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Ecstasy pills on top some money.

What Is Ecstasy?

The name “ecstasy” is a sort of brand name for a man-made drug. Its chemical name is 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, which researchers shorten to MDMA. Typically, this drug is made in clandestine laboratories. Dealers pull the molecules of the drug into colorful pills that they stamp with letters, numbers, or graphic elements that appeal to young people. The pills are so small that they can be swallowed without water.

Some users prefer to take the drug by sniffing or snorting it, and those users buy a crystalline form of MDMA that’s sold on the street as “Molly.” The powder might be pure white, but it might also be tinted with color.

Teens who take this drug might feel as though they’re very smart shoppers, able to buy a product that does just what they want it to do. But dealers aren’t at all concerned with the purity of the product they sell, and it’s not at all unusual for MDMA products to be tainted with additives, such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Baking soda
  • Baby powder

Teen buying ecstasy pillsSometimes, the additives can be so unusual and toxic that the drug becomes much more dangerous than it would otherwise be. That seems to be the case of two men in England, for example, who died when taking a substance they thought was ecstasy. According to news reports, the drugs these men took didn’t contain MDMA at all. Instead, they contained a different chemical that’s much stronger. The dealer allegedly didn’t alert the men, and the men who took the drugs died.

The uncertain purity and strength of MDMA products is, in part, what makes them dangerous. Teens who take these drugs simply don’t know what they’re getting. But even if the products are pure, they could still hold some dangers, particularly for teens who abuse the drugs regularly.

Short-Term Ecstasy Health Concerns

Products that contain MDMA work on brain cells that communicate via the chemical serotonin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). When this chemical signal is boosted, as it is in the presence of MDMA, users can experience euphoria and a feeling of connectedness. They may feel incredibly affectionate and kind, and they might feel remarkably uninhibited, so they might be more willing to act on happy emotions that teens typically keep hidden.

The DEA says these sensations can last for about four to six hours in most users, and sometimes, the sensations of pleasure can come with unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Ecstasy cravings
In the midst of a high, a teen might shift from happy feelings to dark feelings, and a teen might medicate with another hit of MDMA. Meanwhile, the body might be pushed to the limit due to the influence of this drug. When serotonin levels are high, vital body functions can be askew. Teens might feel hot and sweaty, and if they don’t move to cool down, their internal temperatures can rise to staggering levels. Teens can also experience in-depth muscle spasms, and they might feel their hearts racing. Some teens pass out while under the influence, while others seem to grow weak and ill. In 2008 alone, some 17,865 visits to emergency departments were attributed to the use of ecstasy, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Those people who did get medical help in the midst of an intoxicating episode might have received life-saving care. But without followup, these people might have gone right back to using Ecstasy.

An Ecstasy Addiction

The brain likes to keep chemical reactions in balance. Major disruptions in chemical outputs tend to cause brain cells to change and react, so the shifts won’t take place in the future. It’s those shifts and changes that can cause addictions to develop.In people who take ecstasy, the brain can begin to amend serotonin systems, so the next hit of drugs won’t cause such an overwhelming reaction.

Teen with ecstasy pill on tongue.

As that shift takes hold, users are forced to take bigger doses of drugs to bring about the same sense of intoxication, and the brain again regulates activities in response to the bigger doses. In time, users are simply unable to bring about the sensations they want, no matter how much of the drug they might take.

Meanwhile, the brain’s reward center might call out for that drug. Since the reward center isn’t working properly, the user might feel desperately sad and alone, since there’s no way to feel happiness without the presence of drugs. It’s a difficult situation, and without help, it can be a semi-permanent situation.

Additional Long-Term Health Considerations

While an addiction to ecstasy is certainly serious, there are other consequences that can come from years of abuse of this particular drug. Unfortunately, researchers aren’t altogether sure what those consequences might be. Unlike heroin, which has been around for ages and been studied extensively, MDMA is a relatively new drug, and the use of it hasn’t been exposed to a great deal of study. Researchers can’t say with 100 percent confidence what a long-term addiction will do. Their work does suggest, however, that those who continue to abuse this drug can face some serious health problems. Some of the research that has been done isn’t exactly encouraging. For example, a study in the journal Psychopharmacology suggests that MDMA use in adolescence can result in slower reaction times. That kind of damage could be attributed to a form of drug-induced brain damage, researchers say.A study of rats in a separate issue of Psychopharmacology suggests that MDMA could impact social ties, essentially making creatures a little less social when they don’t have access to the drug. In fact, the researchers found a 41 percent reduction due to drug exposure – a serious drop.

Getting Help

Even though researchers are determining that MDMA is dangerous, particularly in those who start taking the drug during adolescence, few teens are taking notice. In fact, it seems that more and more teens are choosing this drug.

In a national study by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the MetLife Foundation released in 2011, researchers found that there was a 67 percent increase in the number of teens choosing this drug when compared to numbers from two years prior. That means teens just aren’t getting the right message about this drug.

Parents can help. In some cases, teens just need a discussion with their parents about the pressures they might face to try this drug or use it regularly. Parents who listen and react without judgment could help their teens to come up with techniques they could use to get out of risky situations without abusing drugs. Sometimes, by holding these discussions, parents help their children to feel comfortable pushing back against peer pressure, so they can avoid ever taking the drug in the first place.

Sometimes, parents who open up a discussion find that their children are already abusing ecstasy. And sometimes, those teens who have tried the drug simply aren’t able to stop their use without help. They may desperately want to be sober, but they may not be sure how to make the transformation from addiction to sobriety.

That’s when treatment is vital. In an ecstasy treatment program, therapists can provide teens with the medical and psychological support they need in order to get sober. They can help teens to examine their addictions clearly, so they can build up skills that can keep them from abusing drugs in the future.

Programs like this can open up a new world for teens, and enrollment can be a doorway into a life that a teen never thought possible. In treatment, teens can also get caught back up on their studies, so they’ll have an opportunity to build a successful adult life. The therapy they get may also help them to boost their inner sense of confidence, so they’ll be able to handle almost any problem with poise. Treatment could be the best thing that ever happened to a young person.

At Next Generation Village, we’d like to get your family started on that treatment journey. That’s why we offer around-the-clock counselors who can answer your questions and start the enrollment process. Whenever you want to start the conversation, we’ll be here to listen. You’ll be amazed at the solutions we can provide your child. With our help, you really can make things better, for your child and your family. Just call the number at the top of the page and we’ll get started.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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