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MDMA is a synthetic (man-made) drug officially known as 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. First developed by the Germans in the early 1900’s and becoming more widely available in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the US, it gained widespread attention when it was used during weekend-long parties known as “raves.” The drug seemed to lower inhibition, increase energy, and elevate mood, which made party-goers, “ravers” as they were known, seek it out.

Though abuse of MDMA has been on the decline overall, it still turns up at parties, concerts, or on the streets. Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous drug.

MDMA Names and Forms

Street drugs acquire many names. The most common name for MDMA has been ecstasy, which was also the brand name before it became illegal in 1985. Another common name is Molly (likely short for “molecule”).

Nicknames include:

  • Ecstasy
  • E
  • X
  • XE
  • XTC
  • Club drug
  • Hug
  • Hug drug
  • Love drug
  • Love pill
  • Lover’s speed
  • Molly
  • Molly drug

MDMA most commonly comes in pill form, but it can be a white crystalline powder or a liquid. Often, liquid ecstasy is actually another drug, GHB, a chemical solvent that acts as a nervous system depressant, but it may be labeled as ecstasy.

Like other street drugs, MDMA is completely unregulated. Traditionally, the pure crystalline form was the one called the Molly drug, but when you take something calling itself molly or ecstasy, you really have no idea what you are taking at all. Officials have particularly been concerned with “bath salts” being sold as Molly.

Effects on the Brain

MDMA is believed to directly impact neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals the brain uses to relay messages.

The three main brain chemicals thought to be affected are:

  • Dopamine — which causes the surge in energy.
  • Norepinephrine — which can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Serotonin — which can affect mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual arousal.

Researchers believe that the elevated mood temporarily experienced users comes from the sudden surge in serotonin, but it also likely accounts for the crash or “negative behavioral aftereffects” experienced for at least several days after taking MDMA.

Other Physical Effects

The effects on the brain may cause the elevated heart rate and blood pressure that can be deadly for at-risk individuals, but other parts of the body are directly affected as well.

Other physical side effects of MDMA include:

  • Sweating or chills
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Blurred vision
  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased interest in and pleasure from sex

Since MDMA is often combined with other drugs, any number of other physical reactions may occur.

Other Emotional Effects of MDMA

Like many other drugs, MDMA does not just have emotional and physical effects while you take it. Side effects can continue or turn up after using the drug. For example, while taking ecstasy many users report increased sexual arousal, but after taking it the ability to experience pleasure from sex can be decreased. So, the effects are temporary, but the “rebound” can be lasting.

Other emotional effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Impaired judgment

In fact, users report that it is just as common to see a random fight break out at a rave, when MDMA is present, as it is to see people making out.

Who’s at Risk?

MDMA used to be considered a “white people’s drug;” most users were late teens or early 20’s, white party attendees in cities. While overall, fortunately, Molly use has decreased, it has unfortunately broadened its base. All ethnicities and all ages may be at risk of exposure to MDMA.

In the most recent Monitoring the Future survey, conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which monitors the attitudes of 8th, 10th and 12th graders in the United States, a positive trend seems to be continuing: synthetic drugs like MDMA continue to decrease in use by young people. Since the younger people are at first drug use, the more likely they are to develop an addiction, seeing a decline in MDMA use indicates a promising future.

Addiction and Treatment

MDMA has not had many studies conducted for addiction, exclusively, since it is so frequently combined with other addictions. Addiction is a multifaceted disease, with physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual factors and repercussions. One cannot know until exposed to a substance if one will develop an addiction.

However, MDMA has all of the “right ingredients” for an addictive substance. When someone will use a substance, despite negative emotional and physical consequences, you have the possibility of addiction. Users also report withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, and trouble concentrating. Experiencing withdrawal is another sign of addiction.

Fortunately, MDMA addiction can be successfully treated. If you or a loved one have been abusing MDMA, get help now. Call New Beginnings and let us help you on the road to recovery.

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