an image of someone dealing with an MDMA addiction

MDMA Addiction

an image of someone dealing with an MDMA addiction

WHAT IS MDMA (Molly/Ecstasy)?

MDMA is an illegal psychoactive drug commonly known as ecstasy or molly. It’s a recreational stimulant that acts as a psychedelic. It affects neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When taken, users experience an elevated mood, a greater sense of empathy toward others and the user, emotional closeness, and intensified sensory perception through feeling, touch, hearing, seeing, and tasting.

Users can experience the “feel-good” effects of the drug for up to six hours. Because of the release of serotonin in the brain, when MDMA wears off, it can cause extreme lows and depression. It can degenerate serotonin-producing neurons and dopamine transmitters over a long period of abuse, and the damage can be long-term. If you or a loved one are addicted to MDMA, Gratitude Lodge‘s addiction treatment specialists can help.

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People use MDMA to heighten their senses and their enjoyment of the environment. It’s commonly taken in nightclubs or at concerts. People take it to have a desirable tactile experience, increase sexual arousal and feel emotionally closer to others, often while dancing.



MDMA was first created in Germany in 1912. It was meant to suppress appetite and stop uterine bleeding. In the 70s, U.S. therapists used it for psychotherapy and marriage counseling. It became illegal in 1988, and was used recreationally in the 80s and 90s. MDMA was popular to take while dancing at raves, nightclubs, concerts, and parties.

It hasn’t been used as a prescription drug or for medical treatments since it has become illegal. However, MDMA was used in a 2011 study for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in which patients saw a reduction of their symptoms with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. MDMA has been used in multiple similar studies for its joyful and calming effects. The drug is still used illegally in clubs today by college students and those aged from 18-29 years old.


MDMA can become an addictive substance to users who begin to rely on it. These are the DSM-5 criteria for other hallucinogen disorder (MDMA addiction):


  1. Taking MDMA in larger amounts than planned or for longer than intended.

  2. Trying and failing to cut down or control use of MDMA.

  3. Spending lots of time using and recovering from MDMA.

  4. Experiencing intense cravings for ecstasy.

  5. Failing to meet commitments at work or home due to MDMA use.

  6. Ongoing use of MDMA even though it is causing or inflaming social and interpersonal problems.

  7. Spending less time on favored activities due to use of MDMA.

  8. Using MDMA in dangerous situations.

  9. Continuing to use MDMA even though it is causing or inflaming a mental or physical health condition.

  10. Tolerance developing so that you require more MDMA to achieve the same initial effects.


Since withdrawal symptoms are not fully established for MDMA, this diagnostic criteria does not apply.

MDMA addiction is diagnosed as follows:

  • Mild MDMA addiction: 2 to 3 symptoms

  • Moderate MDMA addiction: 4 to 5 symptoms

  • Severe MDMA addiction: 6 or more symptoms


The sustained use of ecstasy triggers physical and emotional effects that may indicate that you need to be evaluated for MDMA addiction. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Overheating in social situations: Ecstasy induces stimulant effects that result in the arousal of your sympathetic nervous system. This triggers profuse sweating profusely and becoming overheated in crowded conditions like clubs or parties

  • Displaying intermittent cognitive or psychiatric symptoms: Those who abuse Molly often experience issues with memory loss and confusion. Some people report experiencing hallucinations. Due to the repeated and extreme release and depletion of neurotransmitters, some issues can become permanent.

  • Hyperactivity and sociability alternating with lethargy and depression: Pronounced mood swings are commonplace in those who abuse ecstasy.


  • Mentholated inhaler and rubs: Those with take ecstasy often use mentholated vapor rubs normally used to alleviate cold symptoms. Rubs promote breathing and are also claimed to enhance the effects of the drug.

  • Face masks: Some people who use ecstasy smear menthol oils or vapor rub on the inside of masks in order to inhale the fumes.


  • Pacifiers: Some of those who take ecstasy pills use pacifiers to keep from grinding their teeth.


  • Rolled bills, mirrors, and razor blades: People who abuse MDMA in pure powder form (Molly) may accumulate paraphernalia that includes razor blades, rolled bills, and mirrors for snorting the substance.

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The sustained use of MDMA can bring about serious adverse effects to body and mind.

One of the leading risks is the development of co-occurring mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or psychosis. These issues may persist long after the use of ecstasy is discontinued. The risk of mental health complications increases if you take high doses or frequent doses of the drug, as well as when MDMA is combined with other substances.

Physical side effects associated with MDMA addiction include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Seizures


The chronic use of this drug may cause liver and kidney damage and may also heighten the risk of cardiovascular complications.

MDMA addiction may also trigger social, economic, or legal consequences.


Those who abuse MDMA are at risk of dehydration and hyperthermia (overheating) due to the way the day impacts the sympathetic nervous system. Over time, this may lead to the presentation of seizures.

Abuse of MDMA may trigger a cycle of mood swings, as well as: anxiety, impulsive behaviors, reduced libido, depression, impaired judgement, and aggressive behaviors.



Of all adults aged 20-25 used MDMA (about 2.4 million).


Number of people that used MDMA in 2020.


Americans reported using MDMA in their lifetime.


The demographic at greatest risk of MDMA addiction are young adults. Substance abuse treatment programs for adolescents, teens, and young adults with substance use disorders should be tailored to their specific needs.

There is no recognized withdrawal syndrome for MDMA, so treatment will begin with either an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. Treatments used for MDMA addiction include:

  • Counseling: Work one-to-one with a therapist and explore the specifics of your addiction. In group counseling sessions, you can benefit from the support of peers undergoing similar recovery journeys.

  • Psychotherapy: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) will help you to explore the interrelated nature of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You will also develop healthy coping mechanisms to help you move beyond MDMA abuse in your ongoing recovery.

  • Family therapy: The consequences of addiction ripple outward beyond the person using drugs. Involve your family members in the recovery process and start healing relationships damaged by substance abuse.


It is vital that any co-occurring mental health issues are addressed at the same time as the MDMA addiction.


Because of its use for increasing sexual desire, MDMA is often taken with Viagra. It can be taken with hallucinogens, psychedelics, sedatives, or uppers. Combining these drugs can produce an imaginary effect along with tactile sensation, or it can create a trance-like feeling. Some combinations can cause extreme exhaustion and can be deadly.

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Recovering from MDMA addiction can be a challenging process, but it is possible with the right treatment and support. The recovery process typically involves three main stages:

  1. Detox
  2. Ongoing therapy
  3. Aftercare


The first step in recovering from MDMA addiction is detox. This involves allowing the drug to naturally leave the body while managing the associated withdrawal symptoms. During this time, you may receive medication and supportive care to help alleviate symptoms and minimize the likelihood of complications.

After detox, you will typically participate in inpatient or outpatient therapy to address the underlying causes of your addiction. This may involve individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, psychotherapy, and holistic treatment. Therapy can help you to create and implement coping mechanisms, identify triggers and cravings, and learn how to manage them effectively.

Finally, aftercare is a crucial component of the recovery process for MDMA addiction. Aftercare normally involves ongoing support through counseling, peer support groups, and other sober


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Research has not conclusively determined the extent to which MDMA is addictive, although it works on many of the same neurotransmitters targeted by other addictive substances. Studies indicate that animals will self-administer the drug. This is an indicator of the addictive potential of a drug. That said, the degree of self-administration with MDMA is less than with drugs like cocaine. Human and animal studies suggest that the sustained use of MDMA triggers changes in the dopamine and serotonin systems associated with addictive behaviors.

It is believed that you can develop an addiction to ecstasy, also known as molly and MDMA. Ecstasy works by increasing the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that governs mood and triggers feelings of pleasure and emotional closeness. The pleasurable effects of MDMA often lead to repeated use, causing the development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Long-term use of MDMA can cause negative side effects that include memory problems, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. People who struggle with addiction to ecstasy may experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and irritability when they discontinue use.

The effects of MDMA, also known as Molly or Ecstasy, can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, depending on the individual, the dosage, and the method of administration. After taking MDMA, the onset of effects usually occurs within 30 to 45 minutes, and the peak effects are typically felt within 1 to 2 hours. During this time, you may experience feelings of euphoria, increased empathy, energy, and emotional closeness. However, after the peak effects wear off, you will experience a comedown period characterized by fatigue, depression, and irritability.

MDMA stands for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a synthetic drug that belongs to the amphetamine family and acts as both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. MDMA is commonly known by a variety of street names, including Molly, Ecstasy, and XTC. It works by increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain, producing feelings of euphoria, energy, and emotional closeness. MDMA is often used recreationally and is associated with the dance and rave culture. That said, it carries potential risks and side effects, including addiction, dehydration, and memory problems.

Ecstasy is a common street name for the drug MDMA, which typically appears as a small, pill-shaped tablet. The tablets can vary in color and design, often featuring different logos or markings. Ecstasy is also sometimes sold in the form of powder or crystals. Illicitly manufactured ecstasy tablets may contain other substances and dangerous impurities.