigue, and problems with memory and coordination.
Luckily, MDMA addiction can be treated.
Treatment For MDMA Addiction
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we know how harmful and dangerous MDMA addiction can be. We also know that individuals who receive professional treatment can experience freedom from addiction. But we also know that not everyone can quit their job and stop their lives for weeks or months at a time to attend residential treatment. That’s why we offer outpatient addiction treatment services.
Outpatient treatment is a type of addiction rehabilitation program that provides counseling, behavioral therapy, and support groups at various times throughout the week. Unlike inpatient treatment, outpatient programs don’t require individuals to live at the treatment center where they are receiving treatment.
Benefits of Outpatient Rehab
Some of the most common benefits of outpatient care include:
- Flexibility. Most outpatient programs are flexible enough to accommodate work schedules, childcare needs, and daily responsibilities.
- The ability to live at home. Living at home is a great way for individuals to maintain their independence and daily life while getting the support they need. Receiving treatment at home can also help combat isolation and provide opportunities for individuals to practice the skills they’re learning at treatment sessions.
- Access to supportive family members and friends. When you’re recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, it can be a lonely process. That’s why many outpatient programs encourage family involvement. Having close friendships or loved ones can provide individuals hope when life and recovery become challenging.
- Affordability. In outpatient treatment programs, clients do not need to pay for lodging at an inpatient facility, which can make outpatient care a more reasonable and budget-friendly option.
- Avoiding the stigma associated with going away for inpatient care. Oftentimes people have a negative connotation of inpatient addiction treatment. Enrolling in an outpatient program can help individuals avoid that stigma since they don’t have to give up aspects of their life for the duration of the treatment program.
The Addiction Treatment Process
- MDMA Detox. Recovering from MDMA addiction begins with detoxification, the process in which your body metabolizes and removes drugs or alcohol from its system. Even though this step towards recovery may be uncomfortable, it’s necessary for individuals to get back on track with healthier living habits. During detox, individuals may experience some of the following MDMA withdrawal symptoms: fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, hostility, loss of appetite, panic attacks, hallucinations, and delusions. After all traces of MDMA leave the body, treatment and therapy can begin.
- Therapy. Therapy is an important part of the recovery process. Working with a therapist can help you pinpoint destructive thoughts, adopt healthier ways of thinking, and develop life skills needed to stay sober or drug-free. At Meta Addiction Treatment, we primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns which can help them behave appropriately in those circumstances. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) people learn how to regulate their emotions and the actions that follow.
- Peer Support. The recovery process can be difficult and challenging, but peer support can help individuals get the support, community, and encouragement they need. Supportive peers can offer encouragement during this difficult time in your life. They could even come alongside as an accountability partner if needed all while teaching new coping skills so that we don’t slip back into old habits again when faced with new challenges.
Regain Your Independence Today
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we know that addiction can take over an individual’s life. We also know that different people need different levels of treatment. That’s why we offer 3 different outpatient programs:
- Partial Hospitalization, which is our highest level of care.
- Intensive outpatient, which is designed for individuals who have completed our Partial Hospitalization Program or an equivalent outpatient treatment program at another recovery center.
- Outpatient, which is designed for individuals who have completed higher levels of outpatient addiction treatment at Meta Addiction Treatment or another accredited provider.
MDMA doesn’t have to rule your life. Freedom is possible. We can help you get there. Contact us today if you’re ready to regain control of your life.