In order to sell the drugs they make, dealers resort to tricky marketing techniques, slapping fancy names on dangerous drugs in order to make them more palatable. A drug that might seem scary or dangerous in its original form suddenly seems harmless or even fun after this makeover is complete. Consider the case of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Dealers might have trouble selling a drug with this mouthful of a name. But call that drug something more benign, and it might fly off the shelves. This same drug is commonly called Ecstasy or a variety of other names such as:
- The Love Drug
- Hug Beans
- Lover’s Speed
While dealers might use names like this to sell drugs and make them seem benign, they are far from benign. In fact, Ecstasy is a man-made chemical that can cause serious, long-term damage. The drug, and the additives used with the drug, can also be addictive.
Ecstasy is typically sold in a pill format, and the user tends to feel effects about an hour after the pill is ingested. Researchers writing for the journal Addiction suggest that the sensations a person feels while on Ecstasy can vary, depending on how much the person took, how much time elapsed between doses and the gender of the user. That being said, most people tend to experience many of the same effects after taking the drug. Colors become brighter, sounds become much more interesting and clear, and the person feels an increased sense of attachment and closeness to other people. This sensation can be so strong that the person might even be tempted to hug, touch or kiss random strangers that are just passing by.
This collection of symptoms could be overwhelming in almost any setting, but in a dance party setting, they could be considered almost ideal. The music becomes more interesting, and the flashing lights above the crowd could be more hypnotizing. A crowded dance floor could also be quite appealing to a user feeling a desire to touch and hug other people. While this behavior might not be accepted in a store or on the street, on the dance floor it might just seem normal and acceptable.
Not all of the short-term effects of Ecstasy are positive, however. Many people who use Ecstasy also feel a rising sense of nausea, or they may develop headaches or muscle pains. In addition, users also report an increasing desire to grind their teeth together, and this can lead to severe jaw pain. The drug also tends to shut off the body’s inner temperature regulation sensors, allowing the body’s core temperature to rise to dangerous levels. Users may be flushed and sweaty, but they may not report feeling hot at all. While this is happening, the person might also feel a reduced sense of thirst. People who are already hot, with no sense of thirst, and who are exerting a serious amount of energy on dancing at the same time, might simply collapse due to heat exhaustion. In addition, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Ecstasy use has also been linked to heart damage, including heart attacks or heart failure. Even one dose of the drug can lead to these problems. People who consider the drug fun for a party might wind up in the emergency room instead, due to dehydration, heart attacks or severe pain. This doesn’t seem fun at all.
The perception changes that accompany Ecstasy may last for only three hours or so, but the user might feel effects from the drug for days or even for weeks. The drug causes severe disruptions in the brain’s ability to pass messages from cell to cell, and the drug blocks the normal mechanisms the brain would use to clear the drug from the system. So people who use Ecstasy may feel normal hours after they use the drug, but they may still be functioning at an impaired level for a long period of time. They may not even know that these changes are taking place. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), many Ecstasy users feel these symptoms during the week following drug use:
People who abuse the drug for long periods of time may experience all of these symptoms along with disturbed sleep, a reduced appetite and a reduced interest in, and pleasure from, sexual activity. This is a drug that can have a major impact on the way a person feels, and thinks, for a long period of time.
Ecstasy and Addiction
Researchers often define addiction as compulsive use despite the knowledge that the drug causes harm. People who are addicted to a substance simply cannot stop using that substance, even though they may be feeling the impact of that drug abuse at the same time. They may even want to stop abusing the drug, yet they cannot seem to stop. According to the NIDA, 43 percent of people who admitted that they had used Ecstasy met this criterion for dependence. They knew the drug was dangerous, yet they couldn’t stop their use.
Despite this fact, many pro-drug websites claim that the drug is not addictive, and they may point to multiple studies that have been performed that indicate that the drug hasn’t been linked to addiction in animals. It’s true that these studies exist. For example, a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that rats that were given access to Ecstasy were not always likely to bump up their doses. While some rats did become compulsive users, and kept returning to the drug at higher and higher rates, other rats didn’t progress to this use at all or their progression was quite slow. The researchers reported that the drug wasn’t linked to high addiction rates. They didn’t claim that the drug was not addictive, but they did suggest that the risk of addiction was low.
There are a few rebuttals that could be used against these studies. For example, while these studies may suggest that Ecstasy in a pure form is not as addictive as other substances such as cocaine and heroin, these laboratory results may not be very applicable in a real-world setting. Ecstasy is an illegal substance, made in a laboratory, and its manufacture isn’t regulated by any sort of governmental agency. While it might be possible to buy pure forms of the drug from time to time, the NIDA suggests that much, if not most, of the Ecstasy that users buy is contaminated with other substances, including:
These substances might be quite addictive on their own, or they might combine in unknown ways in the user’s body and make an addiction issue all the more likely. Studies on addiction in a laboratory almost always use pure forms of the drug, and those pure forms may be difficult, if not impossible, to find on the street. Therefore, the results may not really apply to real users. In addition, many people who abuse Ecstasy intentionally take the drug while they’re using other drugs at the same time. They might chase their Ecstasy pills with alcohol, for example, or their impaired judgment that results from their Ecstasy abuse pushes them to use other drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. Again, studies using pure forms don’t take this poly-drug use into account.
Researchers writing in the journal Human Psychopharmacology suggest that people who abuse Ecstasy stop using the drug from time to time, so they can experience a greater rush when they return to drug use. The more often a person uses the drug, the more tolerance the body develops to the drug use, and the response the body provides might be muted as a result. Chronic abusers of Ecstasy may develop a false sense of confidence when it comes to beating their addiction. They may very well believe that if they can stop using the drug from time to time, it would be an easy enough step to stop using the drug altogether.
While it would be ideal to believe that people could simply make a choice to stop using Ecstasy and then never use the drug again, most people will need a little help to build up a life that doesn’t include drug use. Addiction is not a disease of willpower. It’s a disease involving habits, thought patterns, chemistry and altered brain communication styles. Recovering from this level of damage often means spending time with a therapist, learning to control cravings and adjust to new thinking patterns. Some people might even need medications to help them go through the depression and anxiety that is a common part of the recovery from Ecstasy abuse.
At Axis, we provide a safe and comfortable environment for people who are recovering from addiction. Therapy plays a key role in that recovery process, but we also provide nutritional support and recreational activities that can help people reconnect with their inner strength and resolve. It’s a method that can truly help people recover, and we’d like to tell you more about it. Please contact us today for more information.