What Does Addiction to MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) Look Like and What are the Treatment Options for it?
Written By: Nicole Colwell | Edited By: Editorial Team | Last Updated: June 10, 2021
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When someone reaches the stage of being addicted to ecstasy, it is very important for them to get proper drug treatment and have help recovering from the addiction. Fortunately, there is good treatment available for this addiction.
This page covers information about MDMA. It discusses the history, side-effects and treatment options.
What Is MDMA?
MDMA is short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Most well known as Ecstasy or Molly, MDMA is a stimulant drug that is made in a lab. The effects of it are similar to amphetamines and psychedelic effects like mescaline and LSD give. This drug was popularized at clubs, raves and music festivals but has gained popularity by a larger group of people. The effects of MDMA can last 3-6 hours.
The US Government has labeled MDMA a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that no one has found a medical use for this drug and there are no acceptable safety standards for use. However, researchers are looking into the potential medical benefits of MDMA for those with PTSD and terminal cancer patients who have anxiety.
MDMA is most commonly used in pill, tablet or capsule form. The pills come in various colors and often have cartoonish images on them, looking almost like children’s vitamins. These are sometimes crushed and snorted or smoked. The following are some of the ways the popular terms for taking the pills:
- “Bumping” is when a user takes more than one pill.
- “Stacking” in taking three or more at the same time.
- “Piggy-backing” is taking a series of tablets in a short period of time.
- “Candy flipping” is the co-abuse of MDMA and LSD, popular among young adults.
The term Molly is a slang word for molecular. This is a reference to the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA. This is found in the capsules, but when tested, there are usually other ingredients in them, as well. Many of the Ecstasy pills sold today are found to contain little or no MDMA, but actually have other dangerous, potentially deadly drugs in them. MDMA is often mixed or replaced by synthetic cathinones (bath salts), caffeine, dextromethorphan (found in cough syrups), amphetamines, PCP, or cocaine.
What Does MDMA Look Like?
MDMA comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. It can be a tablet (pill), a powder, or a crystal. In pill form, there are a ton of variations because of the different ingredients that are used to bind the crystalline powder.
MDMA has been called many things over the course of its history. It has taken on various street names partially so those who make and sell it can avoid being caught and prosecuted by law enforcement officials. Some of those include:
- Hug/Hug Drug
- Love Drug
- Lovers Speed
- E/ E-bomb
- Vitamin E or X
- Biscuit/Disco Biscuit
The History of MDMA
MDMA has a long history, including being used for medical purposes. The following shows the course of Ecstasy use through the years:
- In 1912, German chemist Alexander Shulgin synthesized MDMA for pharmaceutical purposes.
- He discovered 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine while he was developing medicines to stop bleeding.
- Originally named “Methylsafrylaminc”, it is often incorrectly cited to have been used to help control appetite. Its original intent was as a parent compound to synthesize those medications that control bleeding.
- Shulgin realized this substance had unique psychoactive properties.
- In 1914, MDMA was patented by Merck, a pharmaceutical company, as a compound with potential pharmaceutical value.
- There were several decades before anything else was done with the drug.
- The CIA and the US Army experimented with MDMA and other hallucinogens as psychological weapons during the Cold War
- In the 1950s, the CIA was working on a project they called MK-Ultra. This tested the application of psychedelics for mind control. This project became infamous for using unwitting subjects with which to experiment their psychoactive drugs. MDMA was part of this experiment but was only tested on non-human subjects. They gave it the code name EA-1475.
- In the 1970s, MDMA was being used by psychiatrists as a psychotherapeutic tool. The thought was that patients who took it would be more willing to communicate and participate in psychotherapy. During this time, the drug was called “Adam” because of the idea that patients were returned to a more innocent state.
- Ecstasy had a reputation as a party drug by the 1980s.
- In 1984, article in the San Francisco Chronicle named it “the yuppie psychedelic” because it was seemingly milder and safer than LSD.
- In 1985, the US added MDMA to the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. It was joined marijuana, LSD, heroin and others on that list, meaning they had a high potential for abuse and medicinal value. This was part of the “War on Drugs”.
- Some medical researchers still believe there is potential for this drug to treat people with PTSD, depression, anxiety and other behavioral problems. In the early 1990s, the first human trials were approved by the FDA. These were testing whether MDMA could help relieve pain in terminally ill patients, paired with psychotherapy. Although there are no published studies, there are safety parameters established for a controlled, clinical administration of MDMA to human participants.
- In 2016 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, it was written that MDMA “offers a promising treatment for PTSD”.
What Are The Effects of Ecstasy?
Ecstasy can have many different effects on the mind and body.
Short-term side effects
- Impaired judgement
- Sense of affection that is untrue
- Problems sleeping
- Severe anxiety
- Drug cravings
- Tense muscles
- Feeling faint, chills or sweating
- Clenching teeth involuntarily
- Blurred vision
Long-term side effects
- Brain damage that can affect thought and memory
- Damage to different portions of the brain that control important functions such as sleep and emotion
- Deteriorated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Memory loss
- Kidney failure
- Cardiovascular collapse
Effects on the Brain
MDMA affects the brain by increasing three important chemicals:
- Dopamine causes increased energy and reinforces behaviors in the reward system
- Norepinephrine– increases heart rate and blood pressure. This is risky for people who have problems with their heart and blood vessels.
- Serotonin– affects mood, appetite and sleep. Triggers hormones affecting sexual arousal and trust. Releasing large amounts of serotonin can cause emotional closeness, elevated mood and empathy.
What Is The Difference Between Abuse and Addiction?
Many times, people switch drug abuse and drug addiction with each other. However, they mean different things and one should not replace the other. Someone can be a drug abuser but not be addicted to it.
Drug abuse, also called misuse, is:
- Using a drug or medication in an improper or unhealthy manner
- Using a drug or medication any way other than it was initially intended
- Using too much of a drug or medication
- Using a drug or medication frequently for pleasure, to escape reality or to reduce stress.
Drug addiction is the incapability to control the impulse to use a drug or medication. This impulse is present even when negative consequences arise. The addict has significant changes in behavior and brain function. They will also
Is MDMA Addictive?
There is currently no definitive research to show if MDMA is addictive. Many people think it is. Whether it is or not, there are certain things to be aware of with this drug.
Dangers Involving MDMA
The following are ways that ecstasy can become very dangerous:
- Many times people are not getting what they think. By 1995, of all the Ecstasy pills on the market, less than 10% were pure MDMA. Most pills today are a mixture of a variety of drugs. Oftentimes, they are toxic combinations.
- In order to feel the same effects of the drug, a person has to constantly increase how much they use. Users report that after the first dose of Ecstasy, the effects are immensely reduced. The negative effects are reduced the more they take it, as well. Because of the dismissed effect, this often leads a person to try other, more dangerous drugs.
- “Coming down” from Ecstasy can be mentally and physically painful. Because of this, users feel like they need to use heroin, cocaine or other drugs to cope with that pain. More than 90% of Ecstasy users abuse harder drugs, too.
- There is a false claim that Ecstasy only makes people feel good. This thought leads to more usage and that leads to trying other drugs. This is despite the many unpleasant effects that it actually produces.
MDMA abuse symptoms
The abuse of MDMA is not much different than other kinds of drug abuse. It is important to know these signs of abuse in someone who is a user of Ecstasy:
- Using more Ecstasy than intended, for a longer time than intended
- Spending a long amount of time trying to get, use and/or recover from Ecstasy and its effects
- Feeling strong urges to use this drug
- Using it even the person fails to meet obligations, has social or personal problems or psychological/physical health issues
- Using during hazardous situations, such as driving
- Giving up activities because of Ecstasy use
- Failing in efforts to cut down or quit
- Constantly needing more of the drug to get the desired effect
The following statistics were reported by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health about MDMA usage:
- In 2014, more than 17 million people ages 12 and older had used MDMA at least one time. 10 years prior, this number was 11 million.
- In 2014, 660,000 people had used Ecstasy in the past month. This was up from 450,000 ten years prior.
- In 2016, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) did their annual survey on teen drug use called the Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey. In that past year, they found the following had used MDMA:
- 2.7% of 12th graders
- 1.8% of 10th graders
- 1% of 8th graders
- Use was higher among certain groups of teens, including:
- Those living in the city
- Those with a weekly income
- Those with lifetime use of other substances
- According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (maintained until 2011 by SAMHSA), reported that MDMA ED visits were 22,498 or 1.8% of all drug-related visits for 2011. The majority of these visits were aged 18-20.
- In 2015, of those people seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder, 3,510 reported MDMA as a factor.
Treatment Offered by SpringBoard Recovery for Ecstasy Abuse
At SpringBoard Recovery, there are many different kinds of people with very different needs who walk through our doors. Our goal is to help everyone who wants help attain recovery by getting them into the right kind of drug addiction treatment program. Being caught in the never-ending cycle of increasing amounts of Ecstasy can be damaging and very difficult to get out of alone. We have individualized programs to help all kinds of drug abuse and addiction.
Providing a drug detox referral is one of the first things we do for those who need it. Though not needed for Ecstasy alone, if there are co-addictions, this might be something that is suggested or required. When needed, this is the first step. The person is medically monitored as their body gets rid of dangerous toxins and goes through withdrawal symptoms. This process lasts about 7-10 days.
The next step in rehab is treatment at our facility. We have an exceptional outpatient treatment program. These programs are designed for each individual’s needs. During the course of the program, the person will attend multiple kinds of therapy. This will usually include individual counseling and group counseling.
Another service we offer is sober living services. These are homes available for those in rehab to live in during their treatment program. Typically they are available for people who travel to Arizona from out of state or to someone who lives in a non-supportive home situation.
Learn More About MDMA Abuse and Recovery – Get Help Today
There are some people who think that MDMA has a helpful future. Others have said how awful the effects of Ecstasy are. Either way, this drug has a high likelihood of dependency and abuse. It could make someone feel good at first, but they will not be able to change the things that are there when the drug wears off without proper treatment.
There is not yet any approved medical uses for Ecstasy. This drug can do a lot of damage to a person’s brain and continued use can lead to severe brain damage. Even though this may not be considered addictive, it can lead to using other dangerous drugs.
Do you have questions about MDMA usage? Do you want to get the right kind of treatment? If so, we are here to help. We can help you take steps to get your recovery started right away. Please contact us today.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/mdma-ecstasy-or-molly
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/csa
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration: https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/ecstasy-or-mdma-also-known-molly
- Foundation for a Drug-Free World: https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/ecstasy/short-long-term-effects.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30446950/
- Hormone Health Network: https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/norepinephrine
- Hormone Health Network: https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/science-drug-use-addiction-basics
- Foundation for a Drug-Free World: https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/ecstasy/can-i-get-addicted.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/what-is-the-scope-of-mdma-use-in-the-united-states