Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Ecstasy Addiction and How To Treat It

Key Takeaways

Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive stimulant drug. It produces an intense euphoric effect that can keep you awake for hours, making it a popular party drug.

The drug's chemical name is 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Ecstasy is chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens, producing a combination of stimulating and hallucinogenic effects when consumed.

Is Ecstasy Addictive?

While research on this matter is not definitive, there is a consensus that ecstasy can be habit-forming. Clinical research shows that animals will self-administer MDMA. Although they do so less frequently than other drugs, it indicates the drug is addictive.1

These studies also show withdrawal symptoms indicative of chemical dependence. The results suggest that ecstasy is habit-forming and has the potential for addiction.1

That said, use patterns vary among those who take MDMA. Some people only use it once or twice in their lifetime. Others may develop problematic use patterns and compulsive behaviors around obtaining more ecstasy.

In 2021, 21.122 million Americans aged 12 and older had used ecstasy at least once in their lifetime.3


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What Are Ecstasy Addiction Signs?

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 use disorder:

  • Cravings or the compulsive desire to use ecstasy
  • Inability to control use despite negative consequences
  • Tolerance (needing more of the drug to achieve the desired effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
  • Neglecting responsibilities or relationships in favor of obtaining and using ecstasy
  • Continuing to use the drug, despite knowing and experiencing its harmful effects
  • Changes in friends and social circles
  • Sudden difficulty in meeting work, school, family, or social responsibilities
  • Reluctance to attend social events without the drug
  • Lying or secretive behavior
  • Financial or legal difficulties
  • Inability to quit even though the substance causes serious problems

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Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

Currently, there’s no medical treatment available for ecstasy addiction. However, some therapies and support groups may help people recover from addiction and manage withdrawal symptoms.

These include:

What Are the Effects of Ecstasy Abuse?

Chronic ecstasy abuse can make your brain overproduce serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Hence, your body also works to destroy more serotonin than usual. 

The body then has little to no serotonin to bind to your receptors at the end of the high. Therefore, the drug will fail to make you feel “good” or “normal.”

People refer to this type of severe hangover as the “comedown.” The comedown causes you to experience the following:

  • Negative moods
  • Spouts of depression
  • Irritability
  • Intense fatigue

Long-Term Side Effects of Ecstasy Abuse

Additionally, using ecstasy for a prolonged period can lead to several physical and psychological problems, including:

  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Heart problems like arrhythmia
  • Addiction and withdrawal

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What Are the Risks of Ecstasy Use?

There are many risks involved in taking ecstasy, including:

1. Overdose 

As with any drug, taking too much ecstasy can lead to an overdose, which can be life-threatening. Overdose symptoms include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Overheating
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Liver, kidney, or heart failure

2. Impaired Decision-Making

Ecstasy affects the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and decision-making. This can lead to poor judgment and risky behaviors, like unsafe sex or driving under the influence.

3. Dehydration

Ecstasy can cause excessive sweating and dancing for long periods, leading to dehydration. This can be dangerous, especially in hot environments.

4. Hyponatremia

Drinking too much water while on ecstasy can lead to hyponatremia. This is an electrolyte imbalance that can cause: 

  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

5. Heatstroke

The stimulant effects of ecstasy combined with dancing in crowded or hot environments can increase the risk of heatstroke. This is especially dangerous for people with pre-existing medical conditions or using other drugs or alcohol.

6. Serotonin Syndrome

Taking ecstasy with other substances that affect serotonin levels, such as certain antidepressants or supplements, can lead to a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of muscle coordination

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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