MDMA is short for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine, popularly known as ecstasy when in pill form and Molly when in powder form. This drug has been categorized as a stimulant. When taken, MDMA increases levels of three neurotransmitters in the brain: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Of these neurotransmitters, serotonin is possibly the most influential, as it then triggers the release of further chemicals, including oxytocin and vasopressin. These chemicals can create feelings of sexual arousal, love and emotional closeness. However, when serotonin levels begin to descend, the individual may experience confusion, depression and further cravings for the drug.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration classifies MDMA as a Schedule I drug. This means that the drug does not serve a medical purpose in the United States and is highly addictive. Drugs that are in the Schedule II classification have an accepted medical use, yet are still highly addictive. Five schedules exist, and each subsequent Schedule signifies a lesser potential for addiction and abuse.
MDMA is sold as multicolored tablets or as a powder that is either white or tan. Use of the drug is typically associated with clubs and at electronic dance festivals. However, different demographics of people are now engaging in the use of the drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Some people now abuse the drug as a part of a drug “cocktail” which includes cocaine, GHB, methamphetamine, ketamine and sildenafil (Viagra, a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction).
One concern surrounding MDMA use is that drug dealers will often “cut” or add other substances into the MDMA. These elements may include ephedrine, ketamine, caffeine, cocaine and synthetic cathinones (bath salts). When consumed in this form, users are at an even greater risk for harmful side effects.
MDMA is often abused with other psychedelic/psychoactive drugs, such as LSD, mushrooms and ketamine. Because MDMA can cause hyperthermia or an elevation in body temperature, abusers sometimes apply mentholated products to cool the skin. Examples include: mentholated lozenges and Vicks VapoRub.
No definitive research has concluded just how addictive MDMA can be, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, in laboratory studies performed on rats, researchers found that the test subjects eventually began to self-administer the drug, which is a likely indication that the drug is addictive.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 12 percent of people ages 18 to 25 report having used MDMA at some point in their lifetimes. The number is half that in people ages 26 or older – 6.40 percent.
When taken, MDMA onsets at about 30 to 60 minutes; plateauing at about three and half hours. Its effects include:
Harmful effects associated with MDMA use include:
Long-term effects associated with using MDMA include the creation of brain lesions, or damage to the brain. These changes can affect memory, visual processing and thinking.
Those who take MDMA with other certain medications, are more likely to experience overdose. These drugs include: MAO inhibitors, phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate) or moclobemide (Aurorix, Manerix).
According to the National Library of Medicine, MDMA withdrawal symptoms occur in 60 percent of users. Examples of withdrawal symptoms include:
Currently, there are no designated treatments for MDMA abuse. However, many drug intervention experts utilize mind-body interventions. These MDMA rehab programs can include cognitive-behavioral therapies aimed to help individuals’ better cope with cravings and desires to use the drug. Following a detox process and/or therapy, MDMA users can benefit from attending support groups or group therapy to help them remain sober from the drug.
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