About 2.2 million people aged 12 or older reported using MDMA in the past 12 months. Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a psychoactive substance that induces feelings of euphoria and heightened sensory perception. However, its misuse has been significantly increasing, leading to a growing prevalence of MDMA abuse and ecstasy addiction globally. Therefore, recognizing the signs of ecstasy (MDMA) addiction early on is critical as it can help mitigate potential health risks and prompt necessary treatment interventions.
1. Rapid Mood, Energy, and Sociability Changes
MDMA boosts levels of three key brain chemicals, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Dopamine creates a feeling of energy and reinforces behaviors; norepinephrine affects heart rate and blood pressure; and serotonin helps control mood, sleep, and other functions. When someone takes MDMA, they often feel a heightened sense of energy and are emotionally connected to people around them for about three to six hours. Their perception of time and senses may also change.
However, once the drug’s effects wear off, they can feel very down, become irritable, and may withdraw from others, often feeling extremely tired.
2. Neglecting Personal, Professional, or Academic Responsibilities
Regular MDMA use leads to apathy, decreasing interest in and pleasure from almost all experiences. As a result of ecstasy addiction, people may neglect professional, social, and family responsibilities.
3. Increased secrecy, Isolation, or Withdrawal from Friends and Family
As the ecstasy addiction worsens, individuals may engage in secretive or suspicious behaviors and isolate themselves from family and friends, maintaining contact only with people who enable their MDMA addiction.
4. Unusual or Unexplained Financial Problems
Addictions often lead to financial strain as individuals who are dependent on substances like MDMA tend to spend a large portion of their income on maintaining their drug use. This, combined with a growing neglect of personal and professional responsibilities, often results in job loss or instability in their employment.
Moreover, these financial difficulties can cause severe stress and tension within their relationships, leading to further isolation. As they struggle to manage their finances, they may become more secretive or distant, pushing away family, friends, and loved ones, which deepens their isolation and can exacerbate the cycle of addiction.
5. Involvement in Risky Activities While Under the Influence
MDMA can impact decision-making, leading to risky behaviors like unprotected sex, driving while intoxicated, or getting into fights.
Beyond the immediate health risks, such as the increased chance of contracting an STD due to unprotected sex, these actions can also have serious legal consequences. Driving under the influence, for instance, could lead to DUI charges, fines, loss of driving privileges, or even jail time if an accident occurs. Physical altercations can result in assault charges and potential legal penalties.
Therefore, the misuse of MDMA poses not only substantial health risks but also the risk of damaging one’s legal record and future prospects.
6. Dilated Pupils and Sensitivity to Light
Another ecstasy symptom to consider are the adverse health effects MDMA can produce, such as sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and dilated pupils. Dilated pupils are one of the key indicators that someone is under ecstasy’s influence. MDMA can also cause nystagmus or rapid quivering of the pupils.
7. Bruxism: Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching
Bruxism, or teeth grinding and jaw clenching, often happens when our body tries to correct how our teeth fit together while we bite. When someone uses MDMA, this grinding can become more frequent. That’s because MDMA reduces the amount of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us control our movements, making it harder for users to stop this grinding behavior. As a result, people under the influence of MDMA may grind their teeth or clench their jaws more often.
8. Dehydration, Overheating, and Excessive Sweating
MDMA causes hormonal disorders and hyperthermia (high body temperature), which may result in excessive sweating and dehydration from all the liquid transpired.
9. Rapid or Irregular Heart Rate and Increased Blood Pressure
MDMA increases norepinephrine, the previously mentioned brain chemical. This may lead to serious adverse side effects, such as irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and high blood pressure. Both can lead to heart disease and, potentially, in severe cases, death.
10. Insomnia, Exhaustion, and Extreme Fatigue During Withdrawal
MDMA users have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep during withdrawal. Insomnia may lead to extreme fatigue, exhaustion, and irritability, decreasing quality of life and exacerbating co-occurring mental illness.
11. Depression, Anxiety, or Irritability During Withdrawal
The body is adapting to living with normalized brain activity, leading to multiple mental health side effects such as anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, depression, irritability, and others.
12. Cravings for MDMA and Inability to Control Use
Irresistible cravings and the inability to regulate drug use are universal symptoms of drug addiction.
13. Memory Problems and Difficulty Concentrating
Long-term MDMA use affects how the brain works and leads to degradation in memory, information processing, problem-solving, ability to concentrate, and others.
14. Paranoid Thoughts, Hallucinations, or Delusions
Ecstasy alters sensory and time perception, possibly leading to paranoid thoughts, delusions, and hallucinations. While not everyone who takes MDMA may experience these symptoms, it’s common to perceive altered colors, suffer from blurred vision, and see shadows where there are none.
15. Inability to Feel Pleasure or Happiness Without the Drug (anhedonia)
When MDMA’s effects wear off, brain activity starts normalizing. As a result of normal brain chemical production, the pleasure felt outside the effects of MDMA may feel underwhelming in comparison to how they feel when the drug is active.
Due to this, long-term MDMA use may decrease the sense of pleasure and interest in hobbies, sex, and other once-pleasurable activities if performed sober.
What to Do If Someone is Addicted to MDMA?
If you suspect one of your loved ones is addicted to MDMA, consider the following:
- Educate yourself on MDMA addiction. Learn the common symptoms and the potential paths to recovery.
- Approach your loved one with compassion and understanding. Drug abuse is complex and involves factors from multiple aspects of your loved one’s life, some of which you may be unaware of. Try to approach them from a place of love and understanding. Avoid using labels like “addict.”
- Encourage them to be open about their drug use when they feel comfortable. It’ll help you both understand the illness and recognize patterns.
- Encourage them to seek professional help. MDMA addiction can lead to life-threatening complications, so encourage your loved one to seek psychotherapy and other formal treatments for MDMA addiction. There’s no specific medical treatment for MDMA addiction, so people need a combination of treatments to manage all factors involved.
- Establish boundaries. Make it clear that you won’t enable them or allow them to manipulate you to gain access to MDMA or escape the consequences of their actions.
- Seek help for yourself. Helping a loved one recover from addiction and the associated physical and mental illnesses takes a toll on you. Don’t neglect your mental health; seek therapy for the challenges you face during this process.
Recognizing the signs of MDMA addiction is essential for the individual suffering, their loved ones, and society. This knowledge can lead to timely intervention, preventing potential health risks and starting recovery. Whether you’re a family member, a friend, or someone grappling with addiction, remember that help is available. With the right treatment and support, overcoming MDMA addiction is entirely possible.
Share this valuable information with others who may benefit from it, as awareness is the first step toward recovery. Understanding the impact of MDMA addiction and working collectively can help create a healthier, addiction-free society.