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Is MDMA Dangerous?

The scene: psychedelic laser beams, body-shaking bass, hundreds of young adults and kids partying all night to their favorite DJs, colorful festival outfits that make Woodstock look dull and boring. The drug that keeps these parties going all night long: MDMA.

MDMA, commonly referred to as Molly, is a stimulant-psychedelic narcotic. The party drug of choice for ravers and festival goers, MDMA’s health dangers are often misunderstood and minimized.

Risks of Using MDMA

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lists potential adverse health effects such as hypertension, faintness, and panic attacks. Severe cases can result in loss of consciousness, seizures, and even death.

For the most part, overdose deaths from MDMA are rare, but the conditions that the drug is usually taken make it more dangerous. Unlike other drugs that are used without physical, strenuous exercise, people frequently take MDMA during strenuous activity (dancing for hours) and in warm or hot locations. When this perfect storm occurs, there can be a dangerous rise in body temperature, called hyperthermia.

The long-term, adverse health effects common with repeat MDMA use include:

  • Involuntary jaw clenching
  • Loss of appetite
  • Illogical and disorganized thoughts
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Irregular body temperatures
  • Headaches

These symptoms are known as the “come down,” a state of withdrawal that is the result of psychological addiction. Aside from these withdrawal issues, people report feeling depressed, an inability to focus, impaired memory, anxiety, aggression, agitation, and irritability.

Ecstasy: Not Pure MDMA

One of the most significant risks in using MDMA is when it is taken in pill form, known as Ecstasy. Unofficially referred to as “X,” “E,” “Stacy,” “Thizz,” and “Beans.” On its own, MDMA comes in a powdery form. But as a pill, MDMA is mixed with adulterants, which are unknown to the user and can be dangerous.

Some of the most common adulterants found in ecstasy pills are MDxx (a chemical that has similar effects as MDMA), PMA (more toxic and less euphoric), and amphetamines.

Often, people taking MDMA or ecstasy are unaware that the pills often have little to zero actual MDMA. The substances used to mimic the effects of MDMA tend to be potent, with less euphoria, and more deadly.

People usually begin feeling the effects of MDMA within 45 minutes of use. If the batch of pills produces less than the desired effect, many users will continue taking more pills until they get high enough. If there are toxic substances in the pills, the chances of emergency health complications grow considerably.

There are several websites dedicated to educating ecstasy users on which types of pills are safe and what adulterants are present. Some critics claim information like this is necessary for harm reduction while others argue that it encourages people, suggesting that such sites make people think ecstasy and illicit drug use are safer than they are in reality.

MDMA Going Mainstream?

Business Insider recently published a piece that profiled MDMA as the drug of choice for Silicon Valle’s executives. MDMA enhances sensory experiences and amplifies what you see, hear, and feel. Some studies connect MDMA use with increased high-risk sexual activity.

MDMA is gaining new traction as a potential medical treatment for PTSD and recreational use. Part of this push is the result of a recent study that demonstrated that octopuses become cuddly with one another after being administered small doses of the drug. On the heels of this research, there is growing support to legalize MDMA as part of a treatment plan for military diagnosed with PTSD.

Are You Worried About Someone’s MDMA Use?

Like any drug, people can become addicted regardless of the legality or fun attached to its use. Whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or any other substance, most people begin using because it’s fun, it makes them feel good, or it helps relieve physical and emotional pain.

People addicted to MDMA may find themselves losing interest in activities that they used to enjoy (sports or school), stop spending time with people who don’t use the same drug, and engage in riskier behavior.

Recovery plans to treat MDMA addiction focus on sustainable recovery. Once someone is separated from the drug, healing can begin with a clear mind. It is essential to understand the underlying causes of addiction to develop a relapse-prevention plan.

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