There is a lot of debate about addiction and MDMA. There are some who say it is not addictive at all, but this is a common misconception. It arises from the fact that there are not always strong withdrawal symptoms like users experience with alcohol and heroin, for example. However, it is possible to develop a dependence on MDMA because it has lasting effects on your brain and body.
So, how addictive is MDMA and what are the impacts on your brain and body?
What Defines Addiction?
The way that people define addiction can vary, and this is why people mistakenly think that MDMA is not addictive. People are often talking about physical dependence when they think of addiction. This means that there are withdrawal symptoms after stopping or reducing the drug that can be very unpleasant. The discomfort and pain caused by the withdrawal cause people to continue taking the drug to avoid it. In some cases, severe withdrawal can be fatal, which is why people need to go into an addiction treatment center to wean themselves off the substance. However, the physical withdrawal symptoms from MDMA are nowhere near as severe as something like heroin, so physical dependence is rare.
However, you do not need to develop a physical dependence on a drug to have a substance use disorder (SUD). In the case of MDMA, people develop emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be just as intense as those from physical addiction, and they include feeling depressed, anxious, irritable, and fatigued.
People who have these psychological withdrawals cannot control their actions around the drug. They will experience the same symptoms of addiction, like craving the drug, taking it more and more often, continuing to take it even when it damages their relationships or job performance, getting into financial difficulties, and increasing tolerance over an extended period.
After prolonged use, the impact that MDMA has on your body and brain absolutely can lead to addiction and if you are using it regularly, you should consider admitting yourself to a treatment facility for help.
What Happens When You Take MDMA?
The short-term effects of MDMA include euphoria and a feeling of intimacy with the people around you. It can also cause increased energy levels, an enhanced sense of touch, and visual distortions. However, when the drug wears off, you will experience feelings of depression or aggression because of the way that it alters your brain chemistry.
MDMA causes the brain to release neurotransmitters – chemicals that cause different physical and emotional reactions – like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. MDMA releases an especially large amount of serotonin, which is partially responsible for the feelings of euphoria and intimacy. However, this release also leads to further changes in your brain chemistry.
After the drug wears off, your brain is left depleted and the serotonin levels are incredibly low. This is what leads to the ‘comedown’ feeling and makes users feel depressed and anxious for days, and sometimes weeks, afterward. When taken in larger amounts, this effect is heightened and the negative after-effects last for longer.
How Does MDMA Use Cause Addiction?
People develop an addiction to MDMA when they use it regularly and it changes the reward pathways in their brain. Over time, your brain comes to rely on MDMA to release these neurotransmitters. That means that you will feel very depressed when not under the influence of the drug and feel the need to take it to feel normal. Eventually, users begin taking more and more MDMA and they develop a strong psychological dependence on it.
It is also important to note that MDMA can be cut with other drugs that do cause physical dependence, like cocaine or methamphetamine, and this can further contribute to the addiction.
Common signs of MDMA addiction include:
- Using larger doses of the drug to achieve desired effects
- Spending the majority of your time obtaining and using MDMA
- Craving the drug, when you are not using it
- Continuing to use MDMA despite negative consequences like legal problems or relationship issues
- Withdrawing from social situations that don’t involve MDMA
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when coming off the drug
If you are experiencing these signs, seek professional help immediately. There are many different addiction treatments that can help with MDMA addiction. These include intensive outpatient programs that give all of the support that users can expect from traditional rehab programs without the need to commit to a full-time program.
There are also alternatives like telemedicine programs that allow people to seek treatment remotely from their own homes. These are particularly useful for people that don’t have easy access to treatment centers and have become especially popular during the pandemic.
If you are concerned that you or somebody in your life is struggling with MDMA addiction, it is important to seek professional treatment right away.