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Ecstasy Withdrawal and Detox

Ecstasy impacts the brain neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. An increased level of these neurotransmitters is responsible for feelings of euphoria. After chronic use, the addict’s body adapts to increased levels of these neurotransmitters and is unable to function normally below these levels. Ecstasy withdrawal is not well-documented and research is inconclusive. It is known that when Ecstasy is suddenly stopped or the dose is decreased, the body tries to cope with the sudden loss of extra stimulation, leading to withdrawal symptoms. Serotonin levels fall well below natural levels when someone stops taking Ecstasy. This can continue for days, weeks or even years after short- or long-term use and is responsible for depression and anxiety.1,2

Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on a person’s body chemistry, duration and frequency of use, and co-occurring drug use, but share similarities with stimulant-use withdrawal syndrome. In general, the longer Ecstasy has been abused and the higher the dose, the more severe the withdrawal symptoms. The user may also be withdrawing from adulterants in the drug, many of which are associated with their own serious consequences.1,2 Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Sleeplessness
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble concentrating1,2

Ecstasy Detox

Currently, no pharmacotherapies are available to treat Ecstasy withdrawal, although medications can be administered to ease and manage withdrawal symptoms. Ecstasy abuse treatment may include outpatient therapy, partial hospitalization or residential treatment. The approach depends on the person’s age, the nature and severity of the abuse or addiction and the presence of any co-occurring conditions. The most effective treatments are cognitive behavioral approaches designed to help people recognize irrational and unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors and replace them with healthy and empowering ones. During therapy, people also learn practical skills to cope with life stressors. Drug abuse recovery support groups may be effective in combination with behavioral interventions to support long-term recovery from Ecstasy abuse.1,3

Treatment for Ecstasy Addiction

Any of the following therapies and technique may be offered:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • 12-step programs
  • Relapse-prevention instruction
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Biofeedback and neurofeedback
  • Medication management
  • Anger management
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Recreation therapy1,3

Liquid Ecstasy Abuse Withdrawal, Detox and Treatment

Liquid Ecstasy is often created from GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), a nervous system depressant and substance found in drain cleaners, floor strippers and degreasing solvents, or a variant called GBL (gamma-butyrolactone). Liquid Ecstasy is used recreationally, predominately for its stimulant and sexual effects or for sedation to help with sleep and/or to “come down” after using recreational stimulant drugs. GHB/GBL dependence may be associated with severe withdrawal, causing individuals to seek treatment either acutely at emergency departments or turn to addiction services for support. GHB/GBL withdrawal has many similar features to alcohol withdrawal, including tremor, sweating, anxiety, agitation and confusion. In comparison to alcohol, it is generally more severe, has a quicker onset and more prominent neuropsychiatric features such as delirium and psychosis. Benzodiazepines are currently prescribed for GHB/GBL detoxification. Some individuals require hospitalization or admission to a high dependency/intensive care unit. Clinical experience indicates adding baclofen (10 mg three times a day) to benzodiazepines reduces GHB/GBL withdrawal symptoms and its associated complications. Moreover, preloading with baclofen for two days prior to detox appears to provide additional benefits. A clinical trial is currently underway in the U.K. to support these theories.4

  1. Ecstasy Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Causes and Treatment. Mental Help website. https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/ecstasy-withdrawal/ Updated November 24, 2015. Accessed January 12, 2017.
  2. Ecstasy Withdrawal. Ecstasy.ws website. http://www.ecstasy.ws/ecstasy-withdrawal.htm Accessed January 12, 2017.
  3. Ecstasy Addiction Treatment and Abuse Recovery. CRC Health website. http://www.crchealth.com/addiction/ecstasy-addiction-treatment/ Accessed January 12, 2017.
  4. Lingford-Hughes A, Patel Y, Bowden-Jones O, et al. Improving GHB withdrawal with baclofen: study protocol for a feasibility study for a randomised controlled trial. Trials. 2016;17:472. doi:10.1186/s13063-016-1593-9.
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