Ecstasy Addiction Treatment Options
Addiction to ecstasy can tear apart families, destroy relationships and ruin lives. Use of this highly volatile and, sometimes lethal, drug is considered by many to be purely recreational. This is not so. Ecstasy, like any other drug, can foster psychological and physical dependence, turning the weekend warrior into an everyday user.
When this happens, loved ones and friends can feel completely at a loss as to how to deal with the ecstasy addiction and where to turn to for help. Ecstasy addiction treatment options are out there (be short-term detox centers or long-term, residential rehabilitation centers), but it’s up to you to get your ecstasy addicted friend, family member or colleague to seek them out.
Addiction to Ecstasy
Ecstasy, or MDMA as it is scientifically known, is so-called because of its euphoric effects on the mind and body. This ecstatic heightening of normality is in itself addictive as the user will recall how good they once felt on ecstasy and thus repeat its use again and again. Ecstasy, like many other amphetamines, enhances neurotransmitters in the brain and causes them to be released in higher amounts.
Ecstasy floods a user’s brain synapses with the neurotransmitters serotonin (responsible for regulating hunger, sleep, and disposition), norepinephrine (energy levels, threat assessment, focus and memory retrieval) and dopamine (motor control, sexual arousal, and gratification). This results in an elevation of mood, suppression of appetite and expulsion of tiredness.
However, these neurotransmitting chemicals are not artificially ingested with the ecstasy, rather the drug simply triggers their release within the user’s body. This means that each time an addict abuses ecstasy they are depleting their body’s own store of neurotransmitters. Low levels of neurotransmitters can adversely affect the user’s ability to eat, sleep, or wake. Post ecstasy use, addicts will be all but useless as their focus slips, their memory wanes and their energy remains at a constant low.
The solution to this dilemma for many ecstasy users is to take more ecstasy to relieve the side effects of its prior use. However, one tablet may no longer be enough to trigger the remaining neurotransmitters into action so more ecstasy has to be taken to feel the same effect as before.
This will increase tolerance and will further deplete the neurotransmitters in the brain causing an even worse “come down”, which then results in using, even more, ecstasy to cope. In this way, ecstasy becomes addictive. A recent study concluded as much as 47% of ecstasy users are now in some way dependent on the drug, whether chemically or psychologically.
Addiction to Ecstasy Culture
If someone with an ecstasy abuse problem is seeking treatment, it may be imperative that they cut the ties that bind them to the drug. In today’s world, ecstasy abuse has become synonymous with the party scene. Nightclubs, raves and music festivals are full of people using the drug as a social lubricant and experience enhancer. Surrounded by bright lights, loud music, and writhing bodies, the temptation to use ecstasy can be incredibly strong, especially if it is readily available. This can and will be the case if the addict has been using the drug for a long period of time.
Once an addict has become dependent on the drug, their behavior and social patterns will change. Old friends will either be shunned for their lack of drug use or depart the scene due to the addict’s constant ups and downs. New friends, fellow ecstasy addicts, and abusers, will be sought and, usually, found (ecstasy is a social drug that fosters a kinship between users). These friends will be difficult to ditch once treatment is sought, as will the party culture to which they subscribe.
There is an attraction to ecstasy culture that is undeniable and difficult to walk away from. Those under the influence of the drug have very few inhibitions and sexual promiscuity is rampant. The idea of what is fun will also have changed for the addicted, as normal get together and concerts will seem bland in the beginning without ecstasy in the system.
Low Levels of Neurotransmitters and Mental Health
Neurotransmitters do a lot of our day-to-day brain function heavy lifting. They get us going, drive us forward and keep us doing what we need to do to remain healthy and strong. Neurotransmitters are also essential for the maintenance of our mental health. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to schizophrenia. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression. Overactivity of norepinephrine causes anxiety.
These are all intensely serious, long-lasting side effects that can ruin lives. Ecstasy has become known as a trigger for these and other mental disorders (paranoia, psychosis, insomnia), as the brain overreacts to its environment without the assistance of key neurotransmitters. This is important to remember when an addict finally decides to seek treatment for their addiction to ecstasy, as the havoc the drug has done to their minds may have lasting effects past the initial detoxification process.
Much like detoxing from heroin abuse or cocaine abuse, fear of the symptoms of withdrawal can keep an addict hooked on ecstasy. It is important that in the event they decide to finally quit that medical advice and treatment are sought. This will not only soothe their fears of withdrawal but will also provide them with a safe and comforting place to deal with the symptoms of the withdrawal process. Whether they choose to check themselves into long-term rehabilitation or an outpatient detox center, both treatment options have merit.
Outpatient detox centers will monitor a person withdrawing from ecstasy and then release them once the symptoms dissipate and the addicted are chemical free. This allows the ecstasy addict to beat the physical side of their addiction and then return to everyday life without sacrificing their day-to-day responsibilities. This, however, does not fully keep them safe from the societal and cultural pressures of their former drug abuse as friends from their fairly recent ecstasy days are sure to show up.
It is therefore important that any ecstasy addict who detoxes in an outpatient center also has a support structure in place to return to. The physiological addiction to the drug will not yet be beaten, and so triggers (be they people, paraphernalia, parties or a particular type of music) must be avoided at all costs. Outpatient treatment should also be combined with some form of therapy or counseling, be it group or one-on-one, and support groups, should be sought. Medical assistance, such as the prescription of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, may be administered by a doctor throughout the withdrawal process.
Residential treatment centers are a great way to mitigate societal triggers. Being taken from the places and people in which ecstasy was formerly abused, and thrust into a world solely focused on rehabilitation will significantly lessen an addict’s chance of relapse. Similar care will be provided throughout the detoxification process as that of an outpatient center, with all the mental health and medical assistance withdrawal sometimes requires.
This care, in combination with a long-term stay at a facility fully staffed with drug abuse counselors, can make the path to quitting fully and easier one to walk. The downside is, of course, that the addict will not be able to return to their normal, workaday functions like they would from an outpatient detox center. This can adversely affect career trajectory, school grades and relationships, and so must be weighed in the balance of the ecstasy addict’s decision on which type of care to seek. Either way, if an ecstasy addict is intent on quitting the drug and wants to seek treatment for their ecstasy addiction, then heading to a center to receive medical assistance is an important step to beating their disease.
Unlike cocaine and heroin, ecstasy detox does not necessarily have many physical effects on the body. The real difficulty, and that which most addicts rightly fear, are the psychological side effects eliminating ecstasy from the system can have. In the first few weeks, ecstasy withdrawal symptoms can significantly alter the addict’s thinking and make them crave the drug again. Relapse can be dangerous during this stage as returning to the drug after reducing one’s tolerance through abstention can lead to overdose if former sized doses are used. The actual physical withdrawal should only last a week.
The side effects of ecstasy withdrawal are many and can be intensely difficult to overcome. That is why consultation with a doctor and treatment in a dedicated facility can be the best option for the addict to beat the drug. Ecstasy addiction can damage the brain in a number of ways and the resulting symptoms can last for a long time. Relapse is common due to the severity of the symptoms.
The ecstasy addicted will become agitated during their first few days of quitting ecstasy. The drug that once had a soothing effect on their psyche has been expelled and is replaced with cravings. The brain is screaming out for it’s neurotransmitter enhancer and the addict will respond to these cravings with agitation. Lashing out at those around them will likely occur and can be quite difficult for loved ones to experience. That is why professional help, those who will not cave to the addicts agitated episodes, is preferable to the alternative. Expect headaches, shakes, and an overwhelming need be somewhere else, doing anything else.
The mood enhancer gone from the addicts system will result in an increased lowering of mood. This depression can be dangerous as the addict will seek to find a way out of the depths of their sadness and the easiest cure for them may seem to be relapsing. The dangers of allowing them to undergo this process alone do not stop there, however, as depression can lead to self-harm and even suicide. Depression is a real condition and bouts of it may have to be suffered through numerous times before the addict fully recovers from ecstasy addiction.
Concentration and Memory Problems
Some studies have shown that ecstasy can very well damage the parts of the brain responsible for memory. The neurotransmitters associated with concentration and memory recall are often blocked when ecstasy is in the system. If this blockage becomes normalized then the body will slow the release and production of the essential neurotransmitter.
The resulting loss of memory and lack of concentration can affect the addict’s ability to work, to perform at school and can even make them incapable of normal conversation for a time. This side effect can be most difficult for the addict’s loved ones as the loss of significant memory from the addict’s time of abuse will make it difficult for them to understand or remember the pain they caused while under the influence of the drug.
As we have discussed, ecstasy acts as a self-consciousness inhibitor. Embarrassment and social cues are replaced with a child-like arrogance and over-satisfaction with one’s self. When ecstasy leaves the system, those feelings will come rushing back and the body will not have enough serotonin and dopamine to combat the overwhelming shame.
Anxiety, or over-nervousness, will be the result and the recovering addict may become crippling self-conscious and fearful of everyday encounters. A doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to combat this condition as the addict attempts to cope with life after ecstasy without the help of the drug’s euphoric enhancement.
Ecstasy addiction treatment options are out there. Be it through a residential or outpatient treatment center, detox can be achieved and relapse avoided. At Luminance Recovery, our Orange County rehab helps get those who are addict through the minefield of post-detox life by giving them the support and guidance they need.
If you or a loved one are addicted to ecstasy, please seek help and know that there is a whole world of treatment options available to get you back to the real world.
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