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Ecstasy Addiction Treatment

Ecstasy is an illicit recreational drug also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA (Molly, E, X, XTC, Adam and beans). It was invented more than 100 years ago by the Merck pharmaceutical company in its original form MDMA. The intention was to use it to synthesize methylhydrastinine, a potential treatment for uterine bleeding. In 1978, the first report on the subjective effects of MDMA in humans compared the drug to marijuana or magic mushrooms without hallucinations. The disinhibiting effects caught the attention of psychotherapists soon thereafter for its potential to overcome clients’ fears and increase insights into their own emotions. MDMA was never approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor did it undergo clinical trials.1,2

The drug has a hybrid effect, embodying some of the qualities of both stimulants like amphetamine, and hallucinogens such as mescaline. The name “Ecstasy” was coined to describe the drug’s effect on users and became associated with rock concerts, nightclubs and raves. By the early 1980s, MDMA seemed to be the “in drug” at many weekend parties. In 1984, MDMA was still legal and being sold under the brand name Ecstasy. The following year, the drug was banned due to safety concerns.1,2

Ecstasy Abuse

People use Ecstasy recreationally to achieve the following purported effects:

  • Diminish inhibitions
  • Improve mood and attain euphoria
  • Strengthen feelings of connectedness
  • Increase pleasure from physical touch
  • Heighten sexuality and sexual arousal
  • Increase alertness
  • Enhance energy
  • Lose track of time3

Although it may not be as addictive as heroin or cocaine, Molly addiction is a reality for many people. Even when a person uses it only on weekends, the crushing depression that often follows can result in a rapid spiral into full-fledged addiction. Some of the neurotransmitters activated with Molly use are the same ones involved in other addictive drugs. Molly users can develop tolerance in which there is a diminished response after prolonged use, causing them to take escalating and increasingly dangerous doses of the drug. Ecstasy addiction treatment is available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis and typically requires treatment duration of at least three months. After detox, the client works on developing stronger, more adaptive coping mechanisms and establishing a healthier lifestyle.4

Stats and Facts

  • An MDMA study by the University of Buffalo on young adults and adolescents showed 43% fit the diagnostic criteria for dependence and 34% fit the criteria for abuse.4
  • In 2015, an estimated 1.2 million people ages 12 or older were current users of hallucinogens, although this category includes many drugs including Molly.5
  • The estimated number of emergency department visits involving Ecstasy in people younger than age 21 increased by 128%, from 4,460 visits in 2005 to 10,176 visits in 2011. Among that population, 33% of all visits every year between 2005 and 2011 involved alcohol.6
  • In 2016, past year use of Molly decreased to 1% among eighth-graders from 1.4% the prior year. MDMA use was at its lowest levels for all three grades in the history of the Monitoring the Future annual survey.7

Relapse Prevention

In order to prevent relapse, treatment for ecstasy addiction must incorporate a structured routine with minimal temptations. Other important elements to help prevent relapse include education on the negative effects of long-term drug use, social support from peers and mental health professionals and avoiding triggers (e.g. environments and individuals promoting drug use).

  1. What is Ecstasy? Drug Free World website. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  2. Ecstasy History and Statistics. Drug Abuse website. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  3. Ecstasy Abuse. Drug Abuse website. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  4. Molly Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment for Molly Addiction. The Fix website. Published January 21, 2015. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  5. 2015 Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators report. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Updated November 7, 2016. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  6. Hallucinogens. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. Updated October 30, 2015. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  7. Teen substance use shows promising decline. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Published December 13, 2016. Accessed January 12, 2017.
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