Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a synthetic drug combining properties of hallucinogens like LSD and stimulants such as amphetamines. It’s known for producing increased energy, pleasure, and empathy, along with mild sensory effects like emotional openness and closeness. However, ecstasy use can lead to unpleasant or dangerous side effects, and long-term heavy use may cause cognitive issues, including learning and memory problems. Classified as a Schedule I substance, indicating a high potential for misuse and no accepted medical use, ecstasy is commonly taken in pill, tablet, or capsule form, but can also be found as a liquid or powder. Often associated with “club drugs” used in dance parties and raves, it’s also popular at house parties and social gatherings for its effects on energy, endurance, sociability, and sexual arousal. Ecstasy primarily works by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.
Long and Short Term Effects of MDMA
The short-term and long-term effects of using Molly, or MDMA, are varied and significant. In the short term, physical effects include blurred vision, nausea, muscle cramps, appetite loss, hyperactivity, and teeth grinding, leading to dental issues. MDMA increases body temperature and, in crowded environments, can cause hyperthermia and dehydration, potentially leading to seizures. Long-term use is linked to cardiovascular problems like irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke or heart attack, as well as liver and kidney damage. Mood swings are common due to the massive neurotransmitter release followed by depletion, resulting in euphoria while on the drug and depression, hopelessness, and apathy afterward. This cycle can also lead to anxiety, poor judgment, impulsivity, reduced sex drive, and aggression. Chronic MDMA use may cause lasting changes in the brain affecting attention, memory, and problem-solving. While research is mixed on physical dependence, tolerance does develop, and withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological, such as fatigue and depression. Finally, prolonged use of Molly can lead to the development of a substance use disorder.
MDMA and Trauma Treatment
Psychedelic therapies, particularly MDMA-assisted therapy, are on the cusp of transforming psychiatric treatments, especially for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is growing anticipation for the FDA’s potential approval of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, a step for psychedelic drugs in mainstream medicine. This treatment shows promise for patients with complex, treatment-resistant disorders, notably those grappling with both PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD). In this therapeutic approach, MDMA plays a important role by mitigating fear responses associated with traumatic memories, thereby facilitating more effective processing of these memories. This expected approval by the FDA represents a significant milestone, as it could be the first psychedelic treatment approved for mental health disorders, offering new hope for patients dealing with the challenging combination of PTSD and SUD.
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy involves the use of MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy sessions, primarily for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including its complex form. This approach has shown promise in improving treatment effectiveness, with a Phase II clinical trial in 2017 leading the FDA to designate it as a “breakthrough therapy” for PTSD. Currently, research is exploring its use for other mental health disorders, including Major Depressive Disorder, social anxiety in autistic individuals, alcohol use disorder, and mood disturbances in people with life-threatening illnesses. However, this research is controversial, partly due to the harmful effects associated with recreational MDMA use.
MDMA abuse leading to a substance use disorder is classified under ‘hallucinogen use disorder,’ sometimes referred to as ‘ecstasy use disorder.’ Despite suggestions of mild physical dependence from chronic MDMA use, withdrawal symptoms are not a criterion for hallucinogen use disorder diagnosis, as most hallucinogens do not typically result in physical dependence. Diagnosis of such a disorder requires assessment by a licensed mental health professional. Additionally, nonclinical signs and symptoms may indicate developing issues with MDMA abuse, though these are not specified in the summary.
MDMA Use With Teens
Ecstasy, often perceived as harmless due to its mood-enhancing effects, poses significant risks, especially to teens whose brains are still developing. Short-term effects in teens include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, dehydration, heatstroke, and high blood pressure. Long-term, it can lead to brain damage, memory and learning problems, kidney failure, and cardiovascular issues. The risks are heightened as ecstasy is commonly mixed with other drugs or alcohol, and its amphetamine base can impair the body’s temperature regulation. This is particularly dangerous in hot environments or during intense physical activity, potentially leading to heart, kidney, liver problems, and even death. Post-use effects can include depression, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and cravings.
Teens are particularly vulnerable to ecstasy addiction due to misinformation and the misconception of ecstasy as a “soft” drug. Those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders, exposure to drug use in their social or family circles, or living in chaotic or dysfunctional environments are at an increased risk of addiction. This vulnerability is often exacerbated by a lack of awareness about the drug’s dangers.
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