MDMA is a synthetic stimulant that has psychedelic effects on the user.1 It is generally found as a pale crystalline powder form when it is pure MDMA, but pressed pills that purport to contain MDMA (commonly referred to as ecstasy pills) are also available on the illicit market.2, 3 What is sold as ecstasy is often MDMA mixed with other substances like meth, cocaine, or ketamine.2
Users of MDMA may develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects, meaning they need higher and higher doses to achieve the same high.1 This can lead to dependence on MDMA—in other words, the user feels as if they need MDMA in order to function normally and avoid the withdrawal syndrome. This can lead to escalating, dangerous patterns of substance abuse.
Long-term frequent use of MDMA has been linked to neuronal damage in the neocortex of users as well as some cognitive deficits.1 Learning how to recognize symptoms of MDMA addiction may help save a user’s brain from use-related harm.
While abuse patterns of ecstasy and MDMA may differ from other, more commonly thought of drugs of abuse, people can still be negatively impacted by this form of drug use and, as such, may benefit from substance abuse treatment efforts.
How Can I Tell If I Have an Addiction to Ecstasy or MDMA?
Being addicted to a substance is defined by a set of drug-seeking behaviors that result in negative consequences in the user’s life, and continuing to use despite these consequences. A person who is addicted to ecstasy or MDMA may display any of the following symptoms:4
- Taking the drug in larger amounts or for a longer time than intended.
- Having a desire to cut back on use but being unsuccessful in those efforts to quit.
- Much of the user’s time is spent trying to obtain the drug, use the drug, or recover from use.
- Cravings for ecstasy or MDMA.
- Recurrent ecstasy or MDMA use leading to neglect of work, school, or home obligations.
- Continuing to use ecstasy or MDMA despite social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by use.
- Important occupational, social, or recreational activities are stopped or reduced due to ecstasy or MDMA use.
- Repeatedly using ecstasy or MDMA in physically dangerous situations, such as driving.
- Continuing to use the drug despite knowing that they have physical or psychological problems caused or enhanced by its use.
- Tolerance to ecstasy or MDMA’s effects.
Types of Treatment for Ecstasy and MDMA Addictions
Escalating patterns of MDMA use can lead to serious life consequences, such as neuronal damage and drug addiction. Fortunately, there are options to help prevent, reduce, or recover from such damage. Professional drug treatment may be able to help those addicted to MDMA recover from their addiction.
An inpatient treatment program involves an extended stay at a treatment facility. This allows medical and psychological professionals to monitor the recovering user’s safety and progress, and helps to ensure that they are as comfortable as possible. Choosing to stay at the treatment center allows the recovering user to engage in treatment in an entirely sober environment, free from triggers to use that are related to home. Inpatient programs are suited for relatively more severe cases of addiction.
During MDMA addiction recovery, a user may experience withdrawal symptoms such as severe depression, loss of appetite, and fatigue.3 An inpatient program often has a doctor available 24/7 to ensure the client is safe and taken care of during this difficult time. While in the program, the client will engage in group and individual therapy and counseling sessions to help them identify their reasons for abusing MDMA, what they can do to prevent future use, and learn relapse prevention skills.
An outpatient program involves regular check-ins with a treatment facility for therapy and counseling sessions. The recovering MDMA user will continue to live at home, committing to attending these treatment sessions at predetermined times during the week. Outpatient programs involve a lot of self-motivation for sobriety, since the person will be living in the original abuse environment.
Ecstasy and MDMA withdrawal is not a life-threatening syndrome, so the liberties afforded by an outpatient program may be appealing to a person looking to recover from addiction or abuse. Withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, however, and the depression that many recovering MDMA abusers experience may require medical supervision to ensure the recovering user doesn’t injure themselves.
Ecstasy and MDMA addiction doesn’t have to be permanent. There are always options for recovery, and we can help you find them. Call us at to speak with a treatment placement specialist about program options and discuss what will be right for you.
- Parrott, A. C. (2001). Human psychopharmacology of Ecstasy (MDMA): a review of 15 years of empirical research. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 16, 557-577.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Fact Sheet: Ecstasy or MDMA.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). DrugFacts: MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly).
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.