Ecstasy Side Effects
Ecstasy is the street name of the illicit street drug MDMA. It is a popular drug of choice among party goers of all ages, and first came on the scene as a common drug of abuse in the 1980's when raves were popular. Ecstasy is popular amongst this type of recreational drug users because it acts as a stimulant but also has some mild psychedelic properties. The drug can be found in pill or tablet form, commonly stamped with a logo of some sort, and can be purchased easily and inexpensively for anywhere from $5-20 per tablet. Use of Ecstasy has remained on the rise, and millions of people around the world take the drug for the first time each year. One report regarding global drug use estimated that as many as 25 million people have taken Ecstasy at some point in their lives. In the U.S. alone, over 14 million people have taken the drug at some point in their lifetime, with about a million people trying it for the first time each year.
When someone takes Ecstasy, they will begin to experience the effects of the drug within about 15 minutes. Because of the effects that Ecstasy has on the pleasure or "reward" chemicals in the brain, users experience a sense of euphoria and well-being, a boost in energy, along with enhanced sensory perceptions. Use of Ecstasy particularly enhances the user's tactile experiences, which is one of the reason it is nicknamed the "love drug". Ecstasy users will typically experience these effects for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, depending on dosage and drug purity. After this, unless they pop another Ecstasy pill, they will typically experience a "come down" from the drug which is basically the exact opposite of the pleasurable effects that they experienced while high on the drug.
The "come down" from Ecstasy occurs, like any other drug of abuse, because the "feel good" chemicals which are at elevated levels in the brain during an Ecstasy high can't remain at these artificially induced levels forever. As a result, Ecstasy users often complain of many undesirable physical and psychological side effects resulting from their use of the drug. To ward off these symptoms, many Ecstasy users will just simply take more of the drug and this can become a full blown addiction. The side effects of Ecstasy use don't always go away within a few hours, and can sometimes last for days or even weeks.
Examples of the some of the side effects Ecstasy users may experience once an Ecstasy high has worn off are as follows:
- Anxiety and paranoia
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or vertigo
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or constipation
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle and joint aches and pains
- Jaw soreness from teeth grinding
One of the brain chemicals most directly affected by use of Ecstasy is serotonin. The surge in levels of this chemical in particular is what causes the sense of happiness, wellbeing etc., that Ecstasy users experience while high on the drug. When the drug has worn off, serotonin levels become severely depleted. This in particular is what causes the depressive episodes that so many Ecstasy users complain of after coming down off of the drug. There is actually a slang term for it in the recreational drug using community, who call it the Tuesday Blues or Suicide Tuesday), because of the midweek depression that users often experience after having used the drug on the weekend.
Studies have shown that serotonin levels can be affected for years after use of the drug. This affect on serotonin levels can cause long-term depression, and even suicide in some individuals. Ecstasy use may also cause brain damage, especially after long-term use. Research on the subject has shown that individuals who have used Ecstasy over an extended period of time perform more poorly than individuals who have not used the drug in activities which require cognitive function and memory. Animal studies confirm this as well, with these studies reporting brain damage which is evident years after very short term use. Extensive research has been done on the damage that Ecstasy can have on the brain, and animal studies have shown that exposure to the drug for just a few days can cause brain damage that is still evident several years later.
As a stimulant drug, Ecstasy also increases the user's heart rate and blood pressure. This can cause very dangerous side effects for individuals with pre-existing heart or circulatory problems. Ecstasy has been known to cause heart attack or stroke in individuals with these types of pre-existing conditions, even after just one dose. Heart attack or stroke is also possible among health Ecstasy users, who may not properly hydrate or care for themselves and engage in excessive dancing and partying for hours or even days at a time. Another potentially dangerous side effect of the drug is a rise in body temperate, which can cause organ failure if the individual doesn't address the situation and remain hydrated and cooled off which is often the case. Ecstasy also sometimes interferes with its own metabolism, which greatly increases the risks of certain side effects and dangers as there is no way of knowing how much of the drug is in one's system at one time.
All Ecstasy side effects, and the risk of certain health consequences and overdose, are compounded when users use Ecstasy along with other substances such as other illicit or prescription drugs or alcohol. This is even truer when one considers that drug purity is always in question, and Ecstasy these days is almost never 100% pure. In fact, an Ecstasy pill today is anywhere from 10-10% pure, and the rest is other stimulant drugs such as ephedrine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, etc. along with other drugs or toxic substances.
Overcoming Ecstasy addiction is possible and drug rehab programs which treat this type of addiction are available in just about every state in the country. Most programs which treat Ecstasy addiction will take anywhere from 30 to 90 days, at which point individuals will be able to get live life without Ecstasy and other drugs and get things back on track.