Is ecstasy addictive? The research isn’t entirely clear.
We do know that ecstasy (MDMA) targets the neurotransmitter systems that other drugs, like cocaine or heroin, also stimulate. Studies show that animals exposed to MDMA will then retake it of their own volition, which is an essential indicator of addiction.
Data also shows that humans who use MDMA regularly will also experience changes in their dopamine and serotonin systems. These can lead to addiction-related behaviors, like impulsiveness.
Even with mixed messages from research, there are plenty of people who experience symptoms of ecstasy addiction, such as increased tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal.
Is someone you love abusing or addicted to ecstasy? Here are the nine signs of ecstasy abuse.
1. Keeping Odd Hours
Ecstasy is best known as a club drug, and frankly, it’s not much fun to take outside that setting. It is a stimulant, which means you waste it if you take it while playing six straight hours of Xbox by yourself.
If you notice that someone you love is beginning to keep odd hours – like arriving home in the early hours of the morning – then they may be participants in the rave scene, where ecstasy is a prominent player.
2. Use of Pacifiers or Way Too Much Gum
MDMA causes jaw clenching and teeth grinding, which is very uncomfortable even when high. Regular ecstasy users will use baby pacifiers to reduce the damage and discomfort caused by the grinding.
Why do people grind their teeth on Molly? People experience bruxism (the medical term) even when they’re not high. It’s a protective reflex that protects the soft part of our mouths from damage when we sense danger.
Because ecstasy is a stimulant, it heightens protective reflexes like bruxism.
Additionally, if a dentist asks them if they grind their teeth, and they experience other signs of ecstasy addiction, this can be a sign of long-term abuse of ecstasy.
3. Problems Sleeping
Keeping irregular hours is already difficult for the body’s sleep cycle. But science says ecstasy itself can make things worse.
According to a report produced at Australia’s Monash University, it only takes one hit of the drug to reset your internal clock and disrupt your sleeping patterns for weeks on end.
The issue doesn’t just impact the occasional user. Some seventy percent of recreational ecstasy users (one to two pills per month) report issues with their sleep after their session.
4. Night Terrors
Sleep issues don’t just extend to problems falling asleep. A quick search of forums quickly provides anecdotal evidence of waking up thanks to night terrors and sleep paralysis.
Night terrors are sleep episodes that lead to extreme panic and related behaviors like screaming, shouting, and even jumping out of bed. A person experiencing night terrors might look awake, but they are still asleep.
Although the terrors last only 15 minutes, they can feel infinitely longer for the person experiencing them.
Combine sleep terrors with sleep paralysis – the inability to move when you wake up or fall asleep – and the terrors don’t just feel real but incredibly dangerous.
5. Irritable Behavior
Have you noticed a shift in their mood? Were they once a happy-go-lucky person and now irritable at best?
Science shows that long-term use of MDMA can induce psychiatric effects. Irritable behavior and moodiness are two of those effects, and it can be a sign that something’s wrong. Scientists say we need more studies to understand whether these symptoms are directly related to MDMA abuse and whether they are ultimately reversible.
When combined with other risk factors on this list, irritable behavior may point to MDMA abuse or addiction.
6. Spending Money on Ecstasy Irrationally
Is your friend or loved one an occasional users who now seems to spend money on it – even when they have none?
Long-term MDMA use can result in withdrawal symptoms, which may lead some people to spend their last dollar getting another hit.
7. Rebound Depression and Lethargy
You can spot an ecstasy user according to their rebound. As much as 80 percent of users report periods of depression and lethargy for days after using.
Regular users of MDMA freely report the hangover on forums. It may come on in the hours after the drug’s effects wear off or even in the days after.
Why does this happen?
The impact MDMA has on your serotonin system – the system that makes it so pleasant – eventually wears off. When it does, your brain needs to cope with lower levels of serotonin, which is correlated with depression.
It takes the body time to make more, and as you wait, you experience a tremendous crash.
8. Lack of Appetite
MDMA messes with your serotonin levels. And serotonin contributes to more than just mood. It also contributes to appetite, and if you are on a serotonin crash, then you may not feel like eating – for days.
If you watch someone mope around the house looking despondent and uninterested in food, then you may be witnessing an MDMA crash. One dose won’t cause addiction, but it is a warning sign to take note over in case it happens again.
Have you watched as your loved one has become seemingly fearless to the point of extreme risk-taking?
MDMA reduces the functioning in the amygdala, which regulates the brain’s fear responses. When your fear responses drop, you may feel invincible.
In a single, reasonable dose of MDMA, it may lead people to dance like no one is watching. But if you develop a dependency and begin taking greater doses, you could experience this in overdrive.
Is Ecstasy Addictive?
Is ecstasy addictive? Generally, no. True addiction presents in only one percent of cases studied by researchers. For most, MDMA is a fun party drug with a brutal hangover to take once in a while on the weekend.
At the same time, ecstasy addiction isn’t impossible. If you see two or more of the warning signs above in a person you care about, it may be time to talk to them about their MDMA habit.
Are you worried that your loved one is using drugs? Click here for resources that will help you understand what’s happening with your loved one and what to do next.