The Long-term Adverse Effects of MDMA Addiction and Abuse

Although MDMA use has gone down in recent years, many people still find themselves addicted to the drug and suffering from a range of health issues as a result. For friends and family, watching a loved one struggle with addiction to MDMA can be stressful and confusing. Unfortunately, pop culture has glamorized MDMA use, and people may mistakenly believe that using “party” drugs like MDMA isn’t risky. But MDMA is a powerful stimulant drug, and withdrawal side effects of MDMA can be disorienting and painful. Users may find themselves retaking the drug after initial detox to lessen the impact of withdrawal. The longer a person abuses MDMA, the worse the side effects can be, even leading to permanent cognitive damage.

What is MDMA?

MDMA is also called Molly, ecstasy, Adam, E, or X. It is a popular club drug that first came to the U.S. in the 1990s. MDMA is an illegal drug with no known, therapeutic effects, but that doesn’t stop people from trying it. What makes MDMA so popular on the club scene is that it produces a strong, intense high that lasts for several hours. The high produced with MDMA is very different than other stimulant and psychedelic drugs. That’s because MDMA is also known as an entactogen, which is a substance that dramatically increases a user’s self-awareness, and their ability to empathize with others. When someone takes MDMA, they will have increased alertness, sociability, energy, and changes to their physical perception and sense of time.

MDMA is also a derivative of methamphetamine and is commonly abused in both the U.S. and Western Europe. Usually, MDMA is manufactured in either Europe or Canada, and then smuggled into the U.S. Unfortunately, the drug’s glamorization in pop culture leads many young people to believe that MDMA isn’t dangerous or addictive, but that’s a mistake.

Several things make MDMA such a potentially dangerous substance. By itself, MDMA drastically increases a person’s energy and also their core internal body temperature, and their awareness. People have died from MDMA use because of overexertion, dehydration, and the drug’s impact on their body’s ability to regulate temperature. This dangerous combination can lead to organ damage and organ failure.

Also, MDMA, whether in a powder or tablet form, is most often contaminated with other substances. These include things like meth, caffeine, cathinones, PCP, and ketamine. When it comes to illegal street drugs, it is impossible for someone to know exactly what is in the substance.

Effects of Long Term MDMA Abuse

Finally, MDMA abuse and addiction can cause long-term issues. The way MDMA works is that it influences the brain to produce a flood of the neurotransmitter serotonin at once. This is what produces a high or euphoric feeling in the user. The problem is that the brain can only produce so much serotonin at a time before the neurotransmitter becomes depleted. When this happens, a person “crashes” from the high, and can experience several distressing symptoms, including depression, confusion, and memory issues. Research suggests that these issues can be irreversible in severe cases of abuse.

What are the long-term effects of MDMA abuse?

Unfortunately, there is evidence suggesting that MDMA is neurotoxic. Studies have found that long-term users of MDMA can experience differences in cerebral function, behavioral changes, and neuroendocrine impairment. Users may also experience long-term deficits in verbal memory and language reasoning skills.

Also, researchers have found that exposure to MDMA can worsen existing negative personality features, or even worsen pre-existing mental health conditions. For example, chronic psychosis in MDMA users responds less favorably to treatment than people living with psychosis who have never used MDMA. Furthermore, MDMA abuse is a significant risk factor for a cerebrovascular accident in young people and is similar to cognitive declines seen in people with dementia.

Who is most at-risk of experiencing adverse, long and short-term side effects from MDMA use?

MDMA use among young people has gone down within the past ten years. However, certain demographic groups are still at-risk of abusing the drug and experiencing adverse health effects as a result. Young men between the ages of 18 and 25, urban dwellers, and LGBTQ youths are the most at-risk for these issues. People who abuse MDMA long-term, in combination with other drugs, or are heavy users of the drug are also at high-risk.

What happens with MDMA addiction is that the drugs wear off within a few hours after use. People who are addicted to MDMA or want to get an intense high will take a second dose of the drug once the initial dose begins to fade. This compounds the harmful effects of the drug. Once the drugs wear off completely though, users will experience significant distress.

  • Problems eating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Insomnia
  • Increased anxiety
  • Paranoia and aggression
  • Depression
  • Cravings to use

Unfortunately, these adverse withdrawal side effects can last for days to weeks after initial detox. Using MDMA one time will result in these symptoms. If MDMA has worsened a pre-existing condition, users may retake the drug, or begin self-medicating with other substances to lessen withdrawal side effects.

How do these effects impact relationships?

Detoxing from MDMA without outside medical intervention can put a significant strain on personal relationships. MDMA detox will often result in paranoia, anxiety, and increased aggression in users. Family and friends may be afraid to approach their loved one with their concerns for fear of the repercussions.

What can be done for MDMA addiction?

While drugs like MDMA can have a severe impact on users, there is hope. Reaching out to a qualified team of drug abuse counselors can give families and addicts the answers they need regarding inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient rehab programs. For MDMA addiction, a medically-assisted detox is usually the first step. A team of doctors and nurses can monitor patients for withdrawal symptoms, and prescribe safe medications to lessen the severity and duration of withdrawals. Once a patient has safely detoxed, they can begin working with a therapist or counselor to get to the roots of their drug addiction and address these causes.

Are you or a loved one struggling with MDMA dependence and addiction? The representatives at Mission Harbor Behavioral Health are standing by to assist. Please contact Mission Harbor today to explore your options for MDMA addiction treatment.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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