In the UK, ecstasy has become an increasingly popular drug, particularly among young adults. With its reputation as a party stimulant and its easy accessibility, the use of this illegal substance has skyrocketed over the past few years. For many, ecstasy is the “normal” thing to do at clubs and parties, and this social acceptance often shields users from the reality of the dangers. However, ecstasy addiction can quickly devastate the lives of not only the users but those closest to them too. It is therefore important to recognise the signs of ecstasy addiction and get help if you feel like you’re losing control.
What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that produces feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth and distorted sensory perception. Ecstasy acts as a stimulant and also induces effects such as euphoria, altered social behaviour, an urge to connect with others around you, heightened empathy and a possibility of hallucinations.
Ecstasy is most commonly ingested orally as a tablet with varying colours or logos depending on the producer. MDMA is an abbreviation of the chemical name of ecstasy and another common term used to describe it, however, MDMA usually refers to the crystal powder form of ecstasy.
In the UK, ecstasy is a class A drug, which means that possession carries a sentence of up to 7 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine while supplying can lead to life imprisonment.
How does ecstasy addiction develop?
Ecstasy addiction is defined as the continued use of ecstasy, despite any negative ramifications to your health, career, finances or relationships. This begins with the ‘initiation’ stage where you are introduced to ecstasy for the first time. You may take ecstasy out of curiosity, a desire to just try it once or as a result of peer pressure. When you try ecstasy for the first time, the ‘reward centre’ in your brain is flooded with the feel-good neurotransmitters, in particular serotonin and dopamine, which causes the brain to link ecstasy to a pleasant experience.
After the initiation stage, comes ‘experimentation’ where you begin to take ecstasy recreationally, perhaps at parties or special events. As the brain already considers ecstasy a ‘reward’, continued use solidifies the brain’s response and this encourages you to take more.
Soon you may find yourself regularly using ecstasy – this stage is characterised by a pattern of use, and you may even begin to take the drug on your own, outside of social situations. As you progress further towards ecstasy addiction, your brain will stop producing its own dopamine and will start to rely on ecstasy to feed these levels instead. This is known as dependence.
There is a very fine line between dependence and ecstasy addiction, and these two stages are often closely interlinked. Once you have reached this stage, it is very hard to break free without the assistance of a professional treatment programme.
Am I addicted to ecstasy?
Is your ecstasy use getting out of control? Are you worried you have an ecstasy addiction? It can be difficult to know what signs to look out for and when to get help, but understanding the cues that point to a problem is an important first step.
Take a moment to read the following statements and see if any apply to you:
- I frequently crave ecstasy and feel uneasy when I can’t obtain it.
- I spend a lot of time and money trying to procure ecstasy.
- I try to hide the extent of my ecstasy abuse from friends and family.
- My ecstasy use has impacted my performance at work or school.
- My ecstasy use has caused problems in my relationships.
- My physical and mental health has suffered as a result of my ecstasy use.
- I experience withdrawal symptoms if I abstain from ecstasy.
- I have tried to stop taking ecstasy but have been unable to do so.
Remember, you do not have to take ecstasy every day to be suffering from an addiction. It is possible that you might go for a number of days without ecstasy as you recover from its effects, or ‘comedown’. If you continually go back to using ecstasy, however, and if any of the above statements pertain to you, you could have an ecstasy addiction.
The dangers of ecstasy
While the short-term effects of ecstasy may sound appealing, the truth is that this is a dangerous drug and taking it puts your mental and physical health at risk. On top of this, illegal production methods make it difficult to know exactly what you are taking, making the side effects unpredictable and increasing the risk of overdose. Ecstasy is often ‘cut’ with ingredients such as PMA (a stimulant similar to ecstasy), for example, which can be deadly at low doses.
Some of the other side effects of ecstasy include:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased, unusual activity levels
- Issues with memory
- Clenching the teeth and jaw (also known as ‘gurning’)
- Increased body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle tension
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Kidney failure
Long-term side effects can also involve a decline in cognitive function, permanent damage to internal organs and an increased chance of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Ecstasy addiction: the dos and don’ts
Struggling with an addiction to ecstasy is never easy – it can be extremely difficult to know exactly what to do (and what not to do!). Many times all it takes is one trigger to send you spiralling down the path of substance abuse, and before you know it you are waking up on Monday morning with the comedown from hell.
So what are some steps you can take if you think you have an ecstasy addiction?
- Get help – find an ecstasy addiction treatment programme or talk to your doctor. Seeking professional advice will give you the coping skills you need to avoid using.
- Avoid triggers – this could mean places or people that could tempt you to take ecstasy.
- Talk to a loved one – confiding in a trusted person not only opens up a channel of support but can also provide accountability.
- Join a support group – having a community of peers who understand your struggles can be enormously beneficial if you are suffering from ecstasy addiction.
- Play it down – ecstasy addiction is a serious condition and should not be brushed under the rug. It is important to be honest with yourself about your ecstasy use.
- Feel ashamed – suffering from an ecstasy addiction, just like any other medical condition, is nothing to be ashamed of.
- Think you won’t get addicted – ecstasy produces intense highs, and while dependence is lower compared to other illicit drugs, it is still a very addictive substance.
Spotting an ecstasy addiction
If you suspect a loved one has an addiction to ecstasy, it can be an emotionally draining and distressing time. Although many signs may be subtle, there are certain physical and behavioural signals that could indicate a problem.
Signs a family member has an ecstasy addiction include:
- Unpredictable energy levels and disrupted sleep patterns
- Mood swings
- Isolating themselves or displaying secretive behaviour
- Weight loss
- Losing interest in formerly enjoyed activities
- Inability to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities
- Frequently borrowing or stealing money to fund their ecstasy use
If you think a loved one might have an addiction to ecstasy, the best way to approach them is with compassion and understanding. Let them know you are concerned because you care, but avoid being judgmental or confrontational. This will help them feel safe opening up to you about their troubles without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.
Is treatment available for ecstasy addiction?
There are a range of treatments available for those struggling with an addiction to ecstasy, however, it is the general consensus that inpatient rehab is the most effective. Recovery Lighthouse has helped hundreds of people find success through our intensive rehab programme which is focused on addressing the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.
Our programme begins with a supervised detox. Here you will be supported as your body goes through the withdrawal period, and our staff will be on-hand to help with any withdrawal symptoms.
Our programme also focuses heavily on counselling and therapy which aims to address any co-occurring mental health issues that may have contributed to your addiction. In order to achieve a sustainable recovery, it is vital that you learn new coping mechanisms and relapse prevention techniques to take forward into everyday life.
Aftercare services are also essential for long-term recovery, such as ongoing therapy and support groups. Recovery Lighthouse therefore offers one year of free aftercare to our clients.
With the right treatment approach and dedicated follow-through, it’s possible for you to regain control over your life and enjoy a newfound freedom.
A life without ecstasy
Living a life without the clutches of ecstasy addiction can bring about tremendous personal growth and freedom. Often when faced with an addiction, our life can become clouded by the negative. When we choose to allow ourselves to break free from ecstasy addiction, the possibilities are endless. A life without ecstasy enables us to focus on meaningful endeavours that truly enrich our lives and increase our overall sense of self-worth.
You may experience increased focus and clarity, be able to cultivate more positive relationships, discover alternative methods for both stress relief and relaxation, as well as form a healthier connection with your inner self.
If you are ready to make a step towards a more stable, healthier life, call our admissions team today and start your recovery journey.