MDMA Addiction: Fact or Fiction?

Scene of a crowd at a nightclub

David Heitz October 21, 2020

When it comes to its intoxicating effects, MDMA can be overwhelming for users. Even if not it’s addictive, MDMA intoxication is the result of the flood of dopamine in the brain that occurs when you consume ecstasy. In this way, MDMA is quite similar to other substances known to be addictive since the manipulation of neurochemicals is at the core of addiction.

Also known as ecstasy or molly, MDMA has been suggested by some to have some medicinal value, a perspective that’s not without controversy. Perhaps this is a factor in the continuing debate of whether or not MDMA addiction is possible. (According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, MDMA addiction can be neither confirmed nor disproven at this time.) 

Numerous studies have been done to better understand MDMA and its effects on neurology and behavior. For instance, there have been studies on animals that show the animals will self-administer the drug whenever they can, which indicates that a strong desire for the drug, or perhaps even a compulsion, has developed. From these studies, we’ve also been able to confirm that MDMA affects neurotransmitters in much the same way as addictive drugs like cocaine.

The official or scientific term for MDMA is 3,4-Methylendioxymethamphetamine. Currently, MDMA is classified by the federal government as a schedule 1 drug, which is the same classification as cannabis. And much like cannabis, MDMA users are often become quite faithful to the drug, insisting that will not lead to addiction.

Treatment for PTSD?

Although the government doesn’t consider MDMA to have medicinal or therapeutic value, there have been some medical studies that indicate MDMA could be helpful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, researchers often caution the use of MDMA for this purpose because any therapeutic value is negated by the negative effects of the drug.

The fact that some researchers have looked to unconventional means of treating PTSD is a testament to how difficult PTSD is to treat. More often than no, tranquilizers and benzodiazepines (e.g. Ativan, Xanax) are prescribed to patients who suffer from PTSD; however, when there’s a comorbid addiction or substance use disorder, the patient cannot be prescribed these medications, which affect the brain in a similar manner as alcohol.

In short, these drugs pose a major risk to individuals with a history of substance abuse, which is why new PTSD treatments continue to be sorely needed.

Effects of MDMA

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA alters mood and perception. The drug kicks in about 30 minutes after it is taken orally in pill form. Users report a sensation of “loving everyone” and feeling very warm and happy as the effects of a dose of MDMA last, which is about four to six hours. There also are visual hallucinations.

Ecstasy, which is often described as a “touchy, feely, happy” drug by those who use it, is often taken at clubs and raves in an effort to enhance the experience. But a few days after taking the drug, users become aggravated, irritable, and just generally don’t feel well, which is the result of dopamine depletion.

Hyperthermia

In spite of the stereotype about MDMA users, the drug can be extremely dangerous. For instance, MDMA overdoses are not common, often involving someone overheating due to the drug causing a substantial elevation in body temperature. This overheating is called hyperthermia, which can cause organ damage or even death without immediate medical treatment.

Treating MDMA Addiction

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, cognitive behavioral therapy, or “talk therapy” is the best way to treat people who abuse MDMA. Getting to the root of why they abuse the drug and assessing for any co-occurring mental disorders can help inform an effective treatment plan.

Because MDMA use does not carry the same stigma as using other drugs, it’s easier for MDMA abuse to go unchecked or overlooked. Meanwhile, MDMA floods the brain so heavily with serotonin that the transmitter in the brain essentially “depletes” itself, according to NIDA. A study in monkeys showed a serotonin depletion seven years after regular use of the drug ended.

If you or someone you love has a history of MDMA abuse, consider exploring our treatment options at Silicon Beach Treatment Center. Our rehab in LA offers several types of outpatient care and luxury sober living, or we can provide referrals for inpatient and detox treatment… Is there even a better place to detox than Southern California?

To find out if sober living in Los Angeles is for you, call Silicon Beach Treatment Center today.

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