Ecstasy is a street designation for an illicit drug containing MDMA, or 3,4 methylene-dioxymethamphetamine.1,2 Ecstasy is chemically similar to both amphetamines and mescaline, a hallucinogenic found in the peyote plant.1,2 It is a Schedule I drug, found to have no medicinal value and high potential for abuse.1,2 Most people who use ecstasy take it orally, although some people snort it in powdered form. Users typically take ecstasy to decrease inhibitions, achieve states of euphoria, and increase pleasurable emotions.
People between the ages of 18 and 25 are by far the most common users of ecstasy; in fact, the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that around 13% of people in this age group have used ecstasy, with around 4% reporting use in the previous month.8 Furthermore, according to the 2016 Monitoring the Future study, an estimated 2.8% of high school students in 10th grade and 4.9% of those in 12th grade reporting having used ecstasy at least once.9 Unlike many drugs, ecstasy is not associated with pronounced physical dependence. Despite this, even weekend users of the drug may experience unpleasant “detox” effects that can last from a few days up to a few weeks.1 Ecstasy use can be particularly dangerous because you can never really be sure what drugs are actually contained in a tablet. Tablets may be cut with other substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine. Moreover, people often take ecstasy with alcohol or marijuana, which can be a dangerous mix.11
Can Detox Rehab Help?
While ecstasy can produce desirable effects, such as euphoria, increased empathy, and physical sensitivity, many unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects can also occur.3
The short-term effects of ecstasy use may include:3,4
These short-term effects can have severe consequences, as changes in consciousness, such as hallucinations, depersonalization, and derealization, can lead to unpredictable and potentially hazardous behaviors.
Although research is inconclusive as to whether or not ecstasy is addictive, some users have reported withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression, when they tried to stop using.11 Additionally, research has revealed that animals self-administer ecstasy in lab settings, which indicates that the drug has potential for abuse and addiction.11 Withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use are just one overall sign of an addiction to ecstasy. Generally speaking, the longer a person uses, the more likely it is that they will develop an addiction and suffer long-term consequences of substance abuse.
Long-term consequences of ecstasy use can include:3,11
Chronic MDMA abuse can have dire results. Dangerously high body temperatures and dehydration can lead to heatstroke, especially for those dancing in hot clubs for extended periods of time. Without immediate treatment, heatstroke can lead to death. Furthermore, the additives and other substances people commonly mix with ecstasy can also increase the risk of overdose and death.3
In most instances, withdrawal symptoms occur only after someone has become physically dependent on a substance. As mentioned, though ecstasy seldom leads to this type of dependence, the associated “hangover” or after-effects of MDMA abuse are still distressing and unpleasant. They often resemble the type of “crash” associated with amphetamine or cocaine binges.2 Some common ecstasy withdrawal or detox symptoms include:1,2
Everyone experiences ecstasy withdrawal differently. The manifestation of ecstasy detox symptoms depends on a number of factors, including:3
There is no set length of time it takes for one to completely detox from ecstasy. What we do know is that the drug is eliminated from the body somewhat slowly. It takes roughly 40 hours for 95% of the drug to be cleared from the body.2 As the drug leaves the body, a person may experience some of the acute withdrawal symptoms noted above for one to two days.2
Ecstasy can have long-lasting effects on a person’s physical and psychological functioning. It is not fully known whether the full range of these potential complications can be effectively treated and reversed.2 Some of the lasting effects once acute intoxication has resolved include:1,2
You don’t have to experience ecstasy detox alone. Anyone experiencing these symptoms is strongly encouraged to seek the help of a medical or psychiatric professional who may be able to help.
People may believe that ecstasy is not addictive, and because of this, they think detox is not necessary. This may be a common misconception, though. Just because ecstasy is not as addictive as other substances, such as cocaine and heroin, does not mean that a person cannot develop a problematic pattern of ecstasy abuse.
There are several signs and symptoms that you or someone you know has developed an addiction to ecstasy. MDMA addiction can negatively impact many different parts of your life. Some common signs of addiction include:4
Even if you are unsure as to whether you or a loved one is addicted to ecstasy, detox and substance abuse treatment could be an appropriate preventative measure. Ecstasy use is related to many harmful physical and mental health symptoms in the short and long-term. Detox and treatment may help prevent the development of physical problems like:5,6,7
Mental health symptoms are triggered by ecstasy abuse as well. Since the substance modifies the functioning of brain cells, adverse effects have been noted leading to:2,5,7
Ecstasy detox may not be necessary for most people; however, if you have been using ecstasy for a long period of time or believe that you may be unable to quit using ecstasy on your own, seeking a drug detox program may be in your best interest. Detox programs provide a safe place for patients where their detox symptoms are monitored and medically addressed and stabilized. Some of the types of detox programs include:
It’s important to note that a drug detox program is not a substitute for a comprehensive MDMA addiction treatment program. Detox is a vital first step in the recovery process but follow-up treatment can be highly beneficial. Rehab can help you maintain sobriety in the long run by teaching you crucial relapse prevention skills and addressing any underlying issues. Once you complete an ecstasy detox program, it is worth considering transitioning into a recovery program.