MDMA Withdrawal and Quitting Molly
Commonly called Ecstasy, Molly, or MDMA, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine is a dangerous drug because of how addictive it can be to people who take it. The Journal Addiction noted that in five developed countries worldwide, the number of deaths associated with MDMA steadily increased between 2011 and 2017.
MDMA has become a common drug in some circles in the US, replacing marijuana as the drug of choice among teens and young adults. Ease of acquisition coupled with a plethora of options makes it far more approachable to this demographic of users.
With so many people falling prey to MDMA, it’s no surprise that the numbers from overdoses seem to be going up year after year.
MDMA is not a newcomer to the world of drugs. It has been around since 1972 and gained popularity in the late 70s and early 80s. However, it came into its own around the turn of the millennium, with younger users finding it easy to score MDMA.
It’s relatively low-risk to make, and many drug organizations have sprung up with a view of “cooking” the drug so that they can make a profit from it.
MDMA’s addictiveness is exceptionally high, and because of this, many users get hooked on the drug, falling victim to dependence and eventually addiction. How does someone deal with quitting MDMA, and what can they expect to go through when they do? Let’s examine the facts.
What is MDMA or Molly?
MDMA is a synthetic drug, referred to commonly by its aliases Molly, Ecstasy, or X. It’s readily available in many cities, with dealers selling large volumes of the drugs to people for parties and events. Its popularity started soaring in the 80s in Europe because of the popularity of raves and techno-themed nightclubs.
Today’s MDMA is available almost anywhere in cities, with some sellers pushing the drug online through secure websites. Molly is a psychoactive drug and usually comes in the form of a tablet. However, it can also come in the form of powder which can be dissolved and drunk or (more often) snorted.
MDMA tends to increase self-awareness and empathy, with users stating that the drug made them feel more “caring” for those around them. Researchers suggest that MDMA may lower inhibitions, not unlike alcohol does.
By itself, MDMA poses a significant danger to individuals if consumed regularly. However, it’s usually taken as a “party drug” in situations where this sort of thing is common. Cross-consumption of psychedelic drugs can create unexpected effects.
Many overdose deaths come from consuming MDMA alongside other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and LSD. The DEA mentions that much of the MDMA in circulation isn’t pure X but usually has other (more harmful) substances mixed in with it.
A Brief History of Amphetamine Analogs
Amphetamine and its derivatives have had a roller-coaster of a history. Amphetamines were developed towards the start of the twentieth century, with MDMA making its way onto the scene in 1912 to control bleeding.
Unfortunately, pop culture has conflated its use with other amphetamines, which were designed for controlling appetite. In 1933, the first commercial use of amphetamines burst onto the scene with Smith, Kline, and French’s (SKF’s) Benzedrine inhaler.
Eventually, Benzidine tablets were approved for over-the-counter use for narcolepsy and minor depression. At the start of the second world war, the US army included Benzedrine in its kits designed for pilots since the drug granted added focus.
On the other side of the conflict, the Nazis invested heavily in amphetamine research and feeding it to their pilots and soldiers to keep them alert in combat.
As time marched on, the 50s saw the creation of several drugs that aimed to do what amphetamine did without drowsiness. However, the widespread consumption of amphetamines in the public domain started showing up the inherent problems with the drug.
Addiction rates started soaring, which was not unexpected since, at that time, the US was consuming several million tons of amphetamine salts a year in medication.
In the 1970s, the drug moved into the mainstream while physicians were doing their best to deal with the addiction crisis that was looming thanks to their misunderstanding of the addiction potential of this class of drugs.
As the medical channels started to shut down their dispensation of the drug, people dependent on it sought out the substance on the streets, creating a ready market. This wave of amphetamine use is the precursor to today’s MDMA crisis.
MDMA and Addiction – Is MDMA Addictive?
Ecstasy is an addictive drug, of that, we’re sure. However, MDMA’s additivity is less than other drugs such as heroin and cocaine. When someone takes MDMA, the drug starts acting on the brain’s pleasure center, producing high levels of dopamine.
This influx of dopamine (the brain’s “feel-good” chemical”) creates euphoria and a feeling of contentedness and love with everyone around them. While the high from X may only last between three to five hours, the long-term damage that the drug can do goes well beyond that time frame.
As a person starts using MDMA, the brain starts becoming used to its presence. This condition is known as tolerance and requires someone to use more MDMA the next time around to get the same feeling.
Over time, tolerance changes the brain’s structure, making it impossible for a person to function without MDMA. When this happens, it’s termed dependency.
At this stage, the person may not even be aware that they’re dependent, but they do feel an unerring urge to take the drug, so they keep feeling “normal.”
Dependency skews into addiction when the person starts making illogical choices that may endanger their lives and livelihoods in search of MDMA. Addiction is a brain disease that preys on the dependency that the person would have developed for the drug.
Does MDMA Cause Withdrawals?
Once a person is dependent on MDMA, cutting the drug leads to withdrawal symptoms. Because the brain is dependent on the drug, the withdrawal symptoms that a person faces are the body’s way of convincing them that it’s better to keep taking the substance.
MDMA detox is a form of controlled withdrawal supervised by trained medical staff. The reason detox requires medical staff is because there’s no telling how severe the withdrawal symptoms can get. Having medical staff there to deal with the potential physical issues that arise from withdrawal is a necessity.
The amount and intensity of withdrawal symptoms will vary, depending on the individual. Each person’s journey through withdrawal is unique, and it starts from the minute someone decides to stop taking the drug.
During the time that MDMA is in the person’s system, there are usually no ill effects. However, the symptoms start to show up to 24 hours after the person has stopped taking the drug altogether. The typical symptoms of MDMA withdrawal include:
- Attention deficit and memory loss
- Reduced interest in sex
- Mood Swings
- Loss of Appetite
- Lack of Motor Control
- Mental Confusion
- Panic Attacks
One or more of these symptoms may show up throughout the process of withdrawal. However, since withdrawal is a very personal experience, each person will have to deal with their own version.
Timeline of MDMA Withdrawal Symptoms
MDMA fades from the body quickly, but the after-effects of withdrawal symptoms may last up to a month, sometimes even longer. The typical timeline of withdrawal for MDMA tends to follow this pattern.
Start of Withdrawal
The first stages of withdrawal sets in up to eight hours after someone has finished taking MDMA for the last time. At this point, the patient’s mood will have dropped significantly. Exhaustion may start setting in, similar to when someone has a caffeine crash or when an energy drunk has dumped them.
Within the first twelve hours of withdrawal, the patient begins to get cravings for the drug. These start as minor cravings, but eventually, they grow to become all-encompassing.
The longer a person has been using MDMA, the more intense these cravings are likely to be. If stimulants were added to the patient’s last dose of Ecstasy, the withdrawal fatigue might be even worse.
At this stage, up to 48 hours after the last dose, the symptoms will reach a fever pitch. At this stage, many people who try detoxing at home fail because it becomes too much for them to cope with.
The most acute symptoms of withdrawal usually dissipate within a week. At the end of that week, the person may still get long-term lingering effects such as minor depression. Dealing with these long-term effects starts with follow-up treatment in a bid to help with the mental attachment that addiction may present.
Follow-Up Treatment – Inpatient/Outpatient
In many cases, when someone finishes MDMA detox, they are transferred to a facility to deal with the lingering mental hold that the substance may have on them. These facilities are either inpatient or outpatient facilities.
Inpatient facilities benefit from keeping a patient away from harmful influences that might cause them to fall back into their old behaviors. Unfortunately, it also means that the patient cannot live life as usual.
Outpatient facilities give additional freedom to recovering individuals, allowing them to go to work and live life as usual, as long as they meet their scheduled appointments for therapy.
The downside of this approach is that it requires a lot of willpower from the patient. A person who chooses outpatient treatment will have to return to their life and deal with the temptation that exists there.
Inpatient and outpatient treatment typically only last for a short period. Once this treatment is over, a recovering person may wonder what other options they have. Support groups can help them deal with the ongoing struggle they may have to overcome their addiction.
Having individuals who have been through the same struggles can comfort someone and even give them the chance to learn from someone else’s example.
Some individuals might feel that inpatient or outpatient therapy might be enough to help them cope with their addiction. However, there are lingering problems that may cause complications, like post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
PAWS and MDMA Withdrawal
PAWS is a collection of symptoms that persists after a person has gone through withdrawal from a substance. PAWS may continue for well beyond the period that the person was suffering withdrawal. Symptoms that show up mirror those found in mood disorders or anxiety.
Most recovering individuals go through a period of PAWS, but the length of this period varies. The syndrome is currently being investigated to develop a more concrete definition for what it is and how it affects a recovering individual.
Because the symptoms are unpredictable, individuals suffering from PAWS may be surprised and shocked at their occurrence. Sometimes, this shock is enough to drive them back into using the substance.
Many of PAWS’ symptoms stem from stressful situations. Heightened anxiety might leave a sufferer feeling as though they’re having a heart attack.
While the actual mechanism of PAWS is still being researched, many scientists think that the condition stems from the way psychoactive substances interact with the brain.
Long-term exposure to these substances can cause a person’s ability to deal with stress drop significantly. When the substance is no longer in their body, they find it hard to cope with even normal stress levels.
Recovery from MDMA Misuse
MDMA misuse is a real problem in modern society, but being dependent on the substance isn’t the end of the world. Finding the right addiction center to help deal with substance dependence is crucial to completing a treatment regimen.
The Discovery House offers help to all those who need it in the form of detox and treatment programs that can help anyone overcome their substance addiction. We believe that the journey to recovery is a unique one for each individual that visits us.
That’s why we focus on treatment that takes the individual into account. If you’re ready to leave behind an addiction, we can help you every step of the way. Give us a call today.