Can You Get Addicted to Ecstasy or MDMA?

PJ Haarsma
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July 11, 2022

MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, is a synthetic drug that can produce feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and pleasure. It is often used recreationally, at clubs or parties. However, some may be curious whether it is possible to become addicted to ecstasy, or MDMA. The short answer is yes, it is possible to develop a dependence on MDMA. However, addiction is more likely to occur when the drug is used frequently or in high doses. Besides addiction, high doses of MDMA can cause hyperthermia, dehydration, and heart failure. It can also aggravate pre-existing mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Understanding MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a psychoactive drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the United States, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and is not currently accepted for medical use.

When people refer to either Molly or ecstasy, they're referring to the same chemical: MDMA. MDMA by itself is a white or off-white crystal or powder. Molly is the street name for pure MDMA, while ecstasy refers to MDMA that has been cut with other substances. Ecstasy and Molly can come in pill form, but Molly is most often sold in powder form.

MDMA, in its pure form, is difficult to come by. Dealers often cut MDMA with other drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, ketamine, caffeine, synthetic cathinones, LSD, rat poison, and heroin to strengthen its effects and increase profit margins. Cutting MDMA with these illicit drugs increases the risk of adverse effects and overdose deaths.

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MDMA is primarily used as a party drug due to its ability to induce euphoria, increased emotionality, and increased sensation. So, it's mostly found in house parties, raves, and music festivals. While MDMA is considered a harmless party drug, it can be very dangerous if not used responsibly. According to statistics, the number of emergency room visits increased by 1,200% since ecstasy became popular at all night-raves.

Effects of MDMA

MDMA increases neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. These brain chemicals are associated with mood, energy, and alertness. They also cause users to become more stimulated and awake. However, MDMA can also have negative side effects, such as:

  • Anxiety, paranoia, restlessness, insomnia
  • Sweating, thirst, and nausea
  • Memory problems
  • Jaw clenching or teeth grinding
  • Impulsiveness
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • And addiction

When combined with a hot environment, physical activity, and other drugs, MDMA can lead to unpredictable and serious physical complications. The drug causes hyperthermia, significant dehydration, or cardiovascular collapse, leading to kidney, liver, or heart failure and even death.

The effects of ecstasy can kick in within 20 minutes and typically last for 3-5 hours but can persist for up to 8 hours. This variation can be due to factors like body weight, the amount used, gender, mode of administration, etc.

MDMA and addiction

One of the most serious risks of MDMA use is addiction. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, it is clear that MDMA can cause changes in brain chemistry that lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and an inability to control use. 

Although MDMA has been shown to be addictive in animal studies, the degree of self-administration is relatively low compared to other drugs such as cocaine. This suggests that while MDMA may have some potential for addiction, it is not as strong as other substances. 

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Data from animals and humans suggest that regular use of MDMA leads to adaptations in the serotonin and dopamine systems linked to substance use disorder and related behaviors, like increased impulsivity.

Some studies have tried to analyze MDMA dependency or addiction among people with a history of use in the general population. The results of these studies have varied widely, probably due to different population samples and different types of measures used. However, some people who use MDMA do report symptoms of addiction, including:

  • Continued use despite negative psychological or physical consequences.
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, and decreased appetite

What Causes MDMA Use Disorder?

MDMA is a stimulant drug with properties similar to other drugs in its class, like cocaine. While research is inconclusive on whether MDMA is addictive, heavy or regular drug use may lead to addiction. Additionally, MDMA is often mixed with other stimulants, increasing the risk of addiction.

The mix of drugs sold as ecstasy may alter how people who take it react to it, making it difficult to predict if someone may develop an addiction. However, what is clear is that regular or heavy drug use can lead to addiction. Therefore, it is important for those who use MDMA to be aware of the risks associated with the drug.

Other Dangers of Using MDMA

Some people might not consider MDMA an addicting drug. Even so, there are still dangers associated with its use.

MDMA is cut with other drugs

When people take MDMA, they risk because the drug is unregulated, and its purity can't be guaranteed. One of the biggest dangers is that it is often cut with other substances, which can be dangerous or even deadly.

For example, one of the most common adulterants is methamphetamine, which can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as anxiety and paranoia.

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Sometimes, these effects can be so severe that they result in hospitalization or even death. In addition, MDMA is often cut with other substances that may not be immediately harmful but can still cause long-term damage, such as liver damage.

Developing tolerance

MDMA can also cause tolerance. This means that users need to take increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. Tolerance can lead to physical dependence and addiction. It can also increase the risk of overdose and other health problems. 

Gateway to other drugs

Increasing the dose to achieve the same effect may also lead someone to use other drugs, which can lead to addiction - and potential overdose. Statistics show that 92% of those who start using ecstasy resolve to using amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine later on.

Addiction to other drugs

Using other drugs to cope with the mental and physical pain that results from ecstasy can quickly spiral out of control, leading to addiction to other drugs and potentially serious health consequences.

Treating an ecstasy, or MDMA addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to MDMA or any other form of drug abuse, please seek professional help. Treatment options are available, and there is always hope for recovery.

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