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MDMA (Ecstasy) Addiction Treatment

What is MDMA?

MDMA is short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a drug created from safrole oil which comes from the root bark of a sassafras plant. MDMA is a psychoactive drug which is defined as a chemical substance that affects the central nervous system (CNS). When substances influence the nervous system, it changes brain functioning and subsequently alters behavior, logic, reasoning, emotion, and consciousness. As MDMA hits the brain, the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin is released which can cause a feeling of euphoria, connectivity, and general mood elevation.  Abusing MDMA is dangerous and ecstasy addiction treatment should be sought immediately

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MDMA will also inhibit the natural creation of serotonin temporarily, and therefore the user craves more of the drug. In South East Asia, particularly in Cambodia, there has been a high amount of harvesting of the plant, though how much percentage is going towards making MDMA is debatable, as safrole and sassafras is used for a component in the manufacturing a variety of products. MDMA is commonly taken orally as a powder or pill and is sometimes sniffed. MDMA is an illegal drug associated with the “party scene” taken primarily by teens and young adults who often refer to it as “molly” and “ecstasy.” MDMA is sold in crystallized powder, gelcaps, pills, and salts. Powdered MDMA can be pure in form or only 30% pure cut with bulking agents and other chemicals such as caffeine, opiates, stimulants or other harmful substances. MDMA in the “rave” environment is continuously sought after and used because the scene is about accenting the drug with the music and lighting production to enhance the user’s experience. The psych0-stimulant effect at these clubs and festivals is conducive for large consumption of MDMA by attendees, and the culture is formed around the feelings that the drug gives.

When MDMA is used in conjunction with other drugs, it is referred to a “candy-flipping” or “candy swap.” Some of these include LSD and other hallucinogens such as peyote and psilocybin mushrooms, and Ketamine (Special K), a drug developed for an equine tranquilizer. Some users obtain MDMA to increase their feelings of insight while meditating, or in a spiritual practice to obtain a closer relation to the collective consciousness or a power greater then themselves. It is not unlike the use of natural substances used to create the same desired effects and is used only for ceremonial purposes and spiritual practices. MDMA is continuing to be tested in psychotherapeutic studies including helping clients who have been diagnosed with PTSD. One 2008 study concluded that within an MDMA assisted therapy group, over 80% of the participants no longer met the criteria for the diagnosis after two sessions. If MDMA proves to be effective by treating PTSD, it may become a legal substance again, increasing the manufacturing of it and becoming medically prescribed as a short-term positive effective drug. However, these trials have not been conclusive as of yet.

The Origins of MDMA

The synthetization of the chemical MDMA was done in 1912 by Merck a United States subsidiary of its’ German parent organization that was founded in the mid 1600’s.  The negative effects of the drug did not become apparent until the mid-1970’s when Alexander Shulgin, dubbed “the godfather of psychedelics,” an American chemist and psychopharmacologist developed a method for new synthesis. He tested it on himself and describe the effects to his colleagues in psychotherapy as he experienced an decrease in fears and an increase in compassion towards others and feelings of euphoria. MDMA became a prescribed medication for clients in therapy throughout the 1970’s and 80’s until in 1985 when the recreational illegal misuse of the drug led the federal government to classify it as one of the most dangerous substances alongside heroin and LSD. Since then, studies have shown otherwise stating that MDMA is one of the least harmful drugs though classified under Schedule I status. Ongoing research is currently being conducted for its positive therapeutic benefits.
Short-term effects of MDMA use:
As with other addictive substances, using MDMA can cause toxicity with a single dose and create adverse reactions, though the majority of negative effects come from long-term use. MDMA causes dehydration, low sodium levels and sometimes hyperthermia just using it for a short amount of time. These can be life-threatening.
Other short-term negative effects of MDMA can include:
  • Teeth clenching
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive issues
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sweating
  • Erectile dysfunction
Some negative effects can last for up to a week after a mild-moderate use of MDMA. These include:
  • Lock jaw (Trismus)
  • Lack of sleep/insomnia
  • Moderate to severe fatigue
  • Increased anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Impulsive thinking
  • Boredom and restlessness
  • Memory challenges
As with other substances, everyone reacts differently when using. Some of the reasons people return to MDMA are the immediate positive effects that they feel. These can include:
  • Elevated mood
  • More comfortable in social situations
  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of connectivity with others
  • Joy
  • Increased compassion and empathy
  • Increased energy levels
  • Increase of senses and pleasure response to senses

The Long-term effects of MDMA

Studies have been inconclusive regarding a comprehensive list of the long-term effects that MDMA may have upon the mild-moderate MDMA user, though there has been enough evidence regarding the adverse reactions for those who partake with using large doses for an extended period of time.  Moderate users are measured as those who have consumed less than 100 tablets in their life, whereas higher-risk users are more than 100 tablets. Higher users have been tested to show that there has been some brain damage and neurodegeneration in several areas of the brain by the use of MDMA. Also noted has been a reduction in gray matter density with people using MDMA both in short and long-term users.

  • Long-term impairments can include:
  • Attention and focusing issues
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Increased risk-taking and impulsiveness
  • Depression, especially between use
  • Increase the possibility of environmental toxins
  • Inflammation of the central nervous system

How Do Treatment Centers Help MDMA Addiction?

Trying to kick any habit is much harder to do on your own. Treatment centers, like Vogue Recovery, know how to help each person with their individual issues. Since MDMA is often associated with euphoria, belonging, and feeling more connected with others, people often find it hard to stop the drug because of the positive effects compared to the negative ones. However, coming down from MDMA can cause depression, sometimes severe, and the user should be assisted by professionals who can help get through the detox process. In treatment, someone who wants to get off MDMA and be able to find the connectedness and happiness naturally in their life can do so with the help o treatment centers and programs.
MDMA withdrawal and detox

One of the most predominate withdrawal symptoms that MDMA will cause on the user is depression, which can last up to a week after the last use. There is also an increase in anxiety, and some memory loss, which may increase both anxiety and depression. When people snort MDMA, it causes a more severe withdrawal and may cause nasal pain that results in small tears inside the cavity that need to heal. Most users take MDMA in pill form, however. The amount of detox depends on how much and how long someone has used MDMA, and if they are poly drug users (using more than one or swapping one drug for two or more) at a time. Many teens and young adults are polydrug users, the main reason is experimentation of drugs, and the other is the accessibility and affordability of certain substances. Clubbing, raves, groups, and gatherings lend themselves to the younger crowd. Dosage is measured in milligrams (mg) and is suggested that a user start at a low dose (60-90 mg) while a heavy dose would be at 200 mg or more. This also depends on body size and sensitivity to substances. Doses can last for a few hours, when people often reuse after 3-4 hours to continue the effect. Though they don’t need to up the amount, they may, causing a more severe come down after the second dose wears off. The body can build up a tolerance to MDMA, and it should not be used on a regular basis since it causes a large amount of serotonin to be released by the brain. It takes the brain a few months to replenish serotonin levels naturally after taking MDMA, so if people use the drug more than once every three months or so, the withdrawal from it can become especially severe when it comes to depression. MDMA may not be as dangerous as other drugs like cocaine, alcohol, or opiates, but it can lead to complications and be psychologically difficult. Along with severe depression, a user in withdrawal may experience:

  • High levels of anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy

Being in ecstasy addiction treatment can help a person get back to a normal balance without the use of the drug.  Some medications may be prescribed to assist the user throughout the detoxification process which will stabilize mood, help them sleep, and reduce anxiety. The safest, most effective treatment for coming off of MDMA is to enroll in an in-patient facility. Vogue Recovery Center will be able to monitor symptoms, provide medically assisted detox, and create a long-term plan to help their clients obtain a life without the use of substances, like MDMA.

MDMA Addiction Treatment

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MDMA (Ecstasy) addiction treatment at Vogue Recovery Center includes expert psychotherapy and a multidisciplinary approach designed to give you a customized goal-oriented experience. Utilizing the science of addiction medicine in a comfortable, exclusive environment – Vogue provides an abundance of comfort and path to restoration. Using a solution-focused approach, our team will address the many reasons you began abusing MDMA Ecstasy. Taking into consideration your family history, traumatic life events, unique stress factors, relationship challenges and individual patterns – our experts will assess your strengths and weaknesses and design a customized treatment plan that meets your personal needs.

Kelsey Jones

Medically Reviewed by Kelsey Jones, MS, LPC

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