“If it feels good, do it.”
This is a principle that fits ecstasy addiction. The drug decreases anxiety and gives users a pleasant feeling of intimacy and love. Perceptions are enhanced while aggression and hostility is lowered. This seems like the perfect drug for a party. Users get the ‘social lubricant’ of alcohol without the hangover. And the ecstacy addiction potential is lower than many other drugs of abuse. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.
MDMA (methylene-dioxy-methamphetamine, the scientific name for ecstasy) is chemically related to amphetamine. The stimulant properties also make it attractive – users can drink and dance in all-night clubs (or at raves) without feeling normal fatigue. Ecstasy also affects the same neurotransmitters in the brain as amphetamines, causing some of the euphoric properties and mild hallucinations.
Street names for ecstasy include E, Adam, X, and Beans. It is typically distributed in pill or capsule form. The pills are generally imprinted to designate ‘brands’, such as Dolphins, Smurfs or Superman.
Dangers of ecstasy addiction
Deaths from ecstasy are not primarily due to overdose, but rather from either electrolyte imbalances, impairment while driving, or from other substances taken along with ecstasy. Hyponatremia1 is a sometimes fatal result of drinking large amounts of water without having enough salts in the body. It is also known as water poisoning. Ecstasy abusers have died because they felt overheated (from dancing) and drank excessive amounts of water with no food. Other dangers come from driving under the influence of the drug or because of the decreased ability to judge risk. Users may drink too much alcohol or take other drugs without realizing the consequences.
Ecstasy addiction is not as common as other addictions. It is driven the unique withdrawal symptoms – depression and an inability to feel pleasure. Addicts become dependent on the good feelings they get while taking ecstasy and ‘regular life’ seems dull and not worth living. As many as 11 million Americans age 12 and older have used ecstasy at least once in their lifetimes; most discover and abuse it in the context of parties and the number of users declines in older populations (above 25).
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)2 reports that 43% of young adult and adolescent ecstasy users met the accepted diagnostic criteria for dependence — they continued using ecstasy despite knowing that it could cause physical or psychological harm. An additional 34% of those ecstasy users met the criteria for drug abuse.
According to those same surveys by NIDA, three in five users have reported withdrawal symptoms associated with their use of ecstasy. These symptoms include severe fatigue, loss of appetite, depressed feelings, and trouble concentrating. These symptoms indicate the possible development of an ecstasy addiction.
- NIDA's MDMA Page
- Hyponatremia at Mayo Clinic