Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, can have long term effects on the brain. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA increases the activity of three different neurotransmitters, including: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This means things such as sleep, pain, appetite, and mood are negatively impacted. Think no sleep, no appetite, and continuous mood-swings.
The drug has been made popular due to its association with certain forms of music genres and the ‘rave’ scene. However, regardless of its connection to fun experiences, such as dancing, the drug is extremely dangerous, with the International Journal of Drug identifying 392 deaths between 2000 and 2018. Also, contrary to the drug being associated to parties and raves, most of the 392 deaths occurred in private places, suggesting the drug has moved away from the party scene and into everyday drug use.
Research has proved that if ecstasy is taken regularly, especially in high does, it can cause permanent damage to nerve cells. This can cause individuals to have bad memory and feel regularly depressed. Along with bad memory and depression, individuals will feel regular spouts of confusion, anxiety, paranoia and will find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. So, even if you take MDMA for a couple of weeks, long-term damaging effects could have already been made on the brain.
What is ecstasy?
The official name for the drug is Methylenedioxy-Methamphetamine (MDMA) and has other street names such as Ecstasy and Molly. MDMA is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception, it also acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen which can be extremely overwhelming and dangerous for the user. According the National Institute on Drug Abuse, much of the ecstasy that is seized by police isn’t pure, and actually contains other additives such as cocaine, ketamine methamphetamine, cough medicine or bath salts. These substances are not meant to be mixed, and so the user is putting themselves at high
How does ecstasy effect the brain?
Understanding how ecstasy causes such damage to the brain can be complicated, as there are so many health-related terms that mean explaining the reasoning is complex. However, it is important that individuals understand the science, to be able to understand what the drug does and why.
So, here is a short description of the science behind MDMA drug use:
As MDMA causes the brain to release excess amount of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, this can block the neurotransmitters reuptake, resulting in increased neurotransmitter levels within the synaptic cleft. Essentially, this causes the neurotransmitters to become overwhelmed and confused, and so negative psychological effects will occur. Individuals moods will be impacted, ranging from ultimate euphoria to sadness, and their normal personality will be skewed. Over long periods of time MDMA will cause less serotonin to be released, and this is what causes depression, poor memory, anxiety, and paranoia.
Other long-term effects
The most common long-term effects include depression, anxiety and paranoia, but the negative long-term effects of ecstasy doesn’t even there. The drug has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems, with people who already have these issues being at more risk of becoming seriously ill with MDMA use. Similar, those with blood pressure problems, epilepsy or asthma can have an even worse reaction to the drug than a ‘healthier’ individual would.
No one can be sure what is actually in their ecstasy pill or powder, even testing kits might not find everything. Sometimes the MDMA drug is filled with cheaper products that have some similar effects but are cheaper to produce, this can increase the risk of overdose, as the single pill could be stronger than you think. Overdoses can be fatal, but if you live through an overdose it can cause long term effects such as psychological addiction, temptation, and cravings. With a detox and withdrawal programme, this psychological addiction can be curved, but without it, the addiction could last a lifetime.
Some would argue that the worst long-term effect of ecstasy is the mental health risks that come with taken the drug, especially if you take it for prolonged periods. If you have had an overdose and you are in recovery, you will be overwhelmed with stress. With the right rehabilitation programme, this can be cured, however without it
- Kidney failure
- Cardiovascular collapse
- Degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Damage or the nose mucus
- Regular nose bleeds
- Severe damage to the nose cartilage
- Liver damage
- Heart palpitations
- Toxic to the brain
- Impairs memory
- Loss of overall brain mass
Short term effects
Whilst making people aware of the long-term effect’s ecstasy can have, its important to outline the short-term effects. Some immediate effects of the drug, especially if taken in a party atmosphere, can be overheating and dehydration. As MDMA is commonly known as a party drug, the substance is notoriously taken in clubs. Due to the hot environment of the club, because of everyone dancing and usually no air conditioning, those who have taken MDMA will struggle to regulate body temperature.
Because of the shock to the system that any drug inhibits on an individual, heart palpitations, faintness and nausea is common. Drugs such as ecstasy are not meant to be put in the body, regardless of any short lived euphoria, MDMA is a foreign substance to the body, and overall this will only ever cause a negative reaction.
- Impaired judgement
- Sleep problems
- Severe anxiety
- Drug cravings
- Muscle tension and aches
- Faintness and chills
- Blurred vision
- Blood pressure increases
- Eye twitching
How and where to get help
When you are worried about your own drug addiction, its hard to know what to do. It can be hard to talk about it to your friends and family, as you might feel embarrassed, however, its important to realise addiction is a medical condition, like diabetes. Having addiction is nothing to be worried about, and like diabetes addiction can be treated and managed.
If you are worried that you are addicted to drugs, talk to someone and ask for help.
Arrow Health offer many treatment options including:
- 28-day detox programme
- Inpatient rehabilitation
- Outpatient programme
- Forensive service
So, if you are experiencing negative symptoms of long-term ecstasy use, get in touch with us at Arrow Health. If you are unsure if you are addicted to drugs, reading our blog post on ‘What Is Addiction’ may help.