Signs of Ecstasy Abuse
Whether at a music festival, dance club, or a simple night out, ecstasy has wormed its way into party culture and seems to be here to stay. Named for the state its users are intended to experience after taking it, this illegal drug can have deadly effects on its victims.
Heat exhaustion, heart failure, and dehydration have all been reported as the dangerous side effects of ecstasy in its purest form. This disregards the incredible amount of illicit and dangerous chemicals that ecstasy is commonly cut with, including methamphetamine, cocaine, and ephedrine. Since its introduction into the dance club scene, ecstasy has become hugely popular with teens and college-aged young adults. But what is it? Where does it come from? And how can you tell if someone you know is abusing this dangerously unpredictable drug?
What is Ecstasy?
MDMA, or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a psychoactive, recreational drug popular throughout the world for its euphoric, high-energy effects. Commonly referred to as ecstasy, X, E, Molly and Mandy, it began its life as a prescribed therapeutic drug in the 1970’s before it was banned by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 1985. Since that time, it has risen to prominence as the world’s fourth most used illegal drug.
When taken, MDMA increases the activity of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that usually regulates mood, pain and appetite. When enhanced with ecstasy, the user’s mood gets better while their sensitivity to pain and hunger for food lessens. This may seem like a positive development, however, serotonin is lost once used and the body will not be able to make up the difference in time to recover fully the next day.
This will lead to numerous side effects and, usually, a bad “come down” for users. In people who constantly abuse the drug, however, the result can be disastrous to the health of their overall brain functioning.
Ecstasy’s appearance varies according to its manufacturer, but it is most often found in pressed pill or tablet form. Commonly imprinted with a character or logo to differentiate one dealer’s product from another, ecstasy pills can come in a variety of colors and sizes. Bright hues and fashionable logos are the name of the game (dealers strive to build their own brands and separate themselves from the competition). This makes ecstasy a difficult drug to consistently identify as it can look like common candy, breath mints or even a simple clear pill with white powder inside.
When not in pill form, MDMA will often be snorted or even smoked and can be identified by its white or yellowish powdery appearance (often containing crystallized “rocks” of the substance). The powder will often come in small plastic baggies or tied off plastic wrap. In this way, it may be confused for cocaine or heroin.
Subcultures and Paraphernalia
As unfair as it is to paint with a large brush, it is undeniable that there are certain subcultures in which ecstasy addiction thrives. The electronic dance music scene, for example, has become nearly synonymous with the use of MDMA. Bright lights, bumping music and large crowds are an ecstasy abuser’s best friend and the EDM scene brings all of these to bear. Raves too, are, for lack of an official description, hubs for ecstasy-based experiences.
Often lasting all night long and focusing explicitly on bizarre fashion and art, it can be argued that the entire idea of the rave was built around what makes an ecstasy abuser “trip” harder. Lately, music festivals have also seen a high amount of ecstasy traffic as the drug acts like an inhibitor blocker and is thus a convenient form of social lubricant. New festival friends can be easily made when ecstasy appears on the scene.
If you are concerned that a loved one or coworker is abusing MDMA, then there are a few items they might possess that can tip you off to their abuse. Baby pacifiers are commonly used in the rave scene to combat the teeth clenching that often accompanies ecstasy abuse.
This is a fairly obvious piece of evidence so long as the person in question does not have a young child. Other paraphernalia includes light sticks, neon clothing, and jewelry, as well as raver costumes. None of these items necessarily point directly to ecstasy abuse but can, at the very least, be perceived as common signifiers of subscribing to subcultures where ecstasy is abused.
Behavioral Signs of Ecstasy Abuse
Subscribing to a particular party culture does not necessarily mean that your loved one is abusing ecstasy. Even the most unlikely, introverted person can be a user and you may not be able to tell but for their behavioral reactions to the drug. Being that it is a strong stimulant you can expect an ecstasy abuser to have high levels of energy while under the influence.
This may manifest itself in over-chattiness, physical agitation and the inability to stand still for even short periods of time. This increased energy will most often result in an inability to sleep, causing the abuser to spend long hours awake. Pulling “all-nighters” is a definite sign of ecstasy abuse and can result in a lack of productivity at work or in school.
The after effect of this is, of course, extreme tiredness. Sleeping in past regular hours and nodding off at strange times will become the norm if the ecstasy abuser is using the drug consistently. Though this may seem like an obvious symptom of ecstasy abuse, it may also be the hardest to pin down if you do not live with the person.
Sensory perception will be heightened to an extreme level of a person abusing ecstasy. Sensitivity to music, lights, and touch will be increased as will their desire to experience other sensations. An inextricable need for musical stimulation is by far the most easily identifiable sign of ecstasy abuse.
Electronic dance music, techno, house, or anything high-energy are the common preferences. Listening to these types of music late into the night accompanied by light shows is the norm, while a sudden change in music styles or a lowering of volume may illicit volatile reactions from an ecstasy abuser. Lost to the music, many ecstasy users will dance the night away in a sort of high-energy trance, self-consciousness and societal judgment left behind.
However, dancing alone often does not satisfy the sensory cravings of an ecstasy abuser. The old trope of ravers petting one another is spot on, as a person under the influence of MDMA will be motivated to be rubbed, scratched or touched in a manner usually reserved for those in an intimate relationship with them.
Any and all pleasing physical contact is usually the objective. This, combined with the heightened friendliness and empathy one feels while using ecstasy, can put the person in many compromising situations. Sex between ecstasy users is extremely frequent and can often end in unwanted pregnancies or the contraction of disease as condoms are thought to lessen the sensation of the act.
The desire to be touched or petted can also be mistaken for the desire to engage in sexual contact with someone the user would not normally engage with or can cause the ecstasy abuser to engage physically with someone who does not reciprocate their feelings. The fact is, an ecstasy abuser will usually not be able to read obvious social cues that could otherwise keep them away from embarrassment and danger.
Overly friendly and full of universal goodwill, people on MDMA are likely to cause misunderstandings and are easy to manipulate. Sexual predators, for example, have targeted people under the influence of ecstasy as the drug makes their victims mentally incapable of comprehending the predator’s true intentions until it is too late.
Memory loss and a serious decrease in cognitive function are also possible hallmarks of a long-term ecstasy abuser. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with poor memory and low attention spans, while some studies have shown that the drug itself can decrease blood flow to some parts of the brain responsible for motor function.
Prolonged abuse of ecstasy can lead to a number of behavioral changes that won’t just last the period the abuser is under the influence. Their social circle and patterns may change radically from before as addiction to the drug takes hold. Again, “all-nighters” will be more common, as will the sudden appearance of new “best friends.”
Ecstasy is, at its core, a social drug and abusers will likely wish to hangout with fellow abusers. A lack of desire to attend social events where using the drug would be taboo or impossible will also become normal. It will, in a word, become their crutch, their main resource for gaining friends and sexual partners. This, combined with the depression and fatigue post use, may cause them to seem reclusive and withdrawn when not under the influence.
Though the behavioral changes of ecstasy abuse can lead to many dangerous situations, it is the physical symptoms that are truly damaging to the abuser’s body. Dehydration is a common side effect of ecstasy abuse and can lead to fainting, nausea, and even, in some cases, death. This is because ecstasy is most often taken in crowded places where dancing for long periods of time is the norm.
Excessive sweating will occur and continue until the body no longer has sufficient water and electrolytes. The end result will have the abuser fainting or, even, suffering from seizures and death if medical assistance is not administered. Sadly, and all too often, those under ecstasy’s influence may never notice their bodies’ warning signs until it is too late. Heat Stroke and heart failure have been reported as common causes of ecstasy-related deaths as the user’s blood pressure and body temperature can rise to lethal heights.
The additional chemicals with which MDMA pills are often cut with bear mentioning. Methamphetamine, cocaine, ephedrine, all of these substances can have adverse effects on the body. Meth is a highly addictive drug that can and will do damage to the brain if ingested. As a form of speed, it gears the user up, heightening their body temperature and blood flood to insane levels.
Cocaine, as well, is an addictive upper that has been known to kill if doses are too high. Though it will be rare for such high doses to be present in a single ecstasy pill, the sad truth about ecstasy is that the ecstasy abuser will often forget how much they have taken and then take it again and again. Setting aside the dangers of multiple doses over a short period of time, this may also put enough cocaine into the system to make the ecstasy abuser now crave more cocaine.
Taking ecstasy in tandem with other drugs is a fairly common practice, even when many of those drugs are already present in the system due to impure MDMA. Cocaine, meth and benzos are popular accompaniment to ecstasy abuse. This can lead to a maximization of many of the physical symptoms of ecstasy abuse, as well as adding some all their own.
On benzos, such as Xanax, the user will not only feel the effects of the ecstasy but will also display signs of extreme laziness, lethargy, and nodding off. Usually prescribed to treat anxiety disorders, benzos are the preferred method of dealing with post-ecstasy abuse comedowns. Being that such drugs can represent a titanic health hazard to those unfamiliar and not prescribed to them by a doctor, be wary of their presence in your home if you see the signs of ecstasy addiction or abuse.
Physical signifiers can be as common as the before mentioned excessive teeth grinding, clenched jaw, and dilated pupils. An ecstasy abuser may also suffer from memory loss, over sensitivity to light and sound, insomnia, and sometimes hallucinations. Complaining of muscle cramps, nausea or chills after a long night out may be the result of ecstasy use the night before.
If you suspect a loved one may be partaking in ecstasy abuse, or any other illicit drug abuse, do not wait for the above side effects to grant you confirmation of your suspicions before you seek help. Contact our Orange County Rehab center today if you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction.
Luminance Core Values
It’s not easy to live up to these standards – to be the best, most compassionate, the most innovative. We take pride in what we’ve accomplished. But we’re constantly evolving because there’s always more we can do to raise the bar. It will take bravery and stamina to continue the legacy we’ve established. But in typical Luminance fashion, we’re always up for a challenge.Our Core Values