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The Enchantment of Ecstasy: Joy or Jeopardy?

In the past, partying on ecstasy was limited mostly to high school kids or young adults hanging out at night clubs. Lately, however, it’s affecting a broader range of demographics, spreading to a people of all ages and ethnicities. Also known as Molly and correctly called MDMA for methelenedioxy-methamphetamine, ecstasy effects involve a high that’s like combining a hallucinogen with speed with a warm fuzzy blanket.

There have been few reported cases of MDMA addiction, most likely because people save it for party experiences. The fact that few people know so little about it makes it all the more dangerous. The number of people seeking drug rehab treatment to stop ecstasy use may change as its use spreads.

It’s a relatively new drug, developed in the 1970s and intended for psychotherapy. Quickly, however, doctors decided that it had a high potential for abuse with no treatment benefit, so it was classified as a Schedule I drug. Studies show that laboratory animals will choose to self-administer it, which means that the potential for addiction is definitely there. People enjoy the high associated with it, including feelings of warmth and social success, and so once someone has used it, he’s likely to repeat his experiences with it—over and over.

MDMA is rarely taken alone. Most people chase it down with alcohol or cocaine, and often along with a lesser-known CNS depressant that increases the libido called GHB. The use of MDMA along with these other drugs usually means the person is looking for a sexual experience, and he is not worrying about the risks that can come from promiscuous sex with strangers.

Like many other abused substances, ecstasy increases the amount of three neurotransmitters produced by the brain, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This stimulation occurs directly in the part of the brain that involves our realization of pleasure and rewards, and the use of drugs like these comes to replace the normal pleasures in life. With ecstasy, there is an additional effect on the production of oxytocin and vasopressin, two hormones that elevate our levels of trust and arousal. So, just like with the GHB, the person taking ecstasy is likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors that can result in sexually transmitted diseases or involvement with people they don’t really know who might be quite dangerous.

There are worrisome aftereffects of this drug and some dangerous physical effects. There’s also a possibility that the ecstasy has been mixed with other drugs. People who use MDMA repeatedly complain of a foggy confusion that hangs on long after the high has ended, and they have difficulties with sleep and focus. Some of them notice memory deficits, although that can also be associated with a high-level use of marijuana.

Ecstasy effects pose dangers to people who are at risk for high blood pressure or rapid heart rate. Those symptoms can result in cardiac problems, and the body’s temperature can also spike, resulting in kidney or liver failure. Since the ecstasy trip typically lasts 3 to 6 hours, many people take a second dose as the initial dose fades, and repeated use can result in failure of the body to metabolize it properly. It will then build up to unsafe levels and stimulate a health crisis. If death comes, it will be unexpected and quick.

If you know someone who is using MDMA, whether they call it Molly or ecstasy, he or she is also most likely using it with other drugs or alcohol, and sooner or later the effects of ecstasy will precipitate a crisis event. It’s a good idea to direct this person into drug rehab treatment, where cognitive behavior therapy can help them recognize harmful behaviors and get them back on the right track. Are you that user? Call now to get help.

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