MDMA Abuse and Addiction: The Party Drug with Dire Consequences
One of the most widely used party drugs today, ecstasy is famous for its euphoric and hallucinatory effects.
However, this illicit substance can bring with it a variety of potentially dangerous downsides along with a high risk of abuse as well.Get Help Today
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MDMA: What Is It?
MDMA, also known as ecstasy, is a psychoactive recreational drug that's used to create empathy, heightened visual and tactile sensations, and euphoria. It is currently listed as a Schedule I controlled substance which the DEA describes as: Drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Ecstasy is entirely synthetic. So while many illicit substances like heroin, marijuana, and cocaine are all derived from chemicals that occur naturally, MDMA is entirely manufactured.
Its technical name is 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine.
It's chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens and, as such, produces some of the same effects. As a result, it is one of the most commonly used drugs on the "club" scene due to the intense lights and music associated with these types of venues.
While MDMA trends showed a bit of a decrease recently, it's now in the midst of a sharp rise in use, especially among young people in Europe.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the highest rate of lifetime use was among 18 to 25 year olds, with 11.6% of survey participants reporting that they'd used the drug at least once. What's more, around 1.7% of 8th graders claimed they had taken molly in their lifetime.
It's clear, then, that MDMA is a significant problem today, and is likely more common than you may think.
What Does Ecstasy Look Like and How Is It Abused?
Similar to LSD, MDMA is a purely synthetic drug. As such, it can be packaged and consumed in far more ways than other organic substances.
The most common way to take MDMA, or "roll," is by swallowing an ecstasy pill. As molly is manufactured in a crystalline powder (therefore making it much easier to physically manipulate), these pills can take literally almost any shape or form with the proper binding and coloring agents.
Superman symbols, Facebook logos, the Playboy Bunny and practically any other figure you can think of have, more likely than not, been used on an ecstasy pill before. In fact, such branding tactics may be partly responsible for the rise in the drug's abuse, giving users false feelings of security about the drug's safety.
MDMA may also be abused by snorting it, consuming it by dissolving it in a liquid, or by freebasing it when it's in a liquid oil form. Most abusers claim that the most potent effects, however, come from simply swallowing it as a pill.
Beyond that, the terms "liquid ecstasy" and "liquid molly" are actually slang terms for GHB, another common club drug, though with quite different effects.
Similar to many other substances of abuse, MDMA's primary mechanism of action involves manipulating the effectiveness of the brain's own action-driving chemicals, neurotransmitters.
These special chemicals interact with receptors located on a large number of the brain's neurons to influence their actions in one way or another. One neurotransmitter, like serotonin, may be involved in regulating mood, appetite, and pain while another, like dopamine, could be in charge of pleasure, memory, and coordination.
Researchers have found that ecstasy increases the intensity of both of these chemicals along with a third, norepinephrine. How it works is this: MDMA either causes the brain to release more of these pleasure-causing neurotransmitters or make it so the cells can't reabsorb unused molecules of these chemicals, or a combination of the two.
Either way, more of these chemicals end up floating around in your system in much greater numbers than if they had been released naturally. The result of this abundance are cellular receptors that are activated much more than usual, leading to the euphoric effects that this drug is so popular for.
Ecstasy, as the name implies, brings on intense feelings of euphoria - a state of enhanced well-being. A loss of inhibitions, increased extroversion, and a significant decrease in anxiety are some of the most commonly reported effects of taking molly.
In addition to the mood-altering effects, ecstasy also tends to cause users to feel much more empathetic and emotionally attached to other individuals, even those they've never even met before.
Beyond these effects, another hallmark outcome of taking MDMA is the tendency to experience enhanced bodily sensations. Lights become dazzling, colors are more vibrant, sounds are richer than ever before, and touch is imbued with its own special kind of electricity.
And while these effects may make MDMA sound like the ultimate party drug, there are a number of dangerous downsides to an ecstasy high.
For one thing, your thoughts may become especially erratic when taking molly, a state of mind that can contribute to a "bad trip" more equivalent to a waking nightmare than a euphoric party.
What's more, an altered perception may make it difficult to make responsible and logical decisions. Abusers may engage in risky behaviors like binge drinking and unprotected sex, especially when such behaviors are already rampant such as with college life.
So, this euphoria in a pill can also carry with it some life-changing downsides.
How Long Does Ecstasy Last?
Like most other psychedelics (except for DMT), MDMA has a significantly protracted high that comes on slow and lasts for quite a while.
According to Erowid.org, one of the internet's oldest psychoactive drug databases, the total high for ecstasy can last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. The onset usually comes at around 20 to 90 minutes after first taking the drug and the plateau may last for 2 to 3 hours after that with the peak usually occurring around 2 hours into the experience.
The hangover, however, can last significantly longer. And given the severity and uncomfortableness of the symptoms that are associated with this state, the hangover alone is enough to make some people stay away from molly forever.
All in all, the especially long-lasting effects of this drug can be quite problematic, particularly for someone who is not expecting that kind of timeline. It isn't at all impossible to still be feeling the effects of MDMA even after waking up the next day.
What's more, the delayed onset can also lead to a variety of problems as well and may lead to double dosing, putting the user in even more danger than before.
Similar to alcohol, MDMA also typically comes with a painful hangover after the beneficial effects of the drug have worn off. And also similar to alcohol, the intensity of these effects depends entirely upon the individual.
As such, the length of a hangover from ecstasy can last anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours, with symptoms ranging from fatigue, lack of coordination, physical aches, and many more.
However, many people also tend to report a variety of additional psychological effects as well. These include:
- Impaired attention
- Poor memory
What's worse, these effects may last for up to a week following the abuse of MDMA.
Where Did MDMA Originate: A Brief History
Despite ecstasy only really hitting it big with the party scene in the 1980s, its history is actually a bit more extensive than you might think.
The drug was first developed and synthesized in 1912 by a German pharmaceutical company under the name Methylsafrylaminc. It was originally produced to aid in the creation of medications that helped control bleeding.
Around the 1970s however, psychiatrists had begun noticing the power that this drug had on their patients. They found the lack of inhibitions that stemmed from its use to be especially helpful in opening up their patients emotionally. What's more, they also believed it allowed patients to achieve deeper insights into the nature of their problems.
In 1985, ecstasy was banned entirely by the DEA and classified as a Schedule I drug that had no medical applications and carried with it an extremely high potential for abuse.
To this day molly still remains a Schedule I drug although clinical testing has been carried out over the years to determine its efficacy in treating conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Ecstasy vs Molly
This question is a tricky one to be sure. In essence, "ecstasy" and "molly" are both slang terms for the same substance, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA.
While ecstasy typically comes in the form of varied and colorful pills, molly is more often distributed and used in the form of a powder. Abusers will generally place the crystalline powder on their gums to let it absorb or may even snort it.
However, one of the main differences between the two is that ecstasy is often cut with other substances (like caffeine, speed, or cocaine) while molly is considered to be the "purer" form of MDMA.
And while many abusers point out this as being the key difference, the truth is that both of these forms of MDMA can be and often are cut with a variety of other substances, making them both equally dangerous and addictive.
Is Molly Addictive?
The research is actually still out on this question. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that a number of studies have shown that the it acts on many of the same systems of the brain that other addictive drugs tend to zero in on.
Animal test subjects have been shown to self-administer molly, one of the most important indicators of the addictive effects of any substance.
What's more, some people who use MDMA extensively have shown some of the signs of full-fledged addiction such as experiencing cravings, tolerance, withdrawals, and continuing to use the drug despite its negative consequences.
Even though the research may not be fully completed then, it does seem that ecstasy can cause addiction in individuals that abuse it.
As the addictive nature of molly is still up for debate, the symptoms of withdrawal aren't quite as well-documented as other substances. However, below is a list of some symptoms that may result from ecstasy withdrawal as provided by Mental Health Daily:
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Muscle rigidity
- Mood swings
The Short and Long-Term Effects of Molly
The effects of ecstasy aren't only psychedelic in nature. In fact, taking molly brings with it an enormous number of both short- and long-term side effects that can be quite uncomfortable and even life-threatening.
Short Term Effects
NIDA points out that there are a host of short-term side effects from abusing MDMA, some physical and some psychological. These include:
- Hyperthermia (drastic body temperature increase)
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Involuntary teeth grinding and jaw clenching
- Decreased appetite
- Restless legs
- Hot flashes or chills
- Panic attacks
- Brain swelling
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Disorganized and illogical thoughts
- Loss of consciousness
- Kidney failure
Long Term Effects
But the effects of ecstasy aren't confined solely to the short-term. In fact, after just a few days of continued use of molly, abusers may experience a number of additional side effects as well, including:
- Irregular heart beat
- Impaired memory and attention
- Concentration difficulties
- Heart disease
- Decreased cognitive function
- Lack of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Heart damage
Molly: One Party Drug That's Not Worth the Risk
Despite the intoxicating euphoria that this drug can bring along with it, rolling on MDMA actually has a number of substantial downsides too.
It can lead to a variety of physically uncomfortable side effects, put you in a psychological hangover for days at a time, and will more likely than not make you more prone to engage in risky behaviors that you'll probably regret the next day.
What's more, even though addictive nature of molly is still up for debate in the scientific community, developing an MDMA abuse problem is still quite possible.