Ecstasy Addiction in College
Ecstasy has become one of the most popular recreational drugs used by college students, especially in the club and rave scene. Ecstasy is a stimulant that causes euphoric feelings and hallucinations. Although use of the drug among teens and youth has been prevalent for decades, the use of ecstasy among college students has become even bigger with rise of festival and rave culture. Addiction Center reported, “emergency room visits have increased more than 1200 percent since ecstasy became the ‘club drug’ of choice at all-night raves.” The risk of ecstasy use among college students can be even more harmful than that of their older counterparts’ due to the fact that their brains are not fully developed and are more susceptible to altered brain chemistry and addiction. The United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are about 9 million ecstasy users—mostly teens and young adults—worldwide.
What is ecstasy?
Ecstasy is an illegal and recreational drug also known as “E,” “X,” and “Molly.” Originally created in 1912 in the form of “MDMA,” the drug was used by the US Army for psychological warfare in the 1950’s and by therapists as a psychotherapy tool in the 1960’s. By the 1980’s the drug had been deemed illegal due to safety concerns, but had resurfaced as an extremely popular club drug. Now, although the name and chemical makeup of the drug has changed, the recreational use of MDMA has, again, begun to rise, especially among teens and young adults. While earlier versions of ecstasy, made more purely of MDMA, had many health and safety side effects, current production of ecstasy is even more harmful to users. The ecstasy that is commonly sold today contains little to no MDMA at all and, instead, contains a cocktail of licit and illicit substances such as cocaine, LSD, heroin, methamphetamine, caffeine, amphetamine, and even rat poison and dog deworming products.
Although “ecstasy” and “molly” are often considered one in the same, the two recreational substances, in fact, have many differences. While MDMA and ecstasy have been around since the 1900’s, molly came about in the early 2000’s as a means of rebranding the earlier form. One of the main differences between ecstasy and molly is the form in which they are commonly taken. While ecstasy is often taken in pill form, molly is consumed as a powder, often in a capsule. This is where the common misconception of molly being “purer” came about; because the pill form requires fillers to bind it together, many believe that molly is purer, although that is often not the case. The Wall Street Journal reports that only 13 percent of molly samples had traces of MDMA.
The way the two drugs are cut is often very different as well. While ecstasy is often cut with sugar, speed, para-methoxyamphetamine, methampetamines, and caffeine, molly is often cut with synthetic drugs such as bath salts, synthetic marijuana, and methylone. The effect of molly can also vary from MDMA and ecstasy.
What does molly do to you?
The effects of molly last between approximately three and six hours. The drug triggers the release of massive amounts of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain, resulting in feelings of extreme euphoria, increased energy, and heightened levels of sexual arousal. The drug also produces increased perception of interpersonal connection.
The use of molly stimulates the central nervous system and can cause rapid heartbeat, blood vessel constriction, sweating, difficulty regulating body temperature, and high blood pressure. Occurrence of psychosis, seizures, and prolonged panic attacks are also commonly reported, along with a severe depression after the drug wears off.
Why do college students take ecstasy?
The popularity of the drug on college campuses is related to its ability to lower inhibitions and cause people to feel more connected to one another. The effects of ecstasy can cause party goers to stay up all night dancing, hooking up, and bonding. For these reasons, ecstasy is viewed as the ultimate party drug. Put simply, college students take the drug to feel good—too good, maybe.
What is MDMA depression?
Even moderate use of MDMA can result in feelings of depression for several days after taking the drug. These effects are more severe among frequent users of MDMA or those who take the drug in larger quantities. Feelings of hopelessness, irritability, anxiety, memory and attention problems, decreased appetite, and lack of interest in or enjoyment of sex are all symptoms of MDMA depression that may be experienced several days to a week after use.
Facts about ecstasy
The perception of risk among 18 year olds of ecstasy has been declining since the early 2000’s. Like other drugs of abuse, as perception of risk decreases, use increases among youth. Youth are particularly vulnerable to ecstasy abuse, along with other drugs, because the adolescent brain does not fully develop until the age of 26, on average. In the last few years, use of molly has gone up among youth and young adults, likely due to a number of high-profile musicians, including Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Miley Cyrus mentioning the drug in their song lyrics. It is estimated that 5% of college student have used some form of MDMA.
Ecstasy abuse statistics
The 2014 National Monitoring the Future Study found that college age students, 19 to 24 years of age, abuse ecstasy at approximately 5 to 6 percent of the population at large. This is a substantial increase from the early 1990’s. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that ecstasy-related emergency room visits increased between 2005 to 2011 among patients 21 years and under. There were 4,460 such visits in 2005, and that number more than doubled to 10,176 ER visits in 2011.
Is ecstasy addictive?
The jury is still out on this question; however, the chemical changes that prolonged ecstasy use can cause in the brain and body make it very difficult to lead a normal life. The extreme surges in serotonin—the neurotransmitter that regulates mood and happiness—caused by MDMA cause the brain to produce less of the chemical naturally while it simultaneously comes to expect more of it in order to feel good. Therefore, in the absence of the drug, frequent MDMA users experience unnaturally low mood and decreased sensations of joy from previously pleasurable activities.
Some studies have found that some MDMA users report experiencing symptoms of addiction, including withdrawal, tolerance, and loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities. MDMA addiction would fall in the diagnostic category of Other Hallucinogen Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM V). Depending on the number of symptoms present in a twelve-month period, a mental health professional would classify the individual’s MDMA use disorder mild, moderate, or severe.
Is ecstasy an amphetamine?
Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, leading to increased attention, focus, and energy. They are also used for weight loss, in some cases. Although the chemical structure of MDMA is quite similar to amphetamines, it contains a methylenedioxy group, which resembles the structure of mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug. This makes sense, as the drug produces both hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like effects.
Can you overdose on ecstasy?
Simply put, yes—you can overdose on ecstasy. More specifically, users can experience heart failure or irregularities related to the amphetamine properties of the drug. Additionally, because of the large amounts of serotonin released in the brain while using MDMA, serotonin syndrome is a condition that can arise, leading to death. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include increased body temperature, sweats and chills, diarrhea, sweating, and dilated pupils. Finally, some ecstasy users experience seizures.
Because of its acute potency, molly users quickly build a tolerance to the drug. This means that the same amount of the drug no longer causes the same “high” and users must take larger quantities of the drug to achieve a similar effect. Unfortunately, more of the drug being ingested causes more damage to the body and greater likelihood and severity of adverse health consequences. Tolerance is a strong indication of a developing substance use disorder.
What does cross-addiction and cross-dependence mean?
Molly addiction frequently co-occurs with addiction to another licit or illicit drug, such as marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, etc. This is known as cross-addiction or cross-dependence. This can arise from MDMA users taking other drugs to overcome the withdrawal effects of molly. For example, marijuana can ease the depressive symptoms experienced in the days following ecstasy use.
Additionally, individuals who primarily use other drugs like alcohol and marijuana may use molly on occasion. However, there are real dangers associated with combining molly with other drugs, including prescribed medications.
Molly side effects
There are many uncomfortable side effects associated with molly use. These can include involuntary teeth clenching or grinding, which may wear away at the tooth enamel; psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, irritability, and confusion; flu-like symptoms, including sweating, chills, and nausea; dizziness; dehydration; and more.
In addition to the physical effects, MDMA use can lead to a number of negative psychological and social consequences. Injury can occur related to operating a car or machinery under the influence of MDMA. Individuals under the influence of the drug may also be vulnerable to sexual assault or other types of bodily harm.
Long term effects of ecstasy addiction
Over time, ecstasy use produces a number of deleterious effects physically, emotionally, and mentally:
- Prolonged MDMA use can lead to kidney failure, cardiovascular collapse, hemorrhaging, convulsions, and even death.
- Damage to the brain can occur, permanently damaging thought and memory processes and degenerate nerve branches and endings. Psychosis can also occur with extensive use of the drug.
- Parts of the brain that regulate emotion are permanently altered by MDMA, resulting in depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Ecstasy symptoms and signs of abuse
One study found that 43% of participants who used MDMA met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder.
Some indications that someone might be abusing the drug include:
- Neglecting work, school, and social commitments because of use.
- Moving away from non-using friends and becoming closer, instead, with fellow users.
- Compulsive use of the drugs in greater frequency or larger quantities than intended.
- Increase in time spent using or obtaining the drug.
Ecstasy withdrawal symptoms
The severity of ecstasy withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on how long the individual has been using the drug before stopping its use. Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, memory difficulties or loss, learning impairments, deficits in reasoning or attention, confusion, disorientation, and more.
How to help an ecstasy addict
If someone you love is abusing ecstasy, do not stand by while his or her life falls apart. Intervening as soon as possible can prevent lasting damage, or even death. Many MDMA users are not educated about the drug’s dangers. Bringing this information to their attention, as well as options for treatment, can mean the difference between life and death.
Ecstasy addiction treatment for college students
For college students struggling with MDMA addiction, there are several options for treatment. In some cases, medically-monitored detox may be required to ensure the physical safety of the individual as they withdraw from MDMA and any other substances they are using. This is especially true if the individual has heart or seizure conditions.
A residential or outpatient treatment program for the first several weeks or months of recovery is advisable for individuals with ecstasy addictions. In these programs, the patient receives therapy, both group and one on one, in which they learn coping skills and other tools for maintaining abstinence from ecstasy and other drugs. A psychiatrist can also be helpful in assessing for other mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, that may be caused or worsened by molly use and that can be addressed with antidepressants and other pharmacological therapies.
To find the right program for you or your loved on, visit our website. The Recover maintains a directory of local residential and outpatient treatment programs. Let us help you get started on the path to recovery.