Ecstasy is unlike most other drugs in that it is both a psychedelic drug distorting sensory and time perceptions, and increasing sexual libido, emotional closeness, and empathy, as well as a stimulant drug that increases energy levels and pleasure. Made in illegal laboratories, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is not only called ecstasy but also Adam, Molly, hug drug, beans, XTC, X, E, and love drug on the street and in the club, rave, and party scene where the drug is popular.
Primarily abused by young adults and teenagers (those between the ages of 18 and 25 to be exact), the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that in 2014 more than 600,000 adults (those over the age of 12 in America) had used ecstasy in the previous 30 days. Ecstasy tablets, pills, or capsules are generally ingested, although the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) publishes that it may also come in powder or liquid form and be snorted or smoked when abused as well.
Since it is often termed a party or club drug, ecstasy is commonly used with other drugs like marijuana or with alcohol. Another popular drug combined with ecstasy is LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide; when the drugs are combined, it is called “candy flipping.” LSD is one of the most powerful mood-altering hallucinogenic drugs out there. When used in tandem with ecstasy, the euphoric effects and alterations in sensory perceptions may be heightened. Individuals may desire this intensified high.
LSD is also commonly considered to be a club drug. In a study of individuals who were considered to be club drug users, over half reported using multiple club drugs at once, the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence publishes. MDMA is also often “cut” with other drugs like ketamine, speed, caffeine, ephedrine, or aspirin. These drugs may be passed off as pure MDMA when in reality they are not.
Risks Involved with Combining Ecstasy and Other Drugs
The most dangerous potential side effect possible when mixing ecstasy with other drugs is life-threatening overdose. Adding more drugs to the mix only intensifies this danger. MDMA increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rates, and body temperature while also suppressing appetite levels and the need for sleep. An overdose on MDMA may include the following symptoms:
- Hyperthermia (extreme elevated body temperature)
- Panic attacks
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Feeling faint
- Blurred vision
- Arrhythmia (irregular heart rate)
- Muscle cramps
- Involuntary teeth clenching
- Loss of consciousness
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns that the dangerous rise in body temperature that may be caused by MDMA abuse and the environment in which the drug is commonly taken (dance parties, raves, or clubs) may lead to kidney, liver, or cardiovascular failure that can be fatal. Other stimulant drugs like amphetamine, methamphetamine, prescription ADHD medications (such as Adderall or Ritalin), or cocaine increase these central nervous system functions when combined with MDMA and raise the risk for fatal overdose. Dehydration is another side effect of MDMA abuse that may regularly occur on the club and party scene due to raised body temperature, physical activities like dancing, and exposure to heat and hot environments. Adding other substances, like alcohol, can amplify this effect as well as add to the nausea and vomiting.
Mind-altering substances also serve to lower a person’s inhibitions and often increase sociability, leading to a person engaging in activities or behaviors they otherwise might not. The odds of being involved in an accident, becoming injured, engaging in criminal behaviors, or becoming hostile and aggressive increase with drug abuse as does the risk for being the victim of violence. Sexual arousal is enhanced by ecstasy, and potentially by other drugs too, meaning that individuals may be even more in danger of getting themselves into a potentially hazardous situation with long-term consequences (e.g., unwanted pregnancy or contraction of an STD) that they may regret later.
Long-Term Dangers of Ecstasy and Other Drug Abuse
Ecstasy impairs a person’s mental capabilities, making it harder for them to make good decisions, control impulses, concentrate, or solve complex problems. Short-term memory functions are also disrupted. Difficulties with memory recall, flashbacks, depersonalization, psychosis, and panic attacks may be the result of damaged serotonin production that results from chronic MDMA use, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) publishes.
Regular use of LSD can also cause psychosis and flashbacks and can even lead to the hallucination-persisting perception disorder, or HPPD. The journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology publishes that somewhere between 5 and 50 percent of individuals who abuse hallucinogenic drugs experience a flashback. These flashbacks may involve a spontaneous re-experiencing of the drug’s effects and can come on without warning. Those suffering from HPPD may have chronic and persisting visual disturbances that interfere with their everyday life. Mixing two drugs with hallucinogenic properties, like ecstasy and MDMA, may then increase the risks for long-term cognitive deficiencies and consequences.
Depression, anxiety, fatigue, and difficulties sleeping may also be side effects of long-term ecstasy and combination drug abuse as parts of the brain that help to regulate emotions and sleep patterns are altered. Most mind-altering drugs act on the pleasure center in the brain, increasing levels of dopamine. Over time, the brain’s production of dopamine may be disrupted as it may not produce the chemical messenger in previous amounts without being signaled to by drugs. When dopamine levels drop after drugs wear off, depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, irritability, agitation, restlessness, and insomnia may occur as withdrawal side effects due to drug dependence. The crash that ensues after MDMA wears off may be more pronounced if other drugs are also involved.
Polydrug abuse, or the abuse of more than one drug at a time, can increase a person’s drug dependence levels and may even lead to chemical dependence more rapidly. Individuals may suffer from addiction involving MDMA and/or other drugs as drug cravings and a desire to avoid withdrawal side effects may lead to loss of control over drug use. Polydrug abuse can complicate addiction treatment. Medical detox and specialized care programs in order to facilitate recovery and avoid instances of relapse, or a return to drug abuse, are often required.