Ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine - MDMA) has the combined effects of speed and hallucinogens and was patented by Merck, the German pharmaceutical company several decades ago. Since then, the FDA banned the use of the drug for any purpose in the mid-1980s due to a rise in abuse of the drug. Ecstasy has some short-term effects on the mind and body. Some effects are dangerous and require immediate medical attention.
Effect on the Brain
Ecstasy acts upon the brain, which is responsible for its mood enhancement qualities. It floods the synapses with serotonin and prevents the receiving nerve cell from receiving serotonin. This leads to serotonin depletion.
The way ecstasy is taken into the body has different effects. According to the DrugAbuse.com, if the drug is "snorted, smoked, or injected," the effects of ecstasy don't last as long as in pill form but are more intense.
From the moment the drug is ingested, the effects of ecstasy can be felt in approximately a half an hour. Ecstasy has emotional and physical short-term effects.
Short-Term Physical Effects
Within an hour to an hour and a half, people who ingest ecstasy will be "peaking" from the effects. The short-term physical effects of ecstasy are:
- Users will feel a sense of excitement coupled with bouts of queasiness.
- Ecstasy can cause tightened muscles, especially around the mouth and jaw. Users may not be able to keep their teeth from clenching together.
- Vision is affected. Things might seem blurry and the eyes might dart back and forth quickly.
- The person might faint, sweat, and become chilled.
Short-Term Emotional Effects
Because ecstasy affects the cells in the brain that produce serotonin, this drug has an effect upon one's emotions.
- A person who takes ecstasy can feel self-confident and have increased energy.
- Ecstasy also causes a person to feel at peace, tranquility, and empathic.
- People feel like they are affectionate toward - and close to - each other and want to touch each other, lowering sexual inhibitions.
Short-Term Psychological Effects
Due to ecstasy's action on serotonin levels, a person who takes ecstasy might have psychological issues while taking it or lingering short-term effects, which include:
- Sleep interference
- Extreme anxiousness
- Paranoid delusions
Short-Term Effects on the Brain
Studies on the short-term effects of ecstasy on the brain demonstrate that even in low doses and for people who have used the drug only once, there is a change in brain cells and lower amounts of blood being supplied to the brain, as well as lower memory performance. More research is needed to know if these effects are temporary or not.
Fatal Short-Term Physical Effects
Ecstasy can cause death, even with a first time use. Death can result from:
- Kidney failure due to dehydration
- Racing heart rate
- Raise in body temperature
While it is not determined how much ecstasy causes long-term damage, it has been found that even occasional recreational use does have certain effects.
Long-term Emotional Effects
The short-term emotional effects can lapse into an ongoing concern. Symptoms can be felt for quite a while after taking ecstasy, especially if the use is chronic and is taken over an extended period. This is most likely due to the brain damage associated with chronic use and the areas of the brain that are affected that regulate memory and emotion. These symptoms include:
- High emotional reactivity
- Disordered thinking
- Insomnia and sleep disturbance
- Use of other illicit drugs to counteract the emotional and mental effects of ecstasy
- Extreme anxiousness
Long-term Physical and Psychological Effects
According to the Better Health Channel, ecstasy use is associated with certain long-term damage to the body and long-term psychological effects.
Some long-term physical effects are:
- Liver failure
- Risks associated with needle sharing if ecstasy is injected, such as HIV, liver infection, septicemia, and skin infections.
- Sexually transmitted diseases due to lowering of sexual inhibitions and having sex without using condoms
- Increased likelihood of using other drugs to counteract the downer effect of the drug
Possible long-term psychological effects are:
- Panic disorder
Long-Term Effects on the Brain
In one study, measurements of the brain were taken before ecstasy use and compared with measurements after ecstasy use. Even with people who used ecstasy for an average of ten times a year, there were differences in the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the area in charge of memory. Short-term memory was most drastically affected.
With chronic, long-term use, a serotonin deficiency is created in the brain, findings suggest. Moreover, the vessels responsible for the transportation of serotonin and receive serotonin atrophy with chronic use of ecstasy.
Damage to the brain with frequent, chronic use has been demonstrated in studies. A decrease in overall brain volume has been noted, as well as a decrease in volume for the hippocampus. The hippocampus becomes atrophied and swollen. A damaged or dysfunctional hippocampus has been correlated with diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.
Studies are also finding that ecstasy is toxic to the brain. This toxicity is thought to contribute to the damage to memory and the vascular system in the brain.
The Coalition Against Drug Abuse noted that because ecstasy stimulates serotonin, which helps people have an overall good feeling, coming off the drug often produces the opposite effect: depression, anxiety, and problems sleeping. This could cause people to seek out the drug to feel this good feeling once again and begin the cycle of addiction.
If you feel like you cannot do without ecstasy, or if ecstasy has taken priority in your life over other people or meeting your financial obligations, you may be addicted.
It is important to get help right away for ecstasy abuse. Ecstasy is not a safe drug, and the more you use it, the more likely long-term damage will occur.