Ecstasy, or MDMA, is a type of synthetic drug that changes perception and mood. This drug is typically found in pill form, but there are liquid versions that people inject.
Learning more about ecstasy abuse and withdrawal can help people and their loved ones determine what needs to be done to gain sobriety.
The primary ingredient is ecstasy is MDMA. However, a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence discovered that up to 46 percent of ecstasy pills did not actually contain any MDMA. Other ingredients found in the pills included caffeine, pseudoephedrine, DXM, and methamphetamines.
It is estimated that about 6.8 percent of people age 12 and older have used ecstasy at least once in their lifetime, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Whether it has the addictive properties of other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, is a common topic of debate.
Both human and animal studies have concluded that using MDMA regularly produces dopamine and serotonin adaptations that are seen in substance use disorders, according to research published in Current Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience. This information shows a potential for ecstasy abuse and addiction.
Those Who Are Dependent on or Abusing Ecstasy May Show the Following Signs:
- Preoccupation with the drug
- Ecstasy use causing areas of the person’s life to suffer
- Spending a lot of time on ecstasy-related activities
- Increased tolerance to the drug
- Continuing to use the drug despite the negative consequences
Is Ecstasy Withdrawal Possible?
Continued ecstasy use can result in the body getting used to the higher levels of the neurotransmitters this drug produces. When someone stops using the drug, neurotransmitter levels decrease, resulting in withdrawal symptoms.
Exactly what happens during ecstasy withdrawal is not well documented. However, scientists have determined that the drug is similar to hallucinogens and stimulants. Because of this, the withdrawal effects are believed to be similar to the withdrawal effects of drugs in those categories.
Research regarding stimulant withdrawal shows that the symptoms may last an average of five days to three weeks, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The most commonly reported symptoms in this study were aches and pains, impaired social functioning, irritability, and depressed mood.
The withdrawal symptoms ultimately depend on the person, how much ecstasy they use, how frequently they use it, the dosage, and the ingredients in the ecstasy they take.
Other Possible Symptoms of Ecstasy Withdrawal May Include the Following:
- Craving ecstasy
- Memory and attention difficulties
- Appetite loss
- Sleep problems
Ecstasy has a half-life of about 8 hours. Roughly 95 percent of the drug is out of your body in about 40 hours after your last dose, according to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Once most of the drug is out of the body, it is possible to start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Detox and Withdrawal Timeline
There is little literature that talks about ecstasy detox and the withdrawal timeline. However, since withdrawing from ecstasy is said to be similar to stimulant withdrawal, experts believe detox symptoms start about 24 hours after the last dose, and the acute phase lasts for an average of three to five days, according to research published in Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.
People may undergo medical detox to reduce their discomfort during the acute withdrawal process. Adequate nutrition and hydration are essential components of this phase. Doctors and other medical professionals will also aid people with supportive care for any specific symptoms that are especially unpleasant.
Four stages may occur when someone is going through ecstasy withdrawal. These are based on stimulant withdrawal phases.
- Early crash phase: Intense cravings can occur during this stage. It typically starts within 24 hours of the last dose. During this phase, someone may not sleep much, their thoughts could be scattered, and they might have a short temper.
- Middle crash phase: This phase can last for an average of 24 hours to 36 hours. People tend to crave sleep instead of the drug at this point. Increasing depression and a significant reduction in mental energy are also possible.
- Late crash phase: This phase is often characterized by excessive sleep and daytime fatigue. Intense hunger usually comes at the tail end of this phase.
- Protracted withdrawal: For 12 hours to 96 hours, the effects of this phase can grow in intensity. It is possible for the symptoms to come and go for several weeks. Cravings for the drug, depression, and mental and physical fatigue are possible.
Even without an addiction to the drug, it is possible to experience some withdrawal symptoms. People who are considered to be “weekend users” can experience detox effects that can last up to a few weeks for some.
What To Look For in a Medical Detox Center
Those who struggle with ecstasy abuse can work with a medical detox center to help them get through the process. These centers can help to ease the withdrawal symptoms and aid clients with a therapeutic environment and ongoing counseling, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Someone might consider attending an ecstasy detox center if the following scenarios are present:
- They believe they cannot get through one day without using ecstasy.
- They have resorted to theft or dishonesty to use or obtain ecstasy.
- They need to use higher doses of ecstasy to get the same effects they got in the past.
- They feel like they are in control, but their life is clearly out of control because of ecstasy use.
Working with a detox center helps people to get the support they need to get through this phase of the recovery process. Addiction specialists and health care providers can aid people during the acute detox process.
The first step is finding the proper detox center. Look at the facility to determine the resources offered. This ensures that the one you choose can fully accommodate your needs. For example, those with other clinical conditions should make sure their chosen detox center can work with their dual diagnosis.
Look at the licensing, accreditation, and certifications that the detox center has. Look specifically for accreditations from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and The Joint Commission. Check with the state where the center is located to make sure it has the proper licensing.
Visit the facility’s staff to learn more about their education and experience. All of the clinical staff members, such as therapists and medical doctors, should all have the proper licenses and credentials. This information can be verified through the state licensing boards associated with the specific professionals.
Consider your medical insurance and what it will cover. Once this information is determined, if the coverage is not complete, you can call the centers you are interested in to learn more about financial assistance. Many programs offer payment plans to help clients afford detox.
Consider the length of the program. After the acute detox phase, it is a good idea to remain in treatment for a sufficient amount of time. The average program is 28 days, but most people require at least 90 days of treatment to get to a stable place in their sobriety, according to NIDA.
Explore what the program offers and how it is operated. Consider your personal recovery goals and determine if they match up with what the center can do for you.