What Is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy – often referred to as E, X, Molly, or its chemical name MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine) – was first formulated in Germany in 1912.
It’s often seen as the original designer drug because of its links to the dance music culture in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Night clubbers would often take ecstasy to feel energised and happy, to stay awake and dance for hours at a time.
Most users report feelings of emotional warmth, and increased empathy.
The effects can last for anything up to 6 hours followed by a gradual comedown.
In 2015-2016, 492,000 people aged between 16-59 in the UK used ecstasy, according to Home Office statistics, with the majority using the drug only once or twice per year.
A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests that long term mild users of MDMA exhibit greater levels of empathy, and are better at identifying others’ emotions, than those using other recreational drugs.
Between 1996 and 2014, there were 670 deaths in England and Wales for which ecstasy use was recorded on the death certificate.
Negative Side Effects of Ecstasy
- Tightening of the jaw muscles
- Raised Body Temperature
- Increased Heart Rate
- Increased anxiety, confusion, and in some cases, disorientation
- Lethargy and Depression
Risks Of Ecstasy
- Long term users can suffer from memory problems, depression and anxiety
- The use of ecstasy has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems
- Anyone with a pre-existing heart condition, blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have a very dangerous reaction
Ecstasy Withdrawal Signs & Symptoms
Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms can begin from 4-5 hours after initial usage (although many users take an additional dose to continue the high).
Ecstasy use affects specific neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, responsible for it’s mental effects:
- Serotonin – Regulates mood, sleep/wake cycles, sexual activity, and nociception (sensation of pain).
- Dopamine – Excess free dopamine in the brain is associated with increased pleasure and positive emotional affect (mood).
- Norepinephrine – Regulates heart rate and blood pressure
Neural pathways are flooded with excesses of these neurotransmitters during ecstasy use, but later the user then suffers the subsequent low, or come-down, after usage has ceased.
This results in a number of Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms which can last up to several weeks, depending on specifics:
- Craving Ecstasy itself – Physically & emotionally
- Low mood/affect/mental depression – While most will experience mild-moderate depression after ceasing ecstasy use, some can experience profound low mood caused by reduced serotonin levels, that merits medical attention, such as suicidal ideation. This is especially likely in those with pre-existing mental health issues.
- Increased anxiety – The reduced serotonin levels during withdrawal, combined with fluctuations in norepinephrine levels, can result in increased anxiety during withdrawal.
- Confusion or disorientation – Users can experience alterations in sensory perception and time distortion, both during usage and withdrawal.
- Fatigue, tiredness – Until Serotonin and Dopamine levels find equilibrium again, most users will experience increased tiredness and lethargy, often sleeping for 3-4 days at a time, under withdrawal.
- Reduced appetite – Dopamine levels influence appetite modulation in the hypothalamus, and until dopamine levels are restored, most users will experience reduced appetite during withdrawal.
- Impaired concentration and memory – The combination of neurotransmitters affected in the brain, especially serotonin lows, often results in reduced ability to focus, or maintain concentration, over time.
- Temperature fluctuations – High dosage MDMA can interrupt the brain’s ability to regulate body temperature via the hypothalamus, therefore high dosage users are likely to experience continued temperature fluctuations until full detoxed.
Whilst potencies of MDMA are generally rising over time, the majority of Ecstasy sold on the street is cut with other drugs or fillers, such as ketamine, amphetamines, heroin, etc, meaning that individual withdrawal symptoms experienced will vary greatly depending on the specific supply purchased.
Additionally, since many users are also consuming e.g. alcohol or marijuana whilst using ecstasy, the risks of such unpredictable effects rises dramatically due to the interaction of these multiple substances together.
Detox > Rehab > Aftercare
Successful treatment of ecstasy addiction usually involves tackling both the physical and emotional symptoms as they manifest for each individual.
Each person arrives at ecstasy use for their own reasons, and in their own way – some via social peers, others use it as a coping mechanism, or escape from other life stressors.
Importantly, any addiction cannot be overcome until the reasons why someone is using ecstasy – habitually – are fully understood; and alternative ways of coping put in place.
As such, a holistic drug rehab programme, which tackles both the physical effects of withdrawal and detox, as well as the underlying psychological components of the addiction, is central to recovery.
Detoxing from ecstasy becomes more comfortable (and safe) in a controlled, supervised environment.
It also removes any external influences such as social peers, or external stressors, which may lead to temptation towards relapse.
Following up detox with structured emotional help, to understand the addiction from the inside out, and provide alternative coping mechanisms, is a realistic solution toward long term recovery from ecstasy addiction.
In this way, most treatment clinics offer a programme based on the basic three elements of physical detox, therapeutic rehab help, and aftercare planning for the future.
In-Patient .v. Outpatient
The most common way to achieve this comprehensive recovery from addiction is in a residential rehab setting.
This is because staying residentially in a clinic removes the external emotional triggers, that keep individuals locked in ecstasy addiction over time.
In the separation of a residential setting, there is an opportunity to discover peers on the same journey.
Away from triggers, there is also the “emotional breathing space” to make therapeutic breakthroughs on the underlying causes of addiction, and hold on to them.
Maintaining such progress is more difficult in an outpatient setting, where with (e.g.) once a week therapy, the gains from one session can easily be erased, if re-triggered, on the journey back home.
Most in-patient clinics will provide an immersive experience, which includes re-finding the basic structure in life, that addiction often destroys.
Detoxing safely from Ecstasy allows the brain to restore balance to neurotransmitter levels.
The body can then process and release excess MDMA left in the system, as well as remove any remaining toxins present from the agents often added to Ecstasy before sale, such as baking soda, bath salts, milk powder, or laxatives.
Undertaking Ecstasy detox, as opposed to simply withdrawing, usually means being prescribed medication that tackles the underlying chemical imbalances present during withdrawal.
However, since ecstasy works on a number of chemical mechanisms in the brain, there is no one dedicated medical detox specifically designed for ecstasy withdrawal.
As such, completing an Ecstasy detox under the supervision of a medical professional means that any withdrawal symptoms can be dealt with as they arise, with an approach that is personalised to the individual.
Rehab usually begins as soon as Ecstasy detox completes (if not before), and gives the opportunity to identify and address the underlying issues which led to ecstasy addiction in the first place.
A structured therapeutic programme should be designed to make the most of your time in residential treatment, and will help you tackle the causes of the patterns of addiction in your life.
This means having access to both emotional and physical therapy to rebalance body and mind.
Therapeutically, it’s important that you’re ready and willing to look closely at the patterns of your behaviour over time, and to accept responsibility for them.
Most programmes will expect you to take part in a daily agenda of activities in the clinic
Ecstasy Rehab Programme
The programme at Abbeycare for Ecstasy addiction comprises an end-to-end comprehensive primary care model for addiction treatment and recovery:
- Medically supervised detox, personalised to your needs
- A personally assigned case manager in the clinic, who works with you, throughout your stay
- An individual care plan for treatment, with clearly defined goals, and benchmarks to measure progress, along the way.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions that help individuals understand the core beliefs, behaviours, and patterns behind their addiction.
- One-to-one keywork sessions, including 12 step work, and measuring your progress towards recovery goals.
- Integration into local mutual aid meetings, helping establish attendance as a habit, before leaving treatment.
- Holistic therapy, including massage, reiki, and reflexology, providing multiple options for ways to deal with stressors.
- Personalised aftercare planning, to help establish both practical and emotional supports, for long term abstinence from ecstasy.
Even from the point of admission, many clinics will be considering aftercare planning for their clients.
This involves taking a detailed look at your needs, together with the insights and progress made to this point, to arrive at a detailed plan for your long term ecstasy recovery, after you leave treatment.
This will usually include practical elements, that help clarify what structure day-to-day life will take, as well as emotional supports to turn to, when life stressors happen.
It often allows us to see more clearly, what life in recovery from MDMA use will be like, what supports will be in place, and how that will feel.
The addiction specialists in the clinic are often in recovery personally – there is no-one more qualified to help set clear expectations for the road ahead in recovery.
- Is MDMA addictive?
Physically, users of MDMA do self-medicate with further doses during withdrawal, to alleviate the symptoms experienced by the fluctuations in brain chemicals they experience. In this way, it can be considered physically addictive.
Psychologically, an individual can begin to use MDMA as a coping mechanism in the same way as any other substance, or become dependent upon it to function in certain situations, or when under stress. Similarly, MDMA can be considered to be psychologically addictive.
- Can ecstasy use cause heart attack/seizures/vomiting/depression/psychosis/hallucinations?
Since street ecstasy is almost always combined with other fillers, including other street drugs, it is impossible to rule out any one possible side effect of ecstasy use. This is especially apparent when the individual is combining it’s use with other substance, alcohol, or pre-existing prescription medication.
- Can I self-detox from Ecstasy?
Whilst it’s possible to undertake Ecstasy detox alone, in the majority of cases this is not recommended, since any withdrawal from ecstasy is dependent on a number of interacting factors which are unique to each individual, and can produce unpredictable results, e.g.
- Quantity and recency of usage
- Usage history and tolerance developed
- Quality and purity of supply; presence of other drug-types
- Using other recreational drugs simultaneously
- Interaction of Ecstasy with other medication prescribed by a Doctor.
- Co-occurring or pre-existing physical and mental health issues
For these reasons we strongly advocate completing Ecstasy detox in a supervised clinic setting.
- How long does it take to detox from Ecstasy?
Generally, most users find that the majority of withdrawal symptoms have reduced in severity or disappeared after around 7 days.
However it is not uncommon to experience symptoms for several weeks, especially where co-occurring issues exist.
- What medication will I receive to detox from Ecstasy?
Whilst there is no dedicated medication specifically designed as an Ecstasy replacement therapy, the medical professional may prescribe symptom management medication, as the need arises.
- How much does ecstasy treatment cost?
The costs of ecstasy treatment vary depending on your duration of stay at the clinic, and other factors.
Get an instant guideline price from Abbeybot here. Please note pricing is dependent on approval from both our Admissions and Clinical teams. Our admissions team are available direct on 01603 513 091 for a personal quote.