MDMA, also known as Molly or Ecstasy, refers to methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, a synthetic amphetamine derivative that lowers inhibitions and alters mood, perception and social behavior. Although first developed as a possible treatment for depression, MDMA has become a popular recreational drug, typically found in nightclubs, concerts and “raves.” Because the drug increases production of serotonin, which boosts sexual arousal and feelings of emotional closeness, Ecstasy is also known as the “love drug.”
National surveys reveal that more than 18 million people ages 12 or older have tried the drug at least once, making it less prevalent than other recreational drugs, but no less potentially dangerous.
The following are common names for MDMA:
- E, X or XTC
- Love Drug
- Hug Drug
- Vitamin E (or Vitamin X)
Common Forms of MDMA
MDMA comes in two forms: solid pills or tablets, and powder. This is one way to distinguish common street names for the drug. Molly refers to the powder form, while Ecstasy refers to the pill or tablet form. Aside from swallowing pills or powder-filled capsules, users may also dissolve the drug in a drink, snort it through the nose, or “dab” it on the gums. It may also be wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed, a process called “bombing.” Although MDMA affects the brain in the same ways no matter how it is taken, the delivery method can affect both the dose and how quickly the drug is absorbed by the body. Powder carries the risk of less consistent dosing, and snorting or dabbing can cause a faster-acting, though shorter “high.”
Both forms carry risks. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found that recreational MDMA is often impure, and indeed may not contain the drug at all. This is one of the important risks that anyone using MDMA needs to know.
How It Works
As an amphetamine, MDMA increases activity in three of the brain’s neurotransmitters:
dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. The biggest effect is on serotonin, which regulates anxiety, happiness and mood. The artificially increased production results in the “high” that users experience, including feelings of increased empathy and closeness to others, heightened mood and relaxation. The high usually starts within half an hour of taking the drug and may last for up to 4 hours. The lows, however, can last for days. With serotonin and dopamine levels depleted, users may experience depression, anxiety, decreased focus and an inability to concentrate. As will all amphetamines, users may develop a resistance, requiring ever-increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same experience. This resistance can lead to withdrawal symptoms for some people and trigger addiction.
Signs of MDMA Use
A few physical signs and symptoms can help you determine if you suspect a friend or loved one of using MDMA. While high on the drug, these may include teeth grinding or jaw clenching, as well as profuse sweating. A person may appear overly friendly or deeply uninhibited, similar to behavior on alcohol. During a “let down,” watch for signs of exhaustion and depression. You may also hear these terms used among friends, which refer to ways of using the drug:
Ecstasy is also still a heavy part of club and raving culture, including at music festivals. If you, your child or a loved one is immersed in this scene, it is important to understand the effects and risks of MDMA, and the risks of MDMA. It is also important to recognize the secondary effects.
Because Ecstasy lowers inhibitions, it can lead to risky behaviors such as unsafe sex. In rare cases, high doses can cause organ failure and death.
Although MDMA has not led to the same rates of physical addiction of other recreational drugs, such as cocaine or opioids, some users do exhibit physical withdrawal symptoms after consistent uses. These may include fatigue, depression, and trouble concentrating. MDMA can become part of an addictive lifestyle. Users become hooked on the lowered inhibition and feelings of bliss that accompany the drug in the environment of a club or rave, and may no longer enjoy the “club” experience without it.
MDMA Addiction Treatment
If Ecstasy use has become a problem in your life, regardless of whether or not you experience physical withdrawal symptoms, it is important to seek treatment. Many users of MDMA also struggle with anxiety disorders or depression, which can trigger drug use or exacerbate the desire to use. A co-concurrent mood disorder or mental illness is referred to as a dual diagnosis. Treatment addresses drug use and mood disorders with separate, dedicated plans, giving you the tools you need to live a well-adjusted, drug-free life on your own terms. Many clients find that a combination of assisted detox and behavioral therapy leads to long-term results. Call us today to learn how a personalized plan can change your life.