Long-term Effects & Risks of MDMA Use
Molly (MDMA/ecstasy) works by boosting the production of a brain chemical known as serotonin. That boost is responsible for the feelings of connectedness and goodwill people experience when they take ecstasy. However, Molly can be very dangerous and many people are unaware of both the short- and long-term risks of MDMA.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of MDMA Use?
Accordion to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heavy, long-term use of Molly can cause persisting cognitive problems, such as issues with learning and memory.
Studies of animals also suggest that Molly may cause damage to specific neurons in the brain; however, more research is needed to determine the effect on human brains.
NIDA also states that Molly can deplete the brain of serotonin over time and that people who repeatedly use this substance may regularly experience long-term effects of MDMA on the brain such as:
- An inability to pay attention.
- Impaired memory.
Addiction may also be a risk for some people who repeatedly use MDMA.
Immediate Health Effects of MDMA Use
Apart from the long-term risks of cognitive issues, mood problems, and the potential for addiction, there are some very concerning immediate risks of use, such as hyperthermia (a dangerously high body temperature), which can lead to a potentially fatal breakdown of muscle tissue.
Those who use MDMA may also become dehydrated and drink so much water that they experience an electrolyte imbalance, which may lead to swelling of the brain.
Other short-term effects include:
- Involuntary clenching of the jaw.
- Hot flashes or chills.
- Excessive sweating.
- Appetite loss.
- Stiffness of the muscles or joints.
- Disorganized thoughts.
- Depersonalization (feelings of detachment from oneself).
What Can Ecstasy Use Do to the Heart?
Because it is a stimulant, MDMA increases blood pressure and heart rate. In people susceptible to heart attacks, ecstasy can trigger a cardiovascular event. When ecstasy is abused for a long time, hypertension can damage the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and similar events.
MDMA may reduce the heart’s pumping efficiency, even after one mild dose, in people who use it regularly. This can be very dangerous, especially because people who engage in physical activity, such as long periods of dancing, after taking the drug.
Molly & Risky Sexual Behaviors
People who abuse ecstasy often feel the need to touch one another, and they may feel a boost in a feeling of arousal or connectedness. That could prompt people to engage in risky sexual practices, which could lead to diseases like hepatitis or AIDS. These are lifelong medical conditions that can be treated but not cured, and longtime abusers of the drug could experience them due to their repeated risky behaviors.
What Can Happen if You Are a Poor Metabolizer (CYP2D6 Deficient) and Take Ecstasy?
Poor metabolizers of CYP2D6 who take ecstasy are more likely to experience dizziness, depression, sedation, changes in heart rate, and higher temperatures.
The CYP2D6 enzyme is produced by the liver, and although it is a small part of overall liver function, recent studies have found that this enzyme is involved in metabolizing 20-30 percent of legal pharmaceutical drugs, including antidepressants, opioid drugs, and amphetamine-based drugs like Ritalin or Adderall. Since it is closely associated with drugs that affect serotonin and dopamine, CYP2D6 has also been found to be associated with the breakdown of MDMA-based drugs like ecstasy.
There are several levels of metabolism based on how much CYP2D6 the liver produces: poor metabolizers are deficient in this liver enzyme, meaning their bodies have a harder time breaking down several kinds of drugs. People who are poor metabolizers are also more likely to suffer negative side effects from these classes of drugs, including ecstasy, because the chemicals rapidly build up in the body. With multiple doses, these symptoms can become lethal, with increased body temperatures, higher risk of seizures, and potential psychosis.
People who have enough, or even a surplus, of CYP2D6 can still suffer similar effects. MDMA suppresses the secretion of CYP2D6, so taking a large dose, or multiple doses during several hours, means that the liver will stop producing CYP2D6, and ecstasy will build up to toxic levels in the body.
Is Ecstasy Addictive?
There is little conclusive medical research regarding the addictive potential for ecstasy. Some studies show that people who suddenly stop taking MDMA experience fatigue, loss of appetite, depression, and difficulty concentrating, which could indicate withdrawal. Some medical research shows that people who regularly abuse ecstasy, or who take substantial amounts of the drug, develop a tolerance to the substance.
Withdrawal, dependence, and tolerance are indicators of a potential addiction, but they are not the exclusive measurements. The main characteristic of an addiction is a compulsive drive to use a drug despite the negative consequences. Some people have shown signs of being unable to stop taking ecstasy, taking more than intended, craving the drug when it is not in the body, and seeking out the drug to the detriment of work, school, family, or social responsibilities. These are among the criteria for a substance use disorder, the clinical term for addiction.
Should You Go to Addiction Treatment for MDMA Use?
Molly comes with so many risks that it simply cannot be considered safe for users to take, either in the long-term or over the short-term. People who struggle with ecstasy addiction are at risk for several short-term and long-term problems, including side effects from increased aggression, dehydration, and organ damage. If you are struggling to stop using or you are trying to help a loved one with addiction, Desert Hope has numerous treatment options for you.
Our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas, as well as our varied outpatient programs, offers a path forward away from MDMA misuse and toward recovery. We know that treatment is not one-size-fits all and that everyone needs a treatment plan that is designed to meet their individual needs. We offer a full spectrum of treatment, with levels of care ranging from medical detox to intensive inpatient treatment to standard outpatient treatment and sober living.
If you’re suffering, or you love someone who is, we are here for you. You can call us any time to discuss our programs and ask questions about our levels of care, how you can use your insurance to pay for rehab, or how to start the admissions process.