Effects of Ecstasy
Ecstasy, or MDMA, or Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is possibly one of the most commonly used recreational drugs in the world today. While most of us know what it is, however, many of us do not know what the effects of the drug are, how it works, or the impact it has on our bodies. In this article, we look at the effects of ecstasy – both those that users are looking for, and those that can be dangerous.
Why Do People Use Ecstasy
The reason people use ecstasy is right there in the name. It induces a feeling of euphoria in users, and is often used in conjunction with other drugs, like hallucinogens, and even marijuana.
Ecstasy has in the past been used in the medical field, particularly in some forms of psychotherapy, but since it was made illegal, its use, aside from very specific, experimental treatments, has been prohibited, even in the medical field.
How Ecstasy Works
Ecstasy works directly on the brain, and it has three main effects. The first is to stimulate the production of oxytocin – the same chemical released during orgasm and when breast-feeding. It also helps to regulate cortisol, and to stimulate the release of norepinephrine, which helps to enhance emotional engagement. Finally, it works on the prefrontal region of the brain, again, enhancing emotional regulation, and lowering inhibitions.
All of these effects are the reasons why people take ecstasy socially – to relax, feel the very real ecstasy that the drug can induce, and for the emotional effects. However, the feeling of ecstasy that users get from the drug is not without a price.
Immediate After Effects
The immediate after effect of ecstasy is a sharp ‘come down.’ Whereas users experience an emotional ‘high’ while on ecstasy, when the drug wears off, they may experience symptoms ranging from fatigue to anxiety or depression.
Physical effects are also experienced by many recreational users of ecstasy. These range from gastrointestinal problems to dizziness, nausea and headaches, to general aches and pains.
Short Term Health Risks
Aside from the after effects of the drug, there are also a few potentially dangerous short-term health risks associated with ecstasy use. One is dehydration and overheating, which are common problems, especially when ecstasy is taken at ‘raves’ and users exert themselves dancing.
Others include hypothermia, and hyponatremia, which is an imbalance of electrolytes in the body, usually caused when ecstasy users over compensate for their loss of fluids by drinking plain water.
All of these conditions are attributed to the dulling of physical sensation, and the euphoria induced by ecstasy, as well as users’ own desire to compensate for the problem, but making mistakes.
Long Term Effects of Ecstasy
Studies about the long-term effects of ecstasy are often conflicting, and because the drug has only been in use for a relatively short period of time, there is some speculation that many of the long-term effects of use will only truly be known later on.
Some people have discovered that MDMA may be neurotoxic, and that regular use may lead to mild brain damage. It has also been linked to Parkinson’s disease, although again, at present, there is more speculation than proof.
Other studies have found that regular or prolonged use of ecstasy may be responsible for a drop in serotonin production.
The only thing that is known for certain about ecstasy is that it can and does affect your brain. That is the whole reason it works the way it does. Perhaps in ten, twenty or thirty years, when the first recreational users of MDMA are aging more rapidly, the longer term effects of ecstasy use will be more evident.
Risks Associated With Impure Ecstasy
As if the effects of MDMA itself were not worrying enough, there are also risks associated with some of the chemicals that it is commonly blended with when making recreational tablets.
Amphetamines, ephedrine, caffeine and other substances are all mixed into tablets, in varying proportions. All of those things can be dangerous if consumed in high quantities, and there is really no way of knowing what, exactly, is in any ecstasy tablet you buy on the street.
It is not only what is in the tablets, however, that is problematic. Ecstasy has also been known to react badly with other drugs, whether they are prescription or over the counter. There have been deaths associated with taking ecstasy with many different drugs.
Can You Take Ecstasy Safely?
The truth is, there are safety guidelines that are publicized that relate to taking ecstasy recreationally. Those include drinking electrolyte replacements, like sports drinks, and avoiding over heating. However, because ecstasy is an illegal street drug, and because it is completely unregulated, even if you stick to all the ‘rules’ you are still taking a risk.
There are potentially dangerous and even lethal side effects to taking ecstasy, and even if you have taken the drug before, without any ill effect, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have a bad experience.
There’s also the risk that you might be doing as yet unknown damage to your brain when you take the drug, and the fact that it is illegal, and possession and use of the drug does carry penalties in many areas.
All told, while ecstasy is seen as a relatively harmless drug by many, it is still a controlled substance, it is dangerous, and you can very definitely ‘overdose’ or die from using it.