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Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug classified as a stimulant. Its main ingredient is MDMA, scientifically known as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. It has amphetamine-like and hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy typically comes in pills that users swallow, although it can be crushed and snorted as well. It gives the user an intense high and keeps them awake for hours, which is why it’s such a popular party drug.
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Ecstasy is illegal in nearly all countries. In the United States, it is classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that it has a high potential for abuse, there is no accepted medical use in treatment, and it is considered dangerous even under medical supervision. No doctors can prescribe any Schedule I drug.
Molly is a name used to describe pure MDMA, whereas ecstasy is a combination of MDMA and other substances such as methamphetamine, caffeine, opiates, or painkillers. Molly can come in capsules, tablets, or powder, but ecstasy is almost always a pill form.
Because MDMA is illegal, it is very difficult to determine the purity level or added ingredients in molly and ecstasy pills. Pure molly is very difficult for users to obtain; it is nearly always a mixture of substances.
Ecstasy triggers the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in your brain. This floods the user’s mind and body with intense feelings of happiness, feeling social, increased empathy, and the inability to sleep. This is why it’s so popular as a party drug.
The ecstasy high typically lasts three to eight hours, although many users “re-dose,” or consume more of the drug to draw out its euphoric effects.
There are many risks involved in taking ecstasy. Since the drug is illegal, it’s virtually impossible to know the strength of a dose. This increases the chance of overdose.
Ecstasy pills often are contaminated with other substances, increasing the dangers of adverse reactions to drug mixtures. Besides the dangers of taking bad pills, there are several risks involved in the use of MDMA.
Over seven percent of the US population above the age of 12 has tried MDMA or ecstasy, according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This is over 20 million people.
Since the user’s brain overproduces serotonin and other neurotransmitters, their body also works to destroy more serotonin than usual. At the end of the high, the body is left with little to no serotonin to bind to your receptors and make you feel “good” or “normal.”
This type of severe hangover is commonly referred to as the “comedown.” It causes users to experience negative moods, spouts of depression, irritability, and intense fatigue. In addition to the comedown, ecstasy users may experience a variety of adverse health effects.
Short-term side effects of ecstasy include:
Long-term side effects of ecstasy include:
Since the strength and mixture of substances are difficult to determine, ecstasy users are at a higher risk of overdose compared to many other drugs. An ecstasy overdose is characterized by:
Though research is inconclusive, the consensus is that ecstasy is habit-forming. In experiments, animals will self-administer MDMA, often an indicator that the substance is addictive. Also, many users report withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.
The main symptom of an addiction is a pattern of use, which leads to physical, mental, or social problems. Here are some common signs of substance addictions:
Currently, there is no medical treatment available for ecstasy addiction. However, behavioral therapy has shown to have positive effects. This is a part of many types of treatment programs including:
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NIDA. "MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)." National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/mdma-ecstasymolly.
NIDA. "MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)." National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly.