Ecstasy Overdose Symptoms
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or ecstasy, is a synthetic amphetamine with both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects. Known as a “club drug” it is popular at dance parties, music festival and raves for its energy-inducing and euphoric highs. Mistakenly, however, it is also perceived as one of the few “safe drugs” to take. It is thus easy to forget when under its spell that ecstasy is both addictive and deadly.
The effect it can have on both the kidneys and heart have been proven to be lethal. What starts as a fun idea to enjoy a night on the town can ruin lives and destroy families. But what can be done to mitigate these risks and how can you identify the signs of an impending overdose? The fact of the matter is you can only observe and make your best judgment when you see someone afflicted by one of the many symptoms of an ecstasy overdose.
What is Ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a Schedule I illegal drug commonly found in synthetic tablet or powder form. It’s effect on the body once ingested it to inhibit negative mood, appetite and sleep while fostering a heightened level of sensory perception, empathy, and goodwill. This pleasurable state of being is, in and of itself, addictive and will drive those already under the influence to seek more ecstasy if given the chance. The drug works as a neurotransmitter enhancer, inducing the release of these essential chemicals from the pituitary gland into the brain’s synapses at an abnormally high level.
Serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, hunger, and mood) will flood the brain, blocking out the desire for food and rest while having a euphoric effect. Dopamine (the neurotransmitter responsible for gratification, arousal, pain and some motor control functions) will be released in lower levels but enough to induce a pleasing stupor that will still be apparent despite the over-stimulation of the user.
Norepinephrine (responsible for threat assessment, energy, and memory retrieval) will also be let loose in higher quantities than usual. This neurotransmitter release manifests in an overactive and overly pleased subject usually incapable of grasping the concept of danger and full of overwhelming goodwill. This can make it exceedingly difficult for an ecstasy user to recognize the signs of an overdose in themselves or others.
Ecstasy Overdose Symptoms
It’s not difficult to identify when someone is under the influence of ecstasy. Their sensitivity to light, sound, and touch will be magnified tenfold. Their desire to dance, to lose themselves to the music, will be almost comically overblown. The need to touch and be touched will suffuse their being and can lead to numerous uncomfortable experiences with those not under the influence of this shame inhibiting drug. Avoiding these eccentricities may be enough to keep you from taking ecstasy, but in others, they are the goal.
Overconsumption of the drug is all too common as it is known to affect memory and is often taken in conjunction with other drugs and high amounts of alcohol. This can turn an ecstasy user from just being embarrassingly childlike into someone who desperately needs serious medical assistance. Deciding at what point this turn takes place can be difficult but there are some easily identifiable signifiers that can lead you to the conclusion and allow you to seek help before it is too late.
Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat
Ecstasy abuse raises the heart rate in all of its users. This is incredibly dangerous and can be lethal up to a point. The resting heart rate will be higher than usual, as will the occurrence of palpitations. This will not be seen but will surely be felt by the ecstasy user, if they are coherent, should it reach a point of real concern. It may be in their best interest to have their pulse taken and monitored throughout the use of the drug. Chest pain may be a key signifier that overdose is approaching. If left unchecked, this can lead to the development of cardiac arrhythmia, a serious and sometimes life-ending condition.
Clenched Jaw and Grinding Teeth
The fact that ecstasy is often cut with other drugs may make this symptom more apparent. A hallmark of cocaine abuse and methamphetamine use, jaw clenching and grinding teeth is also fairly common in ecstasy abusers. It will be an uncontrollable side effect of using the drug and be very obvious to an outside observer.
The clenching is caused by overstimulation and muscle spasms. If the person cannot physically unclench their jaw, then they very well might have overdosed on ecstasy and will require medical attention. Look for those who are consistently opening their mouths and adjusting the alignment of their jaws, this may be an early warning sign that you need to take action.
Blurred vision or even the cessation of the ability to see at all can be a sure sign of ecstasy overdose. Some will dismiss this sign as a psychedelic vision and that the sufferer only believes they cannot see straight. This is incorrect. Ecstasy causes the neurotransmitters to fire into the synapses with one of the results being that sensitivity to light grows.
If sensitivity is so far along that vision is blurred or temporary blindness occurs when there is too much ecstasy in their system for the brain to handle. People suffering from this symptom will be seen to be led around by their fellow ecstasy abusers or staring blankly into lights in order to test their vision. This can be incredibly damaging to their eyes and should be avoided if at all possible.
Excessive Sweating and Dehydration
As ecstasy is usually taken in party environments, there may be too many people in a single space. This oversaturation of partiers, as well as the ecstasy-induced desire to dance, can lead to temperature increases that are physically unhealthy. This will lead to profuse sweating as the body attempts to cool down. Dehydration is sure to follow, as is a deficiency in electrolytes due to the over saturation of the body with water in order to avoid this condition.
A person overdosing on ecstasy will be exceedingly sweaty as their heart rate soars, the temperature increases and their body rapidly attempts to correct itself. If you notice someone sweating more than others around them then keep an eye out, they may be in the midst of an overdose that can lead to death by hyponatremia and kidney failure.
Spasms and Uncontrolled Body Movement
Stimulated to the point of losing control, the body will develop spasms if there is too much ecstasy flooding into its system. Motor control can also fail and leave the overdose victim completely unable to move. This can happen without a moment’s notice or develop over an hour’s time. The inability to keep the head from rolling around on the neck is a significant and obvious sign of impending overdose or excess consumption.
Nausea and Confusion
If too many neurotransmitters are firing at once then the body and mind will be at a loss for how to act and where to go. Nausea may overcome the ecstasy user as their unconscious mind attempts to tell them they’ve gone too far. This can result in vomiting, headaches, upset stomach and a general sense of sickness.
This is also a very real sign of dehydration, which can lead to fainting and collapse. Confusion will also be an apparent sign of impending overdose as the person’s mind struggles to place itself in its surroundings due to the oversaturation of the drug in the system. Getting lost and confusing faces can lead this person away from the group and can cause them to be alone amongst strangers when they overdose.
Once these symptoms reach a fever pitch then overdose may occur. The progressive damage done by increasing bodily temperature, dehydration, kidney damage, loss of motor function and rapid heart rate can lead to significant damage on the body and even death. More often than not, ecstasy is simply the vehicle through which these abnormalities can manifest in a user’s body as the drug itself, in its pure form, is rarely lethal.
This discounts, however, the other drugs that ecstasy is usually cut with, along with the alcohol with which it is usually consumed. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, ketamine and other drugs are commonly found within any given ecstasy tablet. The health risks of ingesting any of these drugs are huge and can lead to a whole slew of other health issues that ecstasy would usually not account for. That is not to say that an overdose on ecstasy is not dangerous on its own as it can lead to various deadly symptoms.
Hyperthermia (heat exhaustion) is a common condition in the world of ecstasy abuse and can prove highly damaging. As the body’s temperature soars it will struggle to cool itself through sweating. This will prove difficult in most of the environments where ecstasy is abused and will not be helped by the stimulating properties of the drug. Heat stroke can then occur, causing cramps, fainting, and heat rash.
Heat exhaustion will cause confusion and loss of coordination that can be increasingly dangerous in someone suffering from the other symptoms of an overdose. If someone you know shows the signs of hyperthermia get them into an open, cool location away from too many people and administer water or an electrolyte-infused beverage. Cold showers and ice baths will help to alleviate the condition and can ensure the speedy ecstasy recovery of the victim.
Renal failure (kidney failure) can occur when the kidneys no longer are able to regulate blood pressure and toxins. Again, this condition will most likely be a result of excessive sweating and the uneducated attempt to stay hydrated. If there is too much water in the system then the kidneys will not be able to do their essential work removing potassium from the bloodstream, resulting in sudden death.
In most cases however, the victim of ecstasy overdose induced renal failure will become incredibly weak and have acute shortness of breath. This can lead to panic attacks that will further affect the heart rate and can cause further attacks. The best way to avoid renal failure while under the influence of ecstasy is to consume electrolyte-laced beverages for hydration rather than just water. This will keep your kidneys going and, usually, eliminate the possibility of kidney failure.
The best way to avoid an overdose is by not ingesting ecstasy at all. This may seem like an easy solution but can prove extremely difficult for a number of people. Ecstasy culture has the tendency to rope people in and can produce many addicts who are unaware of their addiction.
Tolerance levels will rise with each repeated dose and thus the risk of overdose will also increase. Avoiding the drug and those who use it will be difficult, especially if you or someone you know is already addicted to the drug. Understanding the signs of ecstasy abuse and being able to recognize their causes can help you save lives by being able to seek medical attention for the afflicted.
If you or a loved one has overdosed on ecstasy, call 911 immediately. Emergency personnel should be able to counter the effects of the drug in a timely manner to save the overdose victims life. After the initial health risks have been avoided, it may be time to seek treatment for ecstasy addiction and abuse. The best way to do so is to contact a doctor and then find a suitable rehabilitation center in which the ecstasy user may detox and recover.
Overdosing can cause lasting effects on the body that can lead to an increasingly lowered quality of life. Having a conversation with your family and friends about the high risk of ecstasy overdose can make a huge difference in their decision to get involved with this highly volatile and damaging substance.
If you or a loved one is suffering from an ecstasy addiction, contact Luminance Recovery today. Our rehab Orange County center treats many different illicit drug addictions as well as alcohol addictions to help our patients get back to living a normal and healthy life.
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